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Interview with Arnaud de Saint-Exupéry General Manager of Andaz London at Liverpool Street

In addition to the concept imagined by the Hyatt Hotels & Resorts teams, the realization has taken place according to local needs. Arnaud de Saint-Exupéry, general manager of the first Andaz opened in London, talks about his experience.

The concept was not modified by the actual situation of the market. At most we adjusted a certain number of missions or practices. In the Liverpool Street hotel, we recreated a kind of reception counter, very open, with a computer for customers who were uncomfortable with the informal reception by Andaz Hosts with their tablet computer. This is an additional option. We have also recreated specialized reception positions to avoid confusion. Depending on temperaments and times of day, some Hosts are more dedicated to reception in the lobby to regulate traffic and direct new arrivals towards their colleagues for check in. We have adapted this arrangement according to whether it is a weekday or weekend. The guest population is quite different… More efficiency and rapidity is required on the one hand and more conviviality and information on the other…Is there a more profitable Andaz economic model that would require fewer staff and services than other brands in the group? _ Not really, because the goal is not to save on personnel, but to deploy it differently. We are not reducing services, we make them more accessible. Investments are high in terms of equipment, design, services. It is truly a different atmosphere that is able to adapt to different behaviors, which, if we did not adapt to them, would steer clientele to another type of hotel offering.Has hotel staff flowed into the new functions created by the concept? _ It is a new position that requires a strong sense of contact. It is not for everyone and I personally meet each applicant during recruiting. It is necessary to have personalities that are comfortable with this function that requires human warmth, but not familiarity, a casual attitude but not flippancy. In fact, in keeping with the concept, these employees do not have uniforms. They choose a suit that corresponds to their personality and the spirit of the hotel. We have nonetheless added a badge to make them more easily recognizableIs involvement in local life a reality or just a marketing gimmick? _ We seize every opportunity that presents itself to provide a personal and local touch. Recently we celebrated "Shrove Tuesday", a well established tradition in the neighborhood, by distributing crêpes all day long in the lobby. It is also a tradition in London’s Tube for “official” artists to play instruments in the corridors. We had them come to the hotel to express our support of artists by organizing a little competition between them, juried by clients.How far can you go in simplifying rates? _ There too, we have adapted our rate structure –which remains very simple– to customer behavior. At first breakfast was included in the stay along with Wi-Fi and local telephone calls. Some clients who did not have breakfast in the morning felt like they were paying for a useless service. So we created a few simple packages to fit different kinds of stays. Everything must remain simple and transparent.Did clientele react well and adopt Andaz’s concept as a real preference? _ With a mini network of five hotels worldwide, and others opening soon, it is evident that a specifically Andaz clientele is awakening. It is not necessarily so different in terms of lifestyle or spending in comparison to other brands such as Hyatt Regency or Park Hyatt, but its behavior is different. In English, we qualify them as “Young at heart,” more informal, seeking friendly sophistication, unlike clients who are more “established” in their professional and personal lives.

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