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Every Hotels opened its first property this week – every hotel Piccadilly, formally the Thistle Piccadilly and Tom Otley caught up with its CEO Richard Sofer to discuss rebranding, wifi and plans for expansion.
Every hotel is one of the new brands that Thistle Hotels are being converted into. Why rebrand?
We’ve carried out a lot of research across five or six inbound countries and found there were were challenges with some of the existing brands such as Thistle and Guoman.
Why have some hotels have been converted into the Amba brand?
The Amba hotels have meeting spaces, so that’s a way of differentiating between them but some hotels naturally fit in one of our other brands depending on a whole host of factors.
For those hotels that did have a meeting space, for instance, they might be small and weren’t being utilised, so for those it’s better to use that space for something else.
Examples there would be at Thistle Kensington Gardens and the Trafalgar property where there are small areas that are meeting rooms that would work well as a gym. Our research shows that guests want a gym, and they also don’t want to be paying for hotel infrastructure such as multiple food and beverage outlets that they aren’t going to use during their stay.
You’ve identified wifi – fast and free – as a selling point. It must be expensive for you to provide?
It’s a reasonable investment, but in terms of the benefit to the guests, it’s huge.
You must have a big bandwidth if it’s free – there might be six devices in a room if there are two guests sharing
Yes, but we build that in. The expense is setting up the system. A real crux of the brand is we have put in category 5 or 6 cabling and we can satisfy the needs. In fact although the hotel might be full and guests have all their devices, they aren’t all in the hotel at the same time, and with locations such as this many of them are out of the hotel seeing the sights or doing business, so it’s not as severe as you might think.
What else does the brand offer?
Breakfast is crucial, we do have a full service restaurant here, and we have what we call is a “set you up” breakfast with a hot buffet. We offer room service, but it’s “Call to Collect” which saves cost for the hotel and for the customer as well. The brand is aimed at 25-40 year olds but also the young at heart.
Do you think travel managers care about rebranding – Do they not just want the location and a brand they know and trust?
Yes, people like to feel attached to a brand, but we have to make sure the new brand delivers what people expect. This is not just a rebrand and some ultrafast wifi. We’ve gone into the hotel staff training and making sure we can deliver a level of intimacy and personalisation.
While the rebranding goes on, how do travel managers book the hotels?
All the hotels have remained on the same GDS code which is TI – which allows agents to have access – if they have specific questions they would deal with one of the brand sales people, but we contract on a hotel level.
The Clermont is a third brand that the Horseguards Hotel – formerly a Thistle, then a Guoman - has been rebranded as, yet the website doesn’t seem to work.
Yes, but at the moment it hasn’t gone through the rebranding so that would be booked through the Guoman site or through the GDS code, not the Clermont site yet.
What are the expansion plans for Every?
After this Piccadilly property, the next three hotels — Every Hyde Park (formerly Thistle Kensington Gardens), Every Leicester Square (formerly Thistle's Royal Trafalgar) and Every Bloomsbury (formerly Thistle's Bloomsbury Park) will be converted in the next 18 months, staggering the openings. The ambition is to grow the portfolio and grow to 50 properties worldwide through a franchise model by the end of the decade.
Every Hotels is a new brand from glh (GLH Hotels Management (UK) Limited), subsidiary of GuocoLeisure Limited. glh is the largest owner-operator hotel company in London with over 4,000 hotel rooms. In total glh has 8,279 bedrooms and 337 meeting rooms across 36 hotels in the UK.