When we look for a hotel, we usually consider factors like location, amenities, rooms, décor, facilities and value.
But since hotels are predominantly a “people business” doesn’t it also make sense to know the personalities of those serving us? And it is the “General Manager” more than anyone who truly sets the tone at any hotel.
Most seasoned travellers quickly pick up on the “pulse” of a hotel and thereby get a sense of how happy and well-trained the staff are.
This often helps you deduce the character of the General Manager running it. And London has some of the finest hospitality talent in the world.
But in my (subjective) opinion there’s one person who stands above most of his peers due to his consistent dedication: Mr Geoffrey Gelardi, who has quietly and effectively run the Lanesborough for the last 18 years.
Mr Gelardi is a third-generation hotelier who previously managed the Bel Air Hotel in Los Angeles.
His father was President of Trusthouse Forte North America and his grandfather managed Claridge’s, so he has a blue-blooded heritage.
He has presided over a period in which the Lanesborough has won many accolades while coping with the vagaries of several economic cycles.
And he has very consistently led a team that is extremely loyal to him.
These achievements are no mean feat given that the Lanesborough has some of the highest room rates and most expensive rooms in London.
Yet when I last met him, he was eager to impress on me how he sees the Lanesborough as one of London’s “value” hotels.
And he did in part convince me, as our earlier blog feature on the Lanesborough’s “freebies” shows.
Several of his initiatives have been truly groundbreaking, such as offering guests free phone calls to the US and Europe.
The hotel has undergone several major renovations under his management and yet he constantly looks for further innovation.
Indeed, for someone who might at first glance seem an ”old school” hotelier, he is particularly adept at embracing change.
Mr Gelardi told me that “change” is often the main topic at staff meetings. He continuously encourages new ideas from his team and also advocates continuous “everyday” training.
This is one reason why the Lanesborough under his stewardship is at the forefront of new technology.
His passion for the business and recognition of staff (including those behind the scenes) really shines through.
As you’d expect, Mr Gelardi has got to know many guests personally over the years. The trust people have in him could be one reason why the Lanesborough has an enviable repeat business rate of around 70%.
It’s one thing to attain high standards in a newly-opened hotel. It’s quite another and much harder to actively maintain those high standards.
One of Mr Gelardi’s crowning achievements at the Lanesborough is that he has stuck with the job and kept quality right up there for so long.
When I met him he told me:
“Hoteliers love to say ‘no’ if it means they are following the rules. And for me there are no rules. You make them as you go along, with the best interests of the hotel and guest at heart.”
Mr Gelardi’s hospitality philosophy offers a compelling reason why the Lanesborough makes every discerning luxury traveller’s shortlist.
Photo credits: The Lanesborough (St. Regis Hotels & Resorts).