By Sharon Hirschowitz

Appointed as CEO in 2019, Mr. Smura talks about the group’s expansion internationally, as well as their first property in New York, situated close to Rockefeller Center. At the heart of this growth are the Kempinski Brand Standards that set the tone for personalized guest service along the entire journey.

Congratulations on your new role in leading such a prestigious hotel brand. I believe that Kempinski has an extensive expansion planned including a flagship hotel in New York. Can you share some of the details?
Thank you for your words. I feel very proud to have been appointed as Chief Executive Officer of this luxury brand. Kempinski is a close community of true luxury hoteliers that value craftsmanship, and I am glad to be part of the family.

We are indeed focusing on ambitious international expansion plans, as part of our long-term strategy. Our goal is to operate more than 100 luxury hotels by 2022. In the next 12 months alone, nine new hotels will open: three in the Caribbean and one hotel in Tel Aviv, Tbilisi, Bangkok, Guangzhou, Brazzaville and Almaty respectively. A further seven hotels are currently under construction.

Part of the development growth plan is our partnership with the German 12.18 Investment Group, with whom we have developed a new lifestyle product, 7Pines Kempinski. The new concept offers laid-back luxury, lifestyle experience in the Kempinski world. The first 7Pines Kempinski hotel will be 7Pines Ibiza which will reopen in spring 2020, followed by a second opening in Sardinia in 2021.

We will also add our very first property in New York by the end of 2020. Originally built in 1927, the property is strategically located in Manhattan’s central and Midtown East, close to the Rockefeller Center and the Museum of Modern Art. The property is being completely refurbished and will re-open as The 7Pines Kempinski Manhattan by the end of next year.

What is your strategy rolling out such an ambitious project?

The hospitality industry finds itself in a period of great change. The last 10 years have been marked by major consolidation with aggressive growth strategies. If we want to compete, there is no other choice than to grow as well. But we won’t grow at all costs and will only focus on hotel development projects that can deliver the brand promise in terms of product and performance.

So far, the Kempinski strategy was based on management contracts. In future, our expansion will also include the acquisition of properties to leverage our core business of Hotel Management services to create additional value through real estate.

How do you approach programming and customized guest experiences?
Delivering the Kempinski brand promise across every aspect of hotel operations – from concept creation through to quality management – is at the heart of the company’s plans to achieve long-term value growth. We follow the guest journey from pre-arrival to post-departure and infuse each guest connection point with Kempinski brand essence through robust Brand Standards. Also, we have for many of our properties, specific standards underlining the uniqueness of the place.

Besides the technology assisting us in enhancing our guests’ stay, the most important part of customization is certainly the human factor, and we empower our people to create personalized moments for our guests. We continuously foster and celebrate the culture of hospitality - paying attention to the little clues guests give us, and surprising them with a little extra attention tailored to their needs.

How does technology work with you in elevating the journey?

We developed together with our partner a guest intelligence software allowing us to collect information and feedback from our guests, prior, during and after the stay. As being GDPR-compliant is essential to us, we needed a tool that gave us the possibility to enhance our guest experience based on information that they are willing to share with us but also based on feedback we might have previously received. Combining all the information allows us to personalise the guest journey and craft memorable experiences.

What are the immediate projects you are working on and what does 2020 hold?
Besides the several hotel openings planned in 2020, we will deploy a series of sustainable initiatives next year. Our goal is to deliver, company-wide, a responsible, yet luxurious guest experience that is conscious of the environment. We are already focusing on the elimination of all single-use plastic items and replacing these with alternatives that represent our quality standards. And we have recently partnered with “Clean The World” organisation to collect the amenity bottles as well as the bar soaps to get them recycled.

Overall, it comes to crafting experiences to build a sustainable way of luxurious hospitality, always
considering our corporate and social responsibility.