SPOTLIGHT ON: Radha Arora, President, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts
By Lily Lin, author of the book “Interviewing Successful Hotel Managers
Radha Arora is the President of the Rosewood Hotels and Resorts. Although the brand name, Rosewood, is well known among the top luxury hotels in the US, its status has just begun to grow in Europe with Rosewood Hotel London and the soon-to-be re-opened iconic Hôtel de Crillon Paris. Radha is just the man to drive the brand with his vision and ambition. He is always on the go, making his next deal. He believes that nothing is impossible for him as long as he applies himself. So far, he has proven himself to be right.
You graduated from Les Roches International School of Hotel Management in Switzerland. Did you become interested in hotel management at a young age?
My father, whom I admired a great deal, worked for the Foreign Diplomat Service. We traveled a lot, stayed in wonderful hotels and met many interesting people. It became ingrained in me in my early years that I wanted to be around great people. In fact, I knew what I wanted to do when I was five years old.
What was your first job in the hotel industry? And what was it like to work in a hotel?
When I was 18 years old, I worked as a waiter in a small restaurant in England. This was not very well accepted by my family, but I enjoyed it. I also worked in a linen room, a laundry room, a kitchen and an accounting department.
You have more than 30 years of luxury hospitality experience. What fascinates you about the luxury hotel industry?
I was fascinated by the old world charm displayed in iconic hotels, such as Ritz Paris and Savoy London. However, the concept of the luxury hotel continues to evolve. Today, we do not define luxury by just a pomp display of shows; we define it by engaging behavior and refined taste.
You seem to be interested in power dressing. What is your fashion statement?
When you are with a brand in the hotel industry, you have to dress accordingly. I wouldn’t say that I am conservative, but I tend to go with the European look. I feel that in order to represent my brand I do have to be particular in the way I present myself; i.e., elegant and timeless dressing. People will notice whether or not you dress appropriately.
In 2011, the Hong Kong based New World Hospitality acquired Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, which is headquartered in Texas. How do you deal with the cultural differences?
Dr. Henry Cheng, the Chairman of the New World Development, owns a number of luxury hotels around the world, including Beverly Wilshire. I used to manage that hotel on behalf of the Cheng family. So, I already have a long-term relationship with them. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I grew up in an international environment. It helps in my position today because I am able to adapt to different cultures easily.
What are the most challenging issues you are facing on your current job?
Rosewood is a well-recognized brand in the US, but it does not have the same presence in Europe. My challenge is to give the brand market exposure in Europe, so that we are able to differentiate our brand from other luxury hotels. With the opening of the Rosewood Hotel London as well as another iconic hotel, Hôtel de Crillon Paris, scheduled to re-open next year after an extensive renovation, we are slowly but surely getting more noticed.
In your opinion, what do your employees expect from you?
I think our associates would like to see our brand grow and becoming international and their personality permeating in their brand.
If you must make a choice, would you do the things right or would you do the right things?
I would do the right things, ethically and morally, for our associates. If you do the right things from your heart, everything will fall into place.
You were the GM of the famed Beverly Wilshire1 in Beverly Hills in the US. Many celebrities have been long-time residents at the hotel. Was it difficult to deal with celebrity guests?
Not at all. When I was young, I worked in Savoy London and Hôtel de Crillon Paris, where celebrities stayed all the time. So, it comes naturally for me. You treat celebrities like any other guests with one or two exceptions. That is what the celebrity guests want — as long as you allow them the privacy.
In your opinion, is the GM important to the daily life of his front-line employees?
Absolutely! A GM is the role model; you have to be on the front line, you have to be visible. You have to be able to give your associates feedback. They want to know whether they are doing alright. You have to show them that you are passionate about the business and about the delivery of services. You have to make them feel proud. It’s imperative that you lead and guide them.
What keeps you motivated?
Motivation comes from fulfillment in life. Today, what motivates me is that I have to be able to secure game-changing deals and I am able to develop the brand and make its presence successful in Europe.
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
My strengths are also my weaknesses.
I am very particular about delivering services. Also, I go to the field and inspire and guide my associates. In addition, I have to continue securing the brand, fine-tuning the products and at the same time, I have to expand myself. My job requires me to be the jack-of-all-trades, so I never stop. Sometimes, this can be draining.
What quality do you appreciate the most in an employee?
It’s not just about their craft; it’s about their personality. Guests come back for the relationship they have with the hotel and our associates. So, in our associates I look for that ability and willingness to go above and beyond.
Can you think of a time when you’ve done something that has made the impossible become possible?
Our brand is well known in the US and we have strong support in Asia. I want to do something for our brand in Europe. When we first approached the Hôtel de Crillon Paris, it did not seem like we could make the deal. We were not well known in Europe and, at the time, Hôtel de Crillon was not in tune with Rosewood. We really had to apply ourselves. In the end, we landed the deal. Just to think that I worked for the Hôtel de Crillon when I was young and years later, we were able to acquire the Hotel for our portfolio. It was really a fulfilling experience.
How has your life been different from what you imagined?
I’ve never imagined that my life would be different. I do feel that I’ve been very fortunate to rub shoulders with some of the best people and to represent a brand with style.
Life is too short to tolerate …………………….?
What one thing have you not yet done that you really want to do?
Skydiving! It’s something outside of my comfort zone. I find it adventurous!
What advice would you offer to those who aspire to become a successful hotelier?
Most hotel graduates want to run before they can walk. They want to get into the brand, get promoted and move up. What has made me more secure in my role is that I started early and at the entry level. At the end of the day, it’s about hospitality and the passion you have, and it cannot be taught. It has to come from within. My advice would be to not only learn the craft early on, but also to learn to work with people at the lowest level. Try to understand what motivates them. If you do not understand what motivates them, you will never be able to apply your people skills.
I am very happy with what I do and with being able to represent a remarkable brand. I hope I can develop the brand, so that it flourishes all over the world.
1The popular movie, “Pretty Woman” was filmed at the Beverly Wilshire.
About the author
Lily Lin, MBA, Ph.D. is the author of the book “Interviewing Successful Hotel Managers”. In this book, she interviewed 44 top international hoteliers from major international chain and independent hotels.
She has taught in American, German and Dutch universities. For more than 20 years, she was the designer and the lead lecturer of a number of courses at the Hotelschool The Hague in the Netherlands. She is also experienced in consulting and corporate training in hospitality and other industries.
Lily Lin has a B.S. degree in Business Administration and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Maryland in the US. She received her MBA from the California State University and Ph.D. in Strategic Marketing from the Amsterdam University. She also completed the Revenue Management certificate program from Cornell University. She speaks English, Chinese and German. [email protected]