BHN speaks to Yro Kapli, head of operations – London at Resident Hotels, about the growth of lifestyle hotels, managing new team members, and the increasing importance of reviews.
Why do you think interest in lifestyle hotels is increasing?
People are looking for an experience other than just to sleep in a hotel. Hotels – with hundreds of bedrooms, maybe a thousand, with quick turnaround – automation is needed. Especially when numbers are massive and everything is fast paced. The human interaction decreases which is something that doesn’t translate to everyone. People are craving the human touch. We are social animals, and we need people around us.
In lifestyle, boutique hotels there is the “luxury” of extra time – time that we can spend talking with our guests, getting to understand them and create a stay that’s unique to them. Maybe it’s because of this need of our guests, the need for something that’s more human, that has shifted the interest of developers. If people’s tastes change, then we need to change too.
Take as an example our latest opening, The Resident Covent Garden in February 2019 where we put all the above in to practice. Their response to this was immediate, evident in the number of positive reviews which helped to drive the reputation of the hotel up so quickly.
How do you expect lifestyle hotels to grow in 2022?
From what I have seen, I think there is need for lifestyle hotels to grow and think now is the time it will. Following the pandemic, we can see there is going to be demand for human interaction. It’s already happening, and I’m confident there will be greater appetite from companies and businesses to focus on developing lifestyle properties and services.
How have you kept your team engaged?
We went through different phases in line with the various lockdowns. What was helpful to begin with was online training. We built a platform with internal staff members and external trainers pre-Covid, which we launched at a very good time.
It includes information about The Resident brand, about the company’s vision, a general induction, as well as several categories such as service standards, check-in and check-out processes, health and safety, and so on. It helped prepare our team from afar about what to expect when returning to work in the “new normal’’. We’ve been able to add new modules as the market and environment developed around us.
It was a great opportunity for us to keep team members in touch with the company and keep the engagement levels of the team high. It allowed our teams to kickstart their training rather than start from scratch when we reopened our hotel doors.
On top of this, we’re very focused on clear communication. I feel that teams need to understand the why – why certain decisions have been made, or specific targets have been set. Then we were able to move forwards as a team at Resident Hotels.
What have you learnt during this period?
Not to take anything for granted. To remain alert and keep looking ahead with an open mind. We’re always keeping an eye out for new ideas or a USP at Resident Hotels that’s going to differentiate our properties from others. But ultimately, it’s to ensure our teams and our guests are happy.
Under these circumstances everything is on the table. Old habits and old routines no longer apply – we need to push forward and find new solutions. Every day is a different lesson and we’re continuously looking for ways to adjust.
How has The Resident performed across the London sites?
It’s been tough because demand in London for The Resident is driven from the extra activities in the area. Some people did not want to travel into the cities for short nor long breaks, especially when attractions such as the theatres and museums were closed.
During the summer London picked up. The moment that restrictions were eased we saw an uptick in activity. From speaking with former colleagues who manage properties outside the city centres, they have experienced really strong demand with some being fully booked from the first reopening.
What are travellers now looking for in their accommodation choice and amenities? Are you seeing any changes?
The main change, or perhaps what’s been emphasised most, is the need to socialise and share experiences. Let’s not forget that we haven’t just lived through a dramatic moment that only happened to one person – the issues, the challenges, the entire situation and changes in circumstance have all been shared.
Many of our guests at Resident Hotels are in fact new. They perhaps didn’t know The Resident brand before the pandemic but have spent time researching their next trip, looking at reviews on TripAdvisor and planning what to do. In fact, we can tell that guests have been studying us; they’re asking for specific names mentioned in online feedback.
What role do you think platforms such as TripAdvisor will play in post-pandemic travel?
They will play a very important role, just as they did before. What was interesting to see is that when we first reopened our hotels, some guests revisited our reviews and shared their own experience of the new measures we had introduced. For example, how secure they felt as a result of certain protocols that were in place.
In terms of driving reputation and increasing brand awareness, we’ve been able to track the relationship between the number of comments and the number of bookings. To take The Resident Covent Garden as an example, the more comments we received, the more bookings came through. We could see that searches for the brand were up, as were clicks to the website. People were actively looking for the hotel.