Langham Hospitality Group is a hotel branch of Great Eagle Holdings, one of the leaders in real estate advertisement in Hong Kong. With more than 30 luxury addresses spread across major cities over 4 continents, Langham Hotels define themselves by their authentic service, innovation and design. Mr. Warman was the CEO of LHG between 2014 and 2018. He puts in service his 30 years of experience in luxury hotels, which he has developed at Ritz-Carlton and the Capella Hotel Group. I was able to meet Mr. Warman at the ILTM salon in Cannes, where we discussed his vision of Langham hotels on luxury, the client experience, and the stakes of the hotel universe of the future.
The art of welcoming is the fundamental element in the client welcoming experience. How would you define this art of welcoming within the hotels that are part of Langham Hotels?
We refer to our welcoming at Langham as “Service with poise.” We believe today’s luxury customers want us to be friendly and caring, but they also don’t want us to attack them; they want us to be a little more laid-back. They’re aware that we’re going to be there. We teach every colleague at Langham to create an elegant, refined environment without being too aggressive and be available when our guests want us there. We refer to that as “Service with poise.”
The success of a hotel is based on the quality of the services offered by its employees. Langham Hotels offer an expertise that dates back to 1865 (opening of Langham Hotel London). What is the environment that you create these days to develop your staff team’s talent?
We attempt, like many people, to make sure we provide an environment where every one of our colleagues have the ability to be a part of what they do and believe in that, so empowering each and every colleague to take the mission and vision and values of the organization and allow them to express it in their own personal way. We found that if you teach people to understand who we are and what the company stands for and give them the ability to go out there and execute it on their own. We talk a lot about the ability to empower every single employee to make sure that they protect the assets of the building, that they protect the image of the company, but that most importantly they create an environment for themselves that they’re responsible for and that they have the authority to do what’s necessary to make sure every guest walks away with the experience that that guest wanted to have.
You are preparing the openings of numerous hotels in the years to come. How do you imagine luxury hotels in the future?
One of the biggest changes in the past few years going forward is that luxury isn’t defined any more by age or position or status. It’s defined by those that want to be in an environment where you still get service and people who care for you. It’s not about just a big group of people around; it’s somewhere where you can experience life the way you want to experience. So many things today are programmed and people are telling you “Be this way… do this….” We think when you come into a luxury hotel experience, you want to be able to have your own personality, and our colleagues are trained to provide service to your expectations, not the expectations we’ve defined.
What is your vision of sustainable development in your hotels? How do you enact your commitment?
Because the company is based out of Hong Kong and the country itself has always been concerned with its natural resources and their utilization, we made a conscious decision very early on in the company that every hotel would have programs in place to make sure that we respect the world and the environment. It is one of the really unique elements of Langham Hotels. We have a comprehensive program called CONNECT that every hotel participates in. In addition to making profits for owners and making sure we treat our colleagues with respect and dignity and certainly making sure that we provide an environment for our guests to come.
One of the core covenants of our company is also about making sure that every employee is aware that it’s important that we protect the world and the environment that we live in. It’s not a program that a few people work on. It’s actually one of the major pieces that each hotel and each manager is judged on; it’s about how well we’re performing in keeping the environment and giving back to the society we work in.
What advice would you give to students in hotel schools to help them advance their career in luxury hotels?
My advice for getting into the luxury hotel business is that one has to maintain the passion. Over time, you continue to grow your career, and many of you are going to want to aspire to many different positions, but we can never forget what business we’re in. Ultimately, regardless of what job you’re in, our business goes back to the interaction of one colleague and one customer, and luxury is defined by that moment of interaction. We can all buy the same china, we can all buy the same bedding, we can all build the same hotels, but what we can’t do is create a passion for every single colleague that works with you and define that interaction as it takes place—and ultimately, that is what luxury is about. We’ll continue to change what hotels look like, what the bedding is and at what thread count and which sheets, and we can all buy the same food and artwork, but we can’t replace the experience that takes place. We have to maintain that passion of your colleagues and your staff and give them the ability to interact with the customer. This is ultimately where luxury is going in the future.
Laurent Delporte, an editor and conference speaker, is a strategic expert in the sector of hotels. A visionary, he brings his unique look on hotels in service to the decision-makers in the industry, whether to enhance the development of new projects or strategic visions.
Laurent has visited and audited over 350 hotels across the world and also participates in mystery visits to provide quality control for the world’s finest hotels.