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SPOTLIGHT ON Amanda Elder, Chief Commercial Officer and Member of the Management Board Kempinski Hotels

By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
21 July 2021
5 min read
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Amanda Elder

Kempinski Hotels have moved with agility and flexibility during the pandemic to minimize the impact on both business and staff as well as build a strategic plan for the future. Amanda talks about how they have remained engaged with their guests and the opening of Kempinski Palace Engelberg in June.

What is the recovery looking like in the first part of this year?
The hospitality and travel industry has been hit hard by the virus, which put the global economy on hold overnight. Like any other business, this is also true for Kempinski Hotels. With half of our international portfolio forced to close at some point due to government decisions, we were faced with disruption of our business and a rapid drop in our revenues. We are now seeing some signs of recovery, particularly in China, where our hotels have fully reopened and where domestic business is starting to pick up. In the other parts of the world, things are progressing step by step and depend on the decisions of the respective authorities.

As a smaller Hotel company, we have the ability to act with agility and flexibility to pivot smartly and more quickly in the crisis and mitigate the impact on our business and our staff.

Kempinski Hotel Nanjing

Do you think there will be long-lasting changes in luxury travel?
Luxury travellers will be the first ones to travel again once the situation recovers, but they will certainly focus on remote or isolated destinations, where they are able to reunite with family and friends while staying away from the crowds. Privacy and exclusivity will play an even greater role and will push private villas over bustling hotels and nature locations over cities. Generosity of space will become even more sought after. We already see heightened demand for travel encompassing health and wellness in the past years, and this trend will definitely be more prominent in the future. To better anticipate the increasing needs of our customers for wellness offerings, we recently completed the acquisition of an international and independent company providing sustainable wellness solutions, Resense Spa S.A. This step allows us to offer our guests a truly unique wellness experience as part of the brand’s guest journey.

Can you tell us about how you have engaged with your guests during this time?
It was and is imperative for us to remain engaged and connected with our guests. In any difficult situation, companies must ramp up the cadence of communications and expand the channels and platforms used, even if it feels as if we are overcommunicating at times. The key is to bring thoughtful intention to every message you send. We clearly informed our guests of the safety and hygiene measures being taken and how we are handling the crisis. With the “Kempinski White Glove Service”, we did let them know what to expect before they arrived for their stay and what safety measures we were putting in place to make their stay as safe and smooth as possible. Through press information, newsletters, emails, and direct contact, we constantly reassured them they would be taken care of, and we showed that they could trust our brand and the professionalism of our staff. Staying up-to-date with the latest developments and government regulations and keeping our communications timely and relevant were key during these times. Our hotel teams did a fantastic job in remaining close to their loyal guests and in interacting as much as possible to preserve trust with all our stakeholders.

Do you have any exciting projects you are working on for 2021?
Our most exciting project right now is the opening of Kempinski Palace Engelberg in the Swiss mountain resort of Engelberg at the end of June this year. The elegant Palace Hotel with its long history more than lives up to our brand promise of the highest product and service quality and fits perfectly with other Kempinski flagships. With this jewel, which continues the history of the Swiss Grand Hotels, we are continuing the selective expansion of our company as part of our long-term strategy. Guests at Kempinski Palace Engelberg can look forward to 129 elegant rooms and suites made of high-quality materials, an exceptional range of gastronomy, and a spa and wellness area with an infinity pool in 880 sq m on the top floor of the luxury hotel with a panoramic view over Engelberg. Historical features of the former building dating from 1904 were preserved in close cooperation with the monument conservation authorities. With its special flair, the historic “Kursaal” ballroom, for example, has been integrated functionally and architecturally into the building ensemble – certainly another drawcard for the attractive Engelberg tourist region. The beautiful location is easily and conveniently accessible by car or train or via Zurich airport, both in summer and winter. With our longstanding expertise in managing deluxe properties, we will definitely be able to contribute to the success of this attractive Swiss mountain destination and uplift performance with our global sales and marketing network activities.

What advice would you give to independent boutique owners in these unprecedented times?
As the market is highly competitive and the world of online distribution is known to be complex and dynamic, a distribution strategy tailored to the hotel and modern distribution technology is necessary. To be positioned correctly in this demanding environment, the hotelier must know their clientele and be present with the appropriate offers on all relevant online distribution channels. For every hotel, global distribution systems, online travel agencies, and, of course, the hotel’s own website, are an absolute must. The right booking engine on the website also allows every hotel to push direct sales, and this applies to the leisure as well as the business sector. A sustainable strategy combined with future-oriented IT is indispensable for every independent boutique hotel.

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