Change is the norm in New York City’s highly competitive luxury hotel sector. But some iconic properties, like Mandarin Oriental, New York, have had remarkable staying power in the eyes of guests. We explore the keys to its success in this executive interview.
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Much like the Big Apple itself, New York City’s ever-changing luxury hotel sector never seems to stay still for very long. Today’s luxury traveler is evolving, creating new demands for hoteliers to deliver fresh hospitality experiences related to loyalty programs, guest technology, and environmental sustainability. But even as new hospitality trends emerge, some aspects of the luxury hotel experience stay consistent: Great service, anticipating guest needs, and an ability to deftly integrate the property into the local neighborhood are all key themes.
How do New York’s top luxury hospitality brands manage to strike the right balance between satisfying evolving guest needs and requests to deliver a consistent luxury experience? It’s a question very much on the mind of Susanne Hatje, General Manager for Mandarin Oriental, New York. Since opening in 2003, this iconic luxury property has managed to remain at the forefront of New York’s ultra-competitive luxury hotel market.
What’s the secret to its success? SkiftX first spoke with Hatje in 2018 to learn about the hotel’s unique approach. We checked in with her a year later to learn how the property’s business situation continues to evolve.
SkiftX: It’s been a year since we last spoke about New York City’s luxury hospitality market. How do you think the city’s luxury hotel market has evolved (if at all) since our last interview? And how has it stayed the same?
Susanne Hatje: The luxury hospitality sector is constantly evolving not only as a means of staying relevant as new options come into the marketplace, but also to adapt to today’s traveler’s ever-changing interests and pursuit of the most unique experiences. As we’re nestled in the heart of one of the world’s most competitive hospitality markets, New York luxury hotels consistently work towards raising the bar in providing guests memorable stays that will have them coming back time and again.
Tell me about Mandarin Oriental, New York’s strategy to differentiate itself from other luxury hotel brands in New York. Are there specific amenities or experiences that set you apart from the competition?
Mandarin Oriental, New York prides itself on remaining at the top of such a competitive hospitality market like New York City, which in large part can be attributed to our strides in remaining innovative and providing consistent, high quality service. With that said, our ultimate priority is providing our guests the luxury experience they receive as a guest of Mandarin Oriental, where we anticipate all their needs and deliver beyond their expectations.
As a part of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, we offer a Five-Star luxury experience that is the standard across all our hotels. Whether a Mandarin Oriental guest is staying with us in Barcelona, Hong Kong or New York, they can come to know and appreciate the exceptional, personalized service we provide during each of their stays. At Mandarin Oriental, New York, we have different generations of guests that stay with us from time-to-time and it’s all about the attentiveness and engagement you establish with all guests that ultimately leads to that genuine emotional connection. From remembering a specific sweet treat to taking note if they’re visiting for a celebratory reason, it’s ultimately about making the guest feel like they are at home while tailoring those surprise and delight moments and ultimately delivering what we’ve dubbed “MOWow moments.” Our team is extremely attentive and regardless of the reason for your stay, they certainly take notice and will aim to deliver you an unforgettable experience. In some cases, understanding what the guest isn’t saying is what it takes to deliver a truly delightful moment.
One of my favorite examples of this was with a guest who had requested packing service prior to his departure. One of our housekeeping colleagues was assigned to the floor and headed to prepare the guest for his travels and, while in the room, they started to speak about the things that the guest did and that he missed out on having a traditional New York City hot dog. Our colleague noted that he loves hot dogs as well and usually goes to the vendors right by the park. The guest mentioned that he didn’t have enough time but would’ve loved to have a hot dog. Once our colleague concluded the packing he ran down to Central Park and purchased two hot dogs for the guest and delivered them to the room before his departure. The guest was completely thrilled and truly touched by the attention to detail in making a simple small talk conversation a moment of delight. It’s these unexpected experiences and the colleagues who bring them to life that truly set Mandarin Oriental, New York apart.
Along with personalizing our service for each guest, Mandarin Oriental, New York also aims to be a true destination authority and experience for them during their stay. In addition to assisting guests with exploring our city and the treasures that lie within it, guests love our views and seeing Central Park and expansive NYC views from their perch in our hotel. It’s one of our greatest assets.
Great design is something that can serve an important role in luxury hospitality. How does Mandarin Oriental, New York use design as a differentiator?
Each hotel within Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group features nuances that link back to our Oriental heritage such as the elements of fire, water, earth, air and metal and these are reflected within the design, which is created with the influence of a Feng Shui expert. With nods to this throughout our hotel, from our ground lobby up to our guest rooms, it not only anchors us to our Oriental ties, but also symbolizes the energy that flows through our hotel.
Most hotels in New York have to create their sense of place, but given our location and positioning, our sense of place is part of our design aesthetic and is showcased at its best simply by looking out the window. Our suites contain artwork from local artists, we include local magazines in each of the rooms and suites and even our Mandarin Oriental, New York signature fan was designed by NYC-designer Vivienne Tam. Every hotel has their own fan that’s also representative of their destination. Each of our well-appointed guest rooms and suites feature floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city skyline, Central Park and the Hudson River – all reflective our location in one of the greatest cities in the world.
Technology is another area that continues to have an outside influence on traveler decisions. What role does technology play in the luxury experience Mandarin Oriental, New York delivers to guests?
As a luxury hotel, we understand technology is a large part of the guest experience as it’s become integrated in the daily lives of our travelers. It’s important for us to provide guests with choices and each has their own preference when it comes to technology, so we ensure our guests know that should they request anything specific, our IT team has secured the specific equipment to meet their needs.
How does Mandarin Oriental think about loyalty programs for luxury travelers? Do the loyalty program preferences of the luxury traveler differ from those in other hotel categories?
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group recently launched Fans of M.O., our unique guest recognition program which differs from traditional “loyalty program” many hotels utilize. As part of enrolling, guests automatically enjoy complimentary WiFi and a welcome amenity every time they stay with any Mandarin Oriental hotel. They can then select two additional benefits, such as early check-in or late check-out, dining or spa credit, daily breakfast, a room upgrade, a celebratory treat or pressing services.
However, the best part of joining Fans of M.O. are the members-only benefits that are unique to each hotel and help provide a deeper sense of place in each destination. In New York, we recently launched a Fans of M.O. members-only experience in The Aviary NYC, where they are taken behind-the-scenes and guided through the intricacies of creating an Aviary-style cocktail and then get to create their own. Experiences like these really allow us to provide an even more delightfully personalized stay for guests, which differentiates us from what they would receive at other luxury hotels, let alone hotel categories.
Luxury travelers seem to be increasingly aware of the impact (whether environmental, cultural, or political) that their travels have on the destinations they visit. Does Mandarin Oriental, New York have any programs in place to try and address these concerns?
Luxury travelers are certainly becoming more environmentally aware and this is important to not only Mandarin Oriental, New York, but also to our hotel group. We are dedicated to contributing to the communities in which we operate and responsibly managing our environmental impact. As a hotel we committed our involvement with City Harvest, which operates and distributes food in New York City to those in need through food rescue practices.
In terms of sustainability, it is a top priority for the hotel group, and we have an entire team dedicated to ensuring we operate in a manner that is responsible and sustainable. From in-room recycling program to sustainable sourcing and single-use plastic elimination, Mandarin Oriental is dedicated to do more for a sustainable future.
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