Relais & Chateaux has launched its new 2010 list of members and announced its first new “urban” members, with the five-star Connaught in London being foremost among them.
Jaume Tapies, international president of Relais & Chateaux said the Association was targeting over 50 cities to augment its existing membership of country hotels and restaurants.
The move into city-centre hotels is a new one for the Association, whose 475 members, geographically, are distributed in France (one third), rest of Europe (one third) and the rest of the world (one third). CEO Jacques-Olivier Chauvin told Business Traveller that between 20 to 30 percent of guests at the properties are on corporate business, and that the predominantly leisure image of the association was in part, to attract business travellers.
“Our corporate travellers choose us because they don’t want to stay in a “cookie-cutter” corporate hotel, and if they have a meeting at the hotel, it helps to be able to invite someone to a hotel such as ours, rather than one of those other hotels,” he said. “They want a place with a good restaurant and without the “image” of a corporate hotel, and so that plays to our advantage.”
The remainder of the corporate business comes from exclusive use of the properties, which have an average size of only 25 rooms, and here again, Mr Chauvin said that they were perfect for high level and discreet corporate retreats, and that the best marketing for that kind of business was that the corporate travellers had often visited for pleasure, rather than business. Nevertheless, a meeting planner visiting the Relais & Chateaux website would probably conclude that the emphasis on leisure business under-sold this aspect of the Relais & Chateaux corporate offering.
The focus on city hotels however, is new. The general manager of The Connaught for the last 30 years, Anthony Lee said that membership of Relais & Chateaux would help the hotel, attracting more travellers from Europe and particularly France.
“We have a relatively high exposure in the US market, but since we are not a destination [hotel] brand for London, we are looking for more exposure in Europe, France especially, and also the UK market,” he said.
The hotel is part of the Maybourne Group (formerly Savoy Group) which includes Claridges in Mayfair and the Berkeley in Knightsbridge. The property has had in excess of £70 million plus spent on it in recent years, including a period of closure in 2007, and now has 121 rooms, new meetings facilities as well as an Aman spa in a new building on Adam Street and a Michelin-starred restaurant – with French chef Helene Darroze.
Report by Tom Otley