By Lauren Jade Hill
Encompassing Hotel Café Royal in London, Amsterdam’s Conservatorium, and the soon to be opened Lvtetia in Paris, The Set Hotels takes great pride in combining authenticity and heritage with a focus to create the ‘modern grand hotels’ of our time. The Set Hotel group’s CEO Stephen Alden gives us an insight into how he has shaped this luxury hotel brand.
How have you achieved the success to which these hotels combine heritage with modern luxury?
I’ve had the privilege of running some of the world’s best hotels, and I have a particular passion for renovating hotels for the future. The last one I did was the Connaught in London, which is an expression of modern luxury, and I’m now taking it a step further with the Set Hotels with the extent to which we extend the expression modern grand hotels. There’s no fixed formula, but I’m inspired by a lot of what happens in the luxury world outside of the hotel industry. I’ve looked at fashion, I’ve looked at the private jet world, and I was on the advisory round table for American Express, mixing with some of the most influential CEOs in luxury.
I was invited to speak for Louis Vuitton and another time for Chanel, and I tried to draw a parallel between someone spending £9,000 on a suite overnight and someone spending £9,000 on a bag; one is an experience, and the other is a beautifully crafted product. By thinking of it in that way, I began to realize that our hotels – our experiences – are taking up an important part of people’s lives. So we look at how we can make these hotels enhance people’s lives. Luxury boutiques are very focused right now on how they can provide service within their boutiques and at their shows, and as they are discovering service, we are discovering design in the hotel world.
How are you bringing these other luxury sectors into the hotels?
We’re featuring various brands and publications as added lifestyle elements. The publishing house Maison Assouline is curating the library section of our club gallery, and we’re having similar conversations with Brunello Cucinelli about accessorizing some of the rooms with their products. For me, one of the building blocks of a truly special hotel is the quality of the collaborations you have with other brands. We don’t need to reinvent something that someone is already very special at. Our job is to personalize every guest’s day and make each element of the experience fit together.
Are the hotels designed to reflect the destinations they’re in?
Absolutely; it’s important to bring the guests closer to the city, and for the hotel to provide an expression of the best the city has to offer, as well as what the city stands for. London’s unique contribution to the luxury world is its creativity, so that has to exist within the hotel. London is also one of the most important gastronomic capitals in the world. It’s that gastronomy, adventurous spirit and creativity that we look for, with a certain quirkiness and whimsy. I think this is what guests hope to discover in London.
What sets an exceptional hotel apart?
You cannot have an exceptional hotel without outstanding guest services, or a team who are engaged and aware. You need to have a very high level of emotional intelligence to succeed in the hotel world. Part of the service we provide is planned and part of it is intuitive, because when you are speaking to guests, you create what they want in real time. The luxury hotel world is very much about loyalty and having people return time and time again, so having a very consistent and loyal team of staff to recognize those return guests is important.
I believe in creating places people want to be. It doesn’t sound very special, but if you consider how you want people to feel, it forces you to think about every aspect of the experience. It’s the multi-sensory ambiance that makes people want to stay, from the smell of coffee or freshly based croissants, to the way the music filters from one place to another. Each of the hotels moves with the pace of the day, and in rhythm with the guests.
Do you have any plans for The Set Hotels going forward?
The biggest project we have at the moment is the Lvtecia in Paris. Our priority is to make every one of our three hotels the best they can be, and create a synergy between them, while making sure they still have their individual identities. This is our platform for growth going forward, and it’s too soon to give any details, but we are looking to expand in Europe.