Interview Spotlight: Creating a Luxurious Local Experience

Michael Bonsor 2

Michael Bonsor is the Managing Director at one of the most established luxury hotels in the city, the Rosewood London in the heart of Holborn. He was appointed as Managing Director prior to the hotel’s launch for which he felt it was one of the most exciting luxury launches in luxury hospitality. Michael will be taking part in the panel debate at #TRENDbyVERB on Wednesday 12th of September at the Century Club, discussing how to create a hotel offering that is luxurious and also appeals to locals.

When we asked about his mantra, he had it clear:
“Treat others how you yourself would like to be treated”

Tell us a bit more about the early stages of your career. Did you always know that hospitality would be your career choice?

Starting from an early age I worked alongside my parents at their hotel in Scotland before studying Hotel Management at the Scottish Hotel School. From a very early age, I knew that I only wanted to be a Hotelier. I then ventured to the US to work with Four Seasons & Resorts for 10 years in Boston, Toronto and New York. Working at iconic hotels such as The Pierre and the Four Seasons in New York and opening restaurants including L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in NYC. On returning to London, I began my British career at Claridge’s as the Food & Beverage Manager, then becoming the Hotel Operations Manager of this iconic hotel. After four years at Claridge’s, I went on to open Rosewood London, a highly anticipated opening of this ultra-luxury hotel brand. Rosewood London has garnered numerous awards since its opening including AA Hotel of the year, Conde Nast Best Business Hotel and voted Hotel of the Year at the Cateys.

When it comes to the big picture of establishing a hotel’s operations strategy – what do you think is the most challenging part? And what did you enjoy the most?

The most challenging part is when the hotel is operating at full capacity and we need to deliver the same exceptional service to each guest. With 262 rooms and 44 suites, 4 different restaurants & bars and 13 event spaces – there is a lot to juggle. This summer has been an exceptionally busy period with occupancies well over 90% consistently each day. It may be the most challenging time however it is my most favourite time – the hotel has a real buzz and the team, like a family really pull together to support one another and that makes me very proud indeed.

What do you think the luxury hospitality sector is missing with regards to digital?

Compared to retail and other sectors of the travel industry the luxury hotel market is trailing behind when it comes to digital. Luxury hotel brands have always suffered from small budgets when it comes to digital investment and this is finally slowly changing. We need dynamic user-friendly e-commerce experiences which offer a fluid experience with variety and choice any time, any place. Our booking systems are still quite antiquated and they don’t talk to other systems in the hotel so that there is a connected flow of information to assist service delivery. We need to learn from our sister industries, they deliver luxury products and services yet have adapted to the way in which people process transactions nowadays.

Rosewood London is known for delivering an exceptional luxury personal touch to all its guests, is this compatible when implementing digital technology?

Absolutely, it allows us to connect with guests at all stages of their journey so we can begin to deliver that luxury service before they have even arrived. Luxury travellers needs have changed, Rosewood London attracts a younger sophisticated traveller than other traditional luxury hotels and so we are already talking to our customers differently. Our butlers especially who take care of suite guests are now speaking directly to our guests via Whatsapp or i-messenger so that communication is fast and responsive. Butlers are more like PAs now. I believe it is important though at the luxury end of the market not to impose digital technology to all guests as there is still a movement that wishes to digital detox and for many, the human personal interaction is expected and wanted.

What do you think is the main added value of experiencing a luxury hotel versus luxury serviced apartments such as Airbnb Plus and HomeAway?

The people. Our associates are what bring the hotel to life. We pride ourselves on delivering a full-service experience that feels like a home. There is no better feeling than being welcomed home by your family, this is something luxury serviced apartments cannot provide. At Rosewood Hotels & Resorts we very much believe in a “Sense of Place” it is more important than ever that hotels are linked to their locality. Guests need to feel that they are part of the local scene. Rosewood London’s bars and restaurants attract the community in and offer many experiences that connect our guests to the heritage and culture of being in the heart of London.

If you could give a piece of advice to emerging luxury hoteliers, what would it be?

Embracing digital is the way forward and you need to think outside the box. As a hotelier, you need to embrace social media for your business and for yourself. Take risks and look at what other industries are doing and adapt to your business. However despite all the new trends and changing priorities, it is always about relationship hospitality: stay true to this meaning of hospitality, guests are a lot savvier these days and appreciate honesty and humility.

Join Michael Bonsor at #TRENDbyVERB on Wednesday 12th of September at the Century Club. A few tickets remain here.