Library Hotel Collection’s VP Sales & Marketing on creating luxury boutique hotels
In an exclusive interview to CPP-LUXURY.COM, Adele Gutman, Vice President Sales, Marketing & Revenue at the Library Hotel Collection, shared her take on the latest development in luxury hospitality.
What was the motivation behind setting up the Library Hotel Collection? And which is the operational model?
I could more easily tell you the motivation of setting up the concept of the Library Hotel, as well as the Hotel Elysée, Casablanca and Hotel Giraffe, which all came earlier.
When you create a hotel, if you’re only selling a bed and bath as a commodity, you’re always at the mercy of the market in your area and what other hotels might be charging. But your hotel is offering a unique guest experience, you have people determined to stay at the hotel for any price because of the passion for the concept and lifestyle that is offered there. That’s the beauty of a boutique hotel.
It can have something unique and special, with a certain niche. It does not always appeal to everyone, but the niche of book-lovers is something very universal among people who love to travel. There is a huge audience of people all around the world who are passionate about reading.
At the Library Hotel we have 6,000 books organized throughout the hotel based on the Dewey Decimal System. Each of the 10 floors is dedicated to a different classification of knowledge in the Dewey Decimal System, and then each room filled with books on a unique topic within that subject. Even if you are not a book lover, per se, but you at lover of fashion, astronomy or architecture, we have a room that will speak to your heart. In a world where people want an experience that is customized to something that relates to their individuality, we can cater to that beautifully.
A great concept, of course, is not enough on its own, however. Underneath the unique personality, you need a fabulously run hotel. Before there was ever the Library Hotel Collection, Henry Kallan who started in this business as a busboy always had a fantastic sense of how to make people feel comfortable. He created the concept when he was in his 20s, so very young.
He created the concept of having the boutique hotel with a rooftop and clubroom with the breakfast and wine & cheese where the guests can go and be comfortable and serve themselves. That home away from home atmosphere is what people crave. It is where they can escape the uniformity of traditional chain hotels.
If people are met by kind people who put them first and connect with them on human basis, they will feel really welcome. This is really the main principle of the Library Hotel Collection. The secondary principle is to create a unique experience by tying it with a concept that gives people something to talk about and something to distinguish the place they are staying. We don’t want to be a hotel that you stay in and then forget the name of. No one could forget the Library Hotel. In today’s social media world, you have to give people something to talk about on top of great service and great value. Those are the keys to our success.
Have you invested in any of your collection hotels?
No, I wish I had the opportunity to, but I actually feel like I own the hotels because I’ve been with Henry for 15 years. I feel like the hotels are my children!
Which are the key competitive advantages of the Library Hotel Collection?
Definitely the unique way that we have established hiring kind people, coaching them to be helpful and successful people pleasers and providing a home away from home where guests feel so welcome, cared for and appreciated. We give them the clubroom with coffee, teas, fruit, snacks, water, free Wi-Fi, breakfast, wine & cheese and so much more. It is really a combination of all those things. Most important are the people that make the experiences satisfying for the guest.
Each of your member hotels has a very distinct and unique design and lifestyle concept. Tell us more.
The Library Hotel is certainly for book lovers, but as I mentioned earlier, everyone can find something that they love within the Library.
The Casablanca Hotel which is in the heart of the theater district, really attracts couples from around the world who are going to the theater, love the romance of the movie Casablanca and come for milestone anniversaries, birthdays and honeymoons. The hotel really has a theatrical appeal.
The Hotel Giraffe is our softly contemporary hotel for people who are as we say are on an “urban safari”. Many of them are the foodies looking to experience the wonderful restaurants in our area. NoMad is a very unique and eclectic neighborhood. Hotel Giraffe is our most family friendly hotel because one third of the accommodations are suites, which of course are ideal for families. There are also a dozen rooms that are very spacious rooms with two full-sized beds. This hotel is perfect for multi-generational families because they appeal to young cosmopolitan couples, but the hotel is not edgy in a way that would be unwelcoming for kids and grandparents who feel equally at home.
The Hotel Elysée is a traditional country French style hotel. It tends to attract a very refined and discerning traveler that may otherwise stay in one of the five star hotels like the St. Regis or Carlyle (Rosewood) but decide they like the style and unique value proposition that our hotels has to offer while keeping the classic old New York style. The world famous Monkey Bar is, of course, an iconic attraction.
After Prague, you recently opened in Budapest your second European hotel. Why Budapest and what makes the hotel stand apart?
Like the Library Hotel is for book lovers, the Aria concept is for music lovers. Both of the Aria hotels have four section, each represent a different genre of music: Jazz, Opera, Classical and Contemporary.
Henry Kallan, the president of the Library Hotel Collection is originally of Hungarian descent. He was born in a town that had a Hungarian and Czechoslovakian border. His dream has been to take what he knows about European charm, style and comfort and combine that with an American sense of hospitality and creativity. He dreamed of using everything he learned back to his roots to create something very special. It was really a labor of love.
With the Budapest hotel, the investment was approximately $1 million per room. It was an extremely heavy investment because he only wanted everything to be the best. To me, the Aria Hotel Budapest is the most beautiful little hotel I have ever seen so I definitely think we can say he accomplished that.
How important is digital for marketing and sales in your company?
For us, it is the most important form of marketing. It is the best way to sell hotels based on your stellar reputation. People are so happy when they stay with us, and they are so kind to share their enthusiasm for us online with the world, we do not have to pay for advertising.
Without our online reputation, how would someone on other side of world know to come stay with us? They’ve never heard of our hotel this morning when they woke up, but they look at Trip Advisor and see the top hotels in city based on guest reviews, so they are able to book us with tremendous confidence. Reputation, PR and Social Media are everything. It wouldn’t be powerful if we were saying it about ourselves. It is powerful because real people who have stayed with us had a great experience. That is experiential marketing or what we call a “Service is Marketing” approach. Caring for the guests’ experience is our number one priority and it is extremely effective.
Which are your key priorities in terms of future destinations?
Our next hotel will be an amazing lakefront urban resort in Toronto with will open next spring.
One day Henry would like to open in a hotel in Bratislava, once again, because of his roots. London would also be an amazing place to open a hotel, but it is very expensive to find a good opportunity there. His eyes are open on many opportunities. Personally, I will always try to convince Henry to invest in a beachfront property somewhere. That would be fun for the staff.
Is there any particular hotel you consider a flagship. If yes, why?
Because of the name, the Library Hotel is, but many people consider the new Aria to be the most luxurious. Our Hotel Elysée was the first of the Library Hotel Collection, so it is that hotel in many people’s minds. All the hotels have a place at the table. When Hotel X Toronto opens with more than 400 rooms, it will be bigger than all the hotels put together. Maybe people will then say that it is. They are all important, like every member of family.
How does luxury related to lifestyle in the case of your member hotels?
There is a certain kind of luxury that come from receiving everything in a formal way on a silver platter with white gloves. At Library Hotel Collection, ours is a different kind of luxury which is friendly and unpretentious, and comes from having everything you need easily available to help yourself.
We have the richest package of complimentary amenities offered as part of the clubroom concept at our hotels. It varies slightly at each property, but our hotels include such amenities as breakfast each morning, wine and cheese reception each evening, free wifi and bottled water, newspapers, music, book and video libraries, coffee, teas cookies and fruit throughout the day all at no additional charge, and more as well. It is so relaxing for guests to not have to worry about money every time they want to send an email, drink some spring water, or go to the fitness club.
People feel good that they are being taken care of personally, as if they were in a private club and that they are getting a great value. That is the luxury and the lifestyle we offer at our four star hotels as well as our five star hotels and it is just one of the reasons why we are always listed in the top ten hotels on TripAdvisor.