By  on September 30, 2009

Deep-pocketed and discerning consumers demand service and quality, whether for a night in Manhattan or a new suit.

To keep them coming back requires more — steadiness through even recession and a sense of heritage. In addition, there must be a constant eye in the future, said Paul James, global brand leader of The St. Regis and The Luxury Collection, the upper tier of the Starwood Hotels Worldwide Inc. empire.

“To go for 105 years, you need to be looking to the generation beyond,” James said. “You’ve got to be appealing to the next group of people coming through. It’s not good to be just your father or your grandfather’s favorite hotel.”

Butlers at the high-end hotels tailor the experience of each guest and they now come prepared for the digital age, ready to receive text messages from guests to make sure their rooms are just so.

Everybody who comes in contact with the guests is an ambassador for the brand. At The St. Regis New York, the staff can charm visitors with lore from when Colonel John Jacob Astor IV established the hotel in 1904 with air-conditioning and a telephone in every room. The Astor family was also fond of polo, which the hotel cites as part of its heritage.

“Salespeople in our business aren’t just the guys who go out and sell contracts,” James said. “They’re the people that you have at every interaction; the butler, your barman, the person who checks you in. And the way you get those interactions is to create excitement and heritage stories that they can start to share with their customers.”

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