The rise of Swire Hotels – a highly successful luxury hotel group – an interview with Toby Smith, Managing Director

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed Toby Smith, Managing Director of Swire Hotels about recipe of success of the group as well as today’s international context.

1. How has your company performed this year?

Overall, this year has been very successful for Swire. EAST, Miami, which opened in 2016, has enjoyed solid bookings. This month, we are operating at near capacity at The Upper House and are opening The Middle House, a new hotel in Shanghai in December.

2. How would you define the DNA of your hotels? How does luxury relate to luxury?

Our brand DNA is defined by individuality, attention to design, and impeccable service. We see luxury as a combination of style and substance. Without attention to service, cutting-edge design can only go so far. Overall, we aim for quality in all that we do.

3. What is the consumer target of your hotels?

We attract well-traveled, individually minded people who seek originality, style, and personalized service. Our guests enjoy being connected to the city they wake up in and actively seek authentic experiences. They also have an appreciation for striking contemporary art and design.

4. Design is an integral part of your hotels. Tell us more.

Design and creativity are the heart of the Swire brand. We collaborate with talented architects and designers including Kengo Kuma and Andre Fu to create contrasting, boldly different hotels at each location. We believe that each hotel should always reflect the unique qualities of its surroundings. For example, The Temple House was designed by MAKE Architects to complement Chengdu’s landscape and rich history. It is located in a restored Qing Dynasty heritage building and uses traditional Chengdu architectural elements of timber, stone, and brick. For our newest property, Italian architect Piero Lissoni has taken inspiration from Shanghai’s heritage of craftsmanship. He has designed modern reinterpretations of traditional Chinese furniture such as oriental-style nightstands and carved sliding wood panels. By paying special attention to design elements, we give guests a true sense of the city they are staying in.

5. What is your approach towards wellness at your hotels?

We take a holistic view to wellness and value our guests’ comfort and health, both inside and out. The Temple House’s MI XUN Spa offers 11 treatment rooms in a heritage building that dates back to the early years of the Republic. The Revitalizing Menu at The Upper House’s Café Gray Deluxe features vegan, gluten free, non-GMO, and sustainably sourced dishes. Guests at EAST, Miami can work out in the 24-hour Beast (Body by EAST) gym.

6. What is the business model of your operations? (ownership & management or third party operations)?

Swire is a company that has been doing business in China for more than 200 years. In the past, Swire owned hotels that were run by third-party operators. With the opening of The Opposite House in Beijing in 2008, Swire decided to manage its own hotels. This ownership allows us to focus on the individual traveler who wants a high level of attention to detail and personalized experience.

7. For your future development do you have any specific cities/areas you are targeting?

We are currently focusing on Shanghai and the opening of The Middle House at the end of 2017. There is no plan for another House in progress, but we are always open to new opportunities.

8. Do you also plan to open resorts?

At the moment we do not plan to open any resorts.

9. Your hotels boast a high level of service. Tell us more about your strategic approach towards service.

We aim to stay in tune with our guests’ needs. As their perceptions and expectations change quickly, we always want to remain ahead of the game. We’ve developed a bit of a sixth sense for our guests’ needs and intuitively know when people enjoy having ‘a bit of fuss’ made over them and when to simply let a guest glide in and out of the hotel unnoticed.

We have also earned a reputation for going beyond the call of duty to ensure our guests have every comfort they require. Here’s one example of our exemplary service: One day, during black rain season in Hong Kong, a guest at The Upper House needed to get to a meeting and asked one of our Guest Experience members for MTR directions. While the guest was eating breakfast at the hotel, our staff member traveled the exact journey that the guest would need to take, snapping photographs along the way. By the time our guest had finished breakfast, he was presented with an entire set of printed photographs to guide him to his meeting.

Toby Smith, Managing Director Swire Hotels