The manager of a swanky Beverly Hills hotel that travellers recently rated the best hotel in the world says design is not enough to set a hotel apart in 2019

Courtesy of the SLS Beverly HillsGuest feedback is king.

In the age of Instagram, are trendy interiors and design principles enough to distinguish one luxury hotel from the next? According to the general manager of the best hotel in the US, the answer is no.

“Of course, our design differentiates us,” Christophe Thomas, the manager of the SLS Beverly Hills, told Business Insider. “But you need more than design.”

The SLS Beverly Hills is known for its whimsical Philippe Starck design and recently underwent a $US22 million renovation to give a lighter, brighter, and ultimately more Instagrammable look to its guest rooms. The hotel – where nightly rates start at $US343 – was recently crowned the top hotel of the year by travellers in the Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Awards.

Despite the hotel’s investment into redesigning its space, Thomas ventures that continued success in the hospitality space depends on something else entirely.


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“You need substance,” Thomas said. In his opinion, the most effective way to be substantive and memorable is to listen to what guests want out of their stay and to make it happen. “To remain at the top, we are really looking to capitalise on our guest feedback.”

Christophe Thomas general manager SLS beverly hillsCourtesy of SLS Beverly HillsChristophe Thomas has been the general manager of the SLS Beverly Hills since 2016.

“Every guest who stays at the property receives a survey asking for their feedback. All the guest feedback is reviewed seriously on a daily basis,” Thomas explained. “At the same time, we love to connect with our guests, so we, myself and my director of operations, are constantly listening to our team on the floor in real time.”

Listening to every guest’s feedback is an admittedly large undertaking that requires an equally large and attentive staff. There are 500 associates involved in making sure the hotel runs smoothly, Anna Gaidaenko, a representative for the SLS, told Business Insider in an email.

“When you come to this property we are so attuned to the needs and wants of our guests,” Thomas said. “I think it’s refreshing that – or at least I hope that – we are more than just a hotel. We are an experience.”

Experience is the ultimate luxury in hospitality in 2019

Thomas’ take on guests looking for hotels that offer experiences resonates with what other industry leaders have said.

Ian Schrager, the legendary hotelier behind brands like EDITION and PUBLIC, told Business Insider’s Katie Warren in March that the whole notion of luxury has changed in recent years.

Schrager’s take on design being part of the experience – but not the defining part of it – aligns with Thomas’, and there’s a logical explanation for it: Thomas was formerly the hotel manager of Schrager’s first luxury property, the Gramercy Park Hotel.

Schrager’s newest hotel, the Times Square EDITION, is not just about how it looks. Instead, he told Warren, “It’s about how it makes somebody feel when they’re in here. That they feel good, that they have been treated respectfully and with courtesy … You actually feel comfortable and warm being here.”

Meanwhile, some brands, like Kimpton Hotels, which has 65 boutique locations across the US, deliver on the promise of personalisation by providing Inner Circle guests with a personalised welcome package upon arrival. Others, like the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, Inc. reported in 2016, encourage employees “to spend up to $US2,000 per guest to solve a guest issue or improve a guest’s stay.”

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