Known for its pronounced taste for luxury, service and panache, Europe’s oldest luxury hotel group, Kempinski, celebrates its 125th anniversary. Today, their portfolio consists of individually positioned iconic hotels, operating 80 five-star hotels and residences in 34 countries, with many more in the pipeline. Kempinski is also a founding member of the Global Hotel Alliance (GHA), the world’s largest network of independent hotel brands. TTJ spoke with Amanda Elder, Chief Commercial Officer and Board Member of Kempinski Hotels, during her recent visit to India.
– Gurjit Singh Ahuja
With high expectations from the Indian market, Amanda led a battery of managing directors from fourteen major Kempinski properties on a two-city tour of New Delhi and Mumbai in July. The Kempinski India Roadshow, which was an annual ritual for Indian travel partners, was held after a hiatus of more than two years due to the COVID-19 situation. Kempinski Hotel Group is represented by its long-standing partner, the Nijhawan Group in India.
“It’s absolutely wonderful to be here and have the opportunity to connect and share more about our business. We’re celebrating our 125th anniversary and it’s a business born out of Berthold’s love of hospitality. Kempinski In the years that followed, Kempinski was always known as a pioneering company, we were opening in cities where others would never have considered going, and that was reflected when we opened in Beijing at the start , in Riga, Latvia and now in Havana, Cuba,” Amanda said.
With ten new hotels in the pipeline, Amanda adds, “This is a very exciting project! All completely different places, where we had never been before. It’s all about that European style and flair, with each hotel bringing its own history to the area. We want every one of our CEOs to be a true host, and that’s what we’ve been working on for over 125 years.
Some upcoming properties include the incredible Kempinski Floating Palace Dubai, with villas floating on water, a hotel and a residential tower in Kuala Lumpur and Makkah, a resort in Yanbu, followed by Riyadh. Adding more on new openings in Southeast Asia, Amanda mentions, “There are three very exciting projects that we should announce by the end of this year.”
Speaking about Kempinski’s portfolio and plans in India, Amanda said, “I wish I could have something concrete to say. We want to come back to India, and we really do. We have such fond memories of our partnership here, because everyone knows about Kempinski’s association with Leela. Now with both of us in the Global Hotel Alliance, we remain very good friends. However, currently there is nothing concrete for India. I sincerely hope that someone approaches us soon to take over the management of their hotel or build us a new hotel in this wonderful country. So maybe now it’s a question of finding the right partner, the right hotel, the right location, and maybe a meeting of the minds to work together.
Elaborating on the challenges the hospitality industry is facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amanda explained, “Our owners, the Thai Royal Family and the Bahraini Royal Family, have been incredibly understanding and supportive, so we have kept the maximum number of people as long as we could. However, it was very different from many other hospitality businesses. So, we can say that we were able to retain and retain a lot of our staff and weathered the storm pretty well.
Amanda explains key learnings during the pandemic by mentioning, “We learned a lot during the pandemic when international travel was heavily restricted. We welcomed the local population to come and discover our magnificent properties. People from the city and surrounding areas have come to stay with us and enjoy our facilities. This created a new segment of customers and businesses that we had completely overlooked. We now view this segment as a key part of our business mix and have created special programs and modified our loyalty program to cater to this segment. We call it: Living Local.
“Dubai was a market that had a strong international business mix even during the pandemic due to their travel guidelines, and our hotels in Dubai saw record occupancy rates. What we have lost on international arrivals has been well concealed by the local population of the Emirates and the strong arrivals from the GCC. Our hotel ARR has gone up, and so have hotel F&B bills,” Amanda said.
Amanda views travel agents and tour operators as essential partners and integral parts of their business. She believes that being digitally savvy is essential for all travel businesses of the future and ensuring that they maintain price parity for all of their stakeholders.