Starwood Capital Group recently announced the acquisition of four new extended-stay apart-hotels in London which will be operated by extended stay specialists, Cycas Hospitality.
New Area General Manager for Cycas Hospitality, Mark Gillings, is about to open two of these properties, Marriott’s first extended-stay aparthotels in the capital; Residence Inn London – London Bridge and Residence Inn London – Kensington. Cycas Hospitality will also be opening a further 101 apartments in Bermondsey Village.
Mark talks to H&C about the challenges and creating an impact in the business travel market.
What does your typical extended stay guest look like?
Today’s business traveller has evolved. They are looking for more than just a nice place to stay. They seek out interesting places where they can continue to live their lifestyles and get stuck into the social hub of the neighbourhood. Two of our new properties soon to launch – the new 101 Suites concept in Bermondsey and the Residence Inn London Bridge will be an excellent choice for anyone who wants to experience real London.
Why is Bermondsey attractive to the travel market?
South East London is a fascinating and attractive option for the inquisitive business traveller with its cafes, quirky bars and restaurants and close proximity to some of London’s favourite places. The new Bridge Theatre being opened by Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr will draw even more people into this popular area. These kinds of developments appeal particularly to the international relocation and business travel market.
You are part of the opening team for the first Residence Inn for Marriott to launch in the capital, what has kept you awake at night?
Every opening comes with its challenges of course, but that’s why we do this job! Finding and retaining the best talent for new hotels is an industry wide challenge, especially with Brexit looming. Fortunately, Cycas has developed an excellent network of Culture coaches and an engaging programme which recognizes and retains talent.
What are the hallmarks of the Residence Inn brand?
The brand caters to guests looking for longer stays with spacious suites and separate living, working and sleeping areas featuring upscale design and amenities. Fully functional kitchens, grocery delivery service, fitness facilities, 24-hour markets, complimentary breakfasts and free Wi-Fi throughout help guests maximise their time and thrive on long stays.
How does it feel to be working with Cycas Hospitality, the second largest serviced apartment operator in London? How does it differ from other hotel management companies?
It’s a great team at Cycas, I like the fact that everyone has a true purpose within the company and everyone’s opinion is valued. It is as if we are on an exciting journey together which is all down to the company’s excellent approach to managing its people. The new Culture Team invests time and effort into recognising and developing talent. At Cycas our coaching philosophy reinforces the mantra – “our job is not over until we get a smile.”
What’s your secret to exceptional customer service and achieving those high guest satisfaction scores?
No secret really, it’s all about making people feel valued, by anticipating their needs; by making sure their expectations are exceeded by paying attention to the details. I do believe you should “treat the guest exactly how you would like to be treated if you were a guest”. We like to create WOW moments during a guest stay which will engender loyalty from the guest to our portfolio hotels.
What have you taken from past experience in the Middle Eastern hotel market?
The Middle Eastern Market is all about prestige, a sense of theatre and bespoke experiences. In one way they have remembered what the prestigious UK hotels used to be so good at. Our challenge now is to kindle the same sense of theatre and personal service without breaking budgets!
With over 20 years’ experience in international hospitality, Mark is an accomplished hotel management professional with strong business acumen and leadership skills.
Prior to joining Cycas, Mark was Vice President, Hotels and Leisure at SFC Group, one of the largest hospitality operators in the UAE.
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