Le Meridien's new world

8 Apr 2009

“Leave the outside world behind and enter into ours,” is the brand promise of the re-imaged Le Meridien hotel chain.

A member of Starwood Hotels and Resorts since 2005, the group officially unveiled last week the results of a major refurbishment programme, which has as much to do with its image as it has with the hardware of various properties. Prior to this, Le Meridien had undergone different ownerships and assumed a variety of corporate identities.

“The relaunch had to be one, not only on the outside, but from the inside as well,” Eva Ziegler, global brand leader, Le Meridien and W Hotels Worldwide, told Business Traveller at at a press event last week that showed off new hotels in Bangkok, Chiangmai and Chiangrai.

“We are committed to transforming the functional and transactional driven hotel experience into an emotional connection with our guests,” she said. The target: the creative individual.

Much research and work has gone into the “Le Meridien Arrival Experience”, spurred by findings from proprietary research that “the first 10 minutes define the customers’ entire impression and establishes their mindset”.

“To make the arrival special and memorable,” said Ziegler, “we had to address what was visible (and tangible) right away”.

Realising early on that their objectives needed more than hoteliers’ expertise, Starwood and Ziegler approached well-known culture guru Jerome Sans and appointed him Le Meridien Cultural Curator. Sans, who co-founded Paris’ prestigious Palais de Tokyo and currently director of Ullens Center of Contemporary Art in Beijing, is responsible for selecting artistic innovators and forging partnerships with cultural institutions to lead to initiatives designed to engage Le Merdien guests.

Ziegler and Sans also introduced the LM100 programme, consisting of talents from the fields of art, architecture, cuisine, design and fashion, to help develop experiences for Le Meridien hotels worldwide, with the hope to significantly make an impact on the brand’s future. They plan to expand the membership to a hundred, although Ziegler said that realistically, about 20 would always be active.

Le Meridien has made the arrival experience unique in several ways: the Transitional Portal (the door in layman’s terms) has been transformed by six international artists Ralph Gibson, Hisham Bharoocha, Joan Fontcuberta, Youssef Nabil, Younes Rahmouna and An Xiaotong into virtual art statements; a signature scent was created by perfume house Le Labo; and soundtracks in many languages has been provided by Sony BMG, setting the mood in many of the public spaces, while the lift exclusively features the video-sound works of Grammy winner Henri Scars Struck.

Another important component of the Arrival Experience is Unlock Art, which provides guests complimentary access to cultural centres through their artist-designed key cards. For example, those used at Le Meridien Bangkok were designed by Michael Lin and give entry to the Thailand Creative & Design Center, an amazing repository of design and cultural knowledge.

The arrival experience, said Ziegler, is now being implemented in 80 percent of Le Meridien hotels.

But it’s not only guests who experience the chain’s refreshed attitude. The staff and employees also enjoy their own transitional portal at the back of the house, besides experiencing various training programmes to instill the new way of service.

For more details, visit

Margie T Logarta

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