Would The Real St. Regis Please Stand Up?

jeremy-roncoroni1Here’s an interesting case study for you. The St. Regis Hotel in the heart of downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, is an independent property and not part of the international St. Regis brand in the Starwood family. Copyright claims are nullified by the fact that the St. Regis Hotel in Vancouver – established in 1913 – predates the formation of the latter’s brand launch.

After visiting, the argument can be made that no matter what, you can’t bank on your name. You have to deliver and exceed on consumers’ expectations. To help offer some insights is the property’s general manager, Jeremy Roncoroni.

Give us a very brief property overview.

65 rooms: 15 suites, 10 kings, 30 queen, 10 doubles. Built in 1913, boutique in style, $12 million (CAD) renovation in 2008 by acclaimed interior designer Elaine Thorsell.

You manage the St. Regis Hotel, but it is NOT a St. Regis Property.

Oh, but it is truly ‘St Regis’! In 1990, this was challenged by Starwood Hotels without success. We own the brand in the lower mainland of British Columbia.

Has guest confusion ever ensued?

All the time! To this day I still have to clarify that we are not a Starwood property and that we cannot honor their loyalty program’s points. We are, however, a member of the reward program VOILA Hotel Rewards which offers worldwide redemptions.

The property really delivers incredible guest service. What’s your philosophy here?

We make a living from our guest; so let’s give them more that they expect and let’s not nickel and dime them in the process.Unless you order room service or utilize our St. Regis Bar & Grill or the iconic Gotham Steak House and Cocktail Bar, there will be no additional charges. We are one of the only all inclusive hotels in North America, from free internet access to full cook to order breakfast (for two) and worldwide calling as well as other basic amenities like complimentary in-room bottled water and 200 HD channels including movie central. Parking is the only item that’s not included.

Tell me a little but about your business approach.

We are in the business of providing a good night sleep and if we fail to do so, we will look after you. Why allow a guest to leave unhappy? Do you know how many people they are going to tell? Or, even worst, it might create a social media nightmare. I personally thank every guest that stays with us via a handwritten note asking them to call me if I can do anything for them. As a recent example, we had an issue with one of our fire detectors and the guest did not sleep well, so I removed the room charge – an obvious error on our part and sometimes the simplest solution is the best.

Can you expand to more St. Regis properties elsewhere?

Starwood owns the St. Regis name outside of our region. But that hasn’t stopped us. We have The Plaza Hotel in Kamloops that has taken our same approach of inclusion – also boutique in style, also a heritage property and, of course, a steakhouse, Fireside Steak House & Bar.It’s not our name that has made us successful but our product delivery, maintenance of the property and our friendly service.

What advice do you give other luxury hotel operators?

Don’t ever lose touch with the final product; inspect it every single day. I personally attend housekeeping and front desk daily meetings, and then inspect about 4,000 to 5,000 rooms a year.

Anything else you want to add?

After six years in the marketplace, we are seeing many properties start to play with their inclusion. The future will see more inclusion coming the consumer way. The idea is that the bill should never be more than one page long.It took three years for the average customer to really understand our inclusions; once they did, they kept coming back. The most frequent complaint I have heard in the last ten year specially is all the charges on top of the room, especially unspecific ‘resort’ or ‘facility’ fees.I understand that revenue is important, but creating new fees to generate streams of revenue? Come on, that would make us just as greedy as the airlines!

(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in eHotelier on December 15, 2014)

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