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How Hotel 41 got to no.1 on TripAdvisor.
I recently visited Hotel 41 where I met the General Manager of this luxury boutique hotel in Victoria – Malcolm Hendry – as well as the MD of Red Carnation Hotels (and Hotelier of the Year 2009) Jonathan Raggett.
I wanted to learn how Hotel 41 had achieved the position of being rated the best London hotel by TripAdvisor reviewers over recent months.
I’d previously done a similar analysis on the company’s other 5 star hotels, the Egerton House and the Milestone, when they too had occupied the TripAdvisor #1 spot (both are still in the leading London hotel positions).
To fully understand how Hotel 41 had won such acclaim, I asked both Red Carnation executives some questions and then took a tour of the hotel. To get a second opinion, I also asked a colleague to explore Hotel 41’s TripAdvisor reviews (there are 444 of them so a good sample size) in detail.
The conclusions on how Hotel 41 has achieved no.1 are presented below:
- “First impressions”. The entrance to Hotel 41 is discreet yet grand. Only guests are allowed into the hotel giving it the feel and tranquillity of a private club. Décor is strikingly original as the images show – but is not overbearing and also imbued with a sense of fun.
- “Tiny Noticeable Touches” and the usual Red Carnation service standards. I won’t bore you with the details as these aspects have already been extensively covered in other blog posts. The commitment to running focus group dinners is particularly impressive and unusual.
- “Best of both worlds”. Hotel 41 is a small luxury 5 star hotel in the same building as a large 4 star hotel. There is an opportunity to share resources and staff to give added value to Hotel 41 guests. This kind of cost and value synergy would be hard for other hotels to replicate.
- “A sense of history and occasion”. The hotel is a unique property on Buckingham Palace Road (with views of the Royal Mews) which used to be a former ballroom where debutantes were presented to the Queen.
- “Disadvantages become benefits”. The hotel’s lack of restaurant has been turned into a guest benefit. For example, it is one of the few luxury hotels in London to serve kippers at breakfast – in fact breakfast is served 24 hours a day. The menu in the lounge is based on comfort food (using impeccably-sourced ingredients) and you can ask for any item “to order”. You can also “raid the pantry” (like BA Business Class) at will. Informality combined with excellent service is loved by guests.
- High staff-guest ratio and exceptional service. There is an impressive 2:1 staff to guest ratio to facilitate a very personal service style. As a lesser-known hotel, Hotel 41 probably sets lower expectations than places like Claridge’s while service levels are similar. Since only guests are allowed in, the public areas are never as busy as other hotels and staff are free to give you their full and undivided attention. I was struck by the extremely calm atmosphere in the Hotel 41 lounge.
- High repeat business rate (up to 70%). Hotel staff aim to learn about individual guests and build their database across multiple visits. First-time guests are sent a preference form and a big effort is made to source favourite items. Malcolm Hendry explains the hotel’s edge succinctly: “What we really do well is know the guest needs exactly”. The button on phones in guest rooms is labelled “Everything Anytime”.
- A great General Manager whose personality “fits” the hotel. Malcolm Hendry exudes calmness and is clearly someone whose feathers are not easily ruffled. This is the ideal profile for someone running a luxury 5 star hotel of this type. He says he feels “truly lucky” in his job…his calm management style and enthusiasm clearly get transmitted to the staff.
- Product innovation. Luxury hotels have changed because expectations of luxury have also changed. People don’t now want “stuffy” or formal but still expect great service – so new ideas like “Raid the Pantry” really work. There’s also a new concept of “hospitality suites” at Hotel 41 – these comprise both a comfy bedroom and an interconnected lounge with entertaining and business space. All facilities are provided (WiFi, business equipment, PAs, etc.). This is the ideal set-up for business guests who want to enjoy the 5-star surroundings but may have demanding business requirements too. It’s a very 21st century marriage of high-powered business with a need to unwind quickly.
Recent guest comments from TripAdvisor reviews of Hotel 41 confirm the above analysis. Here is a quick selection:
“Once you arrive in this hotel, it feels like coming home”
“Thank you for always bringing me Turkish Delight (chocolate)”
“Snazzy but not pretentious”
“Privacy and luxury with top class friendly service”
Hotel 41’s competitors (including the parent’s other luxury London hotels) clearly have their work cut out to dislodge it from the number 1 spot.
Photo credits: Hotel 41 (Red Carnation Hotel Collection).
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