Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group Takes the Lead

With constant innovations and 16 hotels in development, the company strives to become the worldwide leader in luxury accommodations

By: Skye Mayring
A guestroom at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas // © 2010 Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
A guestroom at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas // © 2010 Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

The Details

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

The group operates, or has under development, 42 hotels in 27 countries (17 hotels in Asia, 13 properties in the Americas and 12 in Europe, Africa and the Middle East). Several properties have opened this year and last, and many more developments are in the works.

Opening Soon
Mandarin Oriental Jnan Rahma, Marrakech
Opening date: First quarter 2011
Setting: Nestled within Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, this palace-like resort encompasses approximately 130 acres of palm groves.
Accommodations: The resort’s 161, individually styled guestrooms and suites feature large terraces with daybeds and views of the mountains, gardens and the lush landscape of the Palmeraie region.
Amenities: The Younger Fan Club keeps kids entertained with stargazing activities, caleche (horse-drawn carriage) rides around the Red City and pottery classes. Children can splash around in their own pool, while adults can soak up the sun around a 17,000-square-foot pool crafted from green marble.
Diversions: Medina (old town), with its snake charmers, souks and nearly two miles of secret passages, is a 30-minute drive away.

Mandarin Oriental, Paris
Opening date: Mid 2011
Setting: Mandarin Oriental, Paris will be located in the heart of the historic and fashionable part of the city, along rue Saint-Honore, with an architectural design by French architect and urban planner, Jean-Michel Wilmotte.
Accommodations: The 138 guestrooms and suites will be among the most spacious in the city boasting a contemporary design by Sybille de Margerie at SM Design.
Amenities: Chef Thierry Marx — who has three Michelin stars and presides on the judging panel of France’s version of “Top Chef” — has agreed to open his first Paris restaurant at the hotel. The spa will feature an approximately 50-foot indoor swimming pool and a fully equipped fitness center.
Diversions: The Louvre Museum, Champs Elysees area and the iconic Eiffel Tower are all nearby.

Recently Opened
Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona
Opening date: November 2009
Setting: Located on the main boulevard of the Eixample district, the boutique resort is in close proximity to the Gothic Quarter and Gaudi’s Casa Batllo.
Accommodations: A restored mid-20th-century building houses 98 guestrooms with a stylish interior design by Spanish-born Patricia Urquiola.
Amenities: Moments — a Catalan restaurant, created by five-Michelin-star chef, Carme Ruscalleda — offers traditional favorites in a chic environment.
Diversions: The rooftop dipping pool affords 360-degree city views but, for those who want to stretch their legs, the more than 300-year-old La Boqueria Market is an eight-minute stroll away.

Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas
Opening date: December 2009
Setting: The only non-gaming, free-standing luxury property on the Strip, Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas is located at the entrance of the $8.5 billion CityCenter mega-development of hotels, retail, restaurants and clubs.
Accommodations: The hotel’s 392 guestrooms and suites feature marble bathrooms with adjustable privacy screens, in-mirror televisions and oversized tubs.
Amenities: The Oriental Ballroom is the only event space on the Strip with an outdoor patio. Along with three smaller function rooms, it can accommodate as many as 600 guests.
Diversions: Crystals, which has a complimentary tram service to Sin City’s most popular casinos, is a five-minute walk away.

Mandarin Oriental, Macau
Opening date: June 2010
Setting: The non-gaming, 213-room property is a 10-minute drive from both the Macau International Airport and the Macau-China border.
Accommodations: Mandarin Premier View guestrooms feature walk-in wardrobes, two LCD televisions and views of Nam Van Lake and Taipa Island.
Amenities: The all-day dining Vida Rica restaurant offers Chinese, Japanese and contemporary Western cuisine in the main dining room or in one of the four semi-private rooms.
Diversions: Guests can walk the black-and-white tiled streets of the center of town — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — past antique shops and 17th-century churches.

In Development
Guangzhou, China
The Maldives
Taipei, Taiwan
Costa Rica
Dellis Cay, Turks and Caicos
St. Kitts
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Abu Dhabi
Doha, Qatar
Marbella, Spain
Milan, Italy

Web Exclusive

Click here to learn how Alicia Keys, Annie Lennox and Harry Connick Jr. have launched their new albums at a Mandarin Oriental property.

Scroll down to read about Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s new iPad/iPhone app and other social media innovations

Embracing Technology

As of late, the 47-year-old Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (MOHG) has embraced the ever-changing digital landscape in a myriad of ways. In addition to having all of its operating properties actively engaged on Facebook and Twitter, the group itself has a Facebook fan page with 10,275 fans as of press time.

“We are increasing the ability to know our guests on a more in-depth basis,” said Danielle DeVoe, vice president of communications, the Americas, for MOHG. “Therefore, we are able to really surprise and delight our guests and make sure that they have the best stay possible.”

Followers and fans are privy to new developments and company-wide, limited-time offers. A recent promotion included a contest for which all new Facebook fans of Mandarin Oriental, Singapore, were eligible — the winner received a stay for two in the property’s Presidential Suite with a champagne brunch at Dolce Vita and a couples’ massage at The Oriental Spa.

The group also has plans to launch an iPhone/iPad app in the next two to three months. With the new app, users can learn more about the MOHG guest experience, get the specifics on individual properties, check availability and make real-time bookings. Additionally, the app will feature social media sharing tools that allow users to interact with all MOHG operating hotels.

A client wasn’t satisfied with the view from his guestroom at Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, so he shared his feelings with the Twitterverse.

Moments later, his phone rang. It was the front desk — who was monitoring the Twitter feed about the hotel — asking the guest if he would prefer to have a different view and offering to show him other guestrooms.

“That is the power of social media,” said Danielle DeVoe, vice president of communications, the Americas, for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (MOHG). “Technology is changing the way that we would typically interact with our guests, and it is a great opportunity for us to improve the guest experience and increase personalization.”

At MOHG, a focus on the guest experience has helped make the company an industry leader for 47 years — and this year is no different. In a financial report tracking the group’s performance from January through early May, parent company Mandarin Oriental International Limited saw an increase in occupancy levels in comparison to the same period in 2009. However, at press time, occupancy levels have not yet reached those achieved in 2008. Strengthening demand came primarily from the corporate segment, and performances were strongest in Asia.

“We certainly have had a great start to the year as our occupancy, year to date, is in the 80 percent range,” said Tony Costa, general manager of Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, which has, at times, the highest room rates in Hong Kong.

Luxury chains, even in the U.S., appear to be making a comeback this year, according to a recent Smith Travel Research report. Between January and May, luxury hotel companies in the U.S. saw a 10.6 percent increase in occupancy to approximately 65 percent whereas, in 2009, occupancy fell 8.5 percent in total.

Whether the global economy is seeing signs of recovery or not, travelers continue to expect more from luxury brands, and MOHG looks to attract guests by adding value to its products, such as two-for-one spa promotions and packages that offer a consecutive night free.

“I believe that there is heightened awareness of value-added offers today by consumers and in the hospitality industry at large, primarily due to the economy,” said Jorge Gonzalez, executive vice president, southern region, the Americas, for MOHG and general manager of Mandarin Oriental, Miami. “At MOHG, we have often used value-added offers to promote our hotels around the world, and they remain a great way to win over guests with additional experiences that they might not otherwise try.”

Stepping in the Right Direction
In recent years, group chief executive, Edouard Ettedgui, has placed a particular emphasis on expanding MOHG’s global reach to include luxury properties in brand-defining cities throughout Europe and the Americas.

“When Ettedgui started on our expansion path years ago, he recognized that, in order to become a true global brand, we required a greater geographic diversity beyond the group’s traditional Asian base,” Gonzalez said. “Our brand had to be established in the U.S. and Europe and, notably, while we were renovating our older flagships in Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore.”

In the Americas, the group currently operates hotels in New York, San Francisco, Miami, Boston, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and the Riviera Maya, Mexico. And in Ettedgui’s 12-year tenure, the group’s portfolio has increased from 11 to 42 hotels (including those under development), representing some 10,000 rooms worldwide.

“Ettedgui is also responsible for the other aspects in which the group has become a leader — we are at the forefront of the spa industry and are known for our innovations in dining,” added DeVoe.

This year, Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia named both Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok and Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai on its Top 10 Hotel Spas list. Aside from having nine of its restaurants honored in the 2010 Michelin Guides and collaborating with a dozen Michelin-starred chefs, MOHG is also credited for launching culinary stars including Eric Ziebold, who won a James Beard Award in 2008 while running his debut restaurant, CityZen at Mandarin Oriental Washington, D.C.

Setting Standards
In June, MOHG celebrated the opening of Mandarin Oriental, Macau with firecrackers, a festive lion dance and an opening package with rates starting from $282 per night. The promotion, which is valid through Sept. 30, also includes one complimentary, consecutive night or a $48 dining/spa credit. The opening is in step with demand from U.S. travelers as the Macau Government Tourist Office reports that Americans rank number one in long-haul visits to Macau.

Mandarin Oriental, Macau and the recently opened Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas also represent a departure from the status quo — the Macau property is the only non-gaming, five-star hotel on the Macau Peninsula and Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas is the only free-standing, non-gaming property on the Las Vegas Strip.

“Many of the high-end properties in Las Vegas and Macau still require that you walk through a gaming environment before you reach your accommodations, and we simply offer an alternative because there are many reasons why travelers are attracted to those locations. These types of guests are pleased to have the gaming facilities at their fingertips but would prefer to be in a haven away from the hustle and bustle,” said DeVoe. “We’re not a gaming company. We are a leader in luxury hospitality and will certainly maintain that in the years to come.”

Rajesh Jhingon, general manager of Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, added that his hotel has seen a fair amount of first-time visitors to Las Vegas who were looking for a non-gaming property with an established reputation.

“We have also accommodated a huge amount of guests who had not yet stayed with the brand and are moving from other hotels,” Jhingon said.

Other booking trends at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas show that approximately 70 percent of guests are American and that many bookings take place a week to 10 days in advance, according to Jhingon.

“This is a defining moment for Las Vegas,” he said in regard to the $8.5 billion CityCenter mega-development, which opened in December 2009 and encompasses Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas. “CityCenter is a colossal project, but our property didn’t have any major challenges. We are really good at what we do.”

The Vegas property is also the first hotel within MOHG to achieve LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, although each hotel in the collection is sensitive to local environments and works to improve efficiency in water usage, cooling, heating and light saving.

“All of our developments are very concerned with energy conservation, reducing carbon emissions and being a responsible corporate citizen. It’s what our guests expect,” said DeVoe.

Africa, the Middle East and Beyond
Mandarin Oriental, Jnan Rahma, Marrakech is scheduled to open in the first quarter of next year and has already garnered a great deal of buzz due to its exposure in “Sex and the City 2.” All of the indoor scenes that were set in Abu Dhabi were either filmed at the Marrakech property or within its owner, Jaouad Kadiri’s, private home, Villa Kadiri. Both filming locations were styled by painter-turned-architect Stuart Church and feature decorative ironwork, handpainted floral ceilings and handmade Venetian-style mirrors.

Only weeks ago, the hotel group announced that it will manage a new luxury hotel in Doha, the capital of Qatar, set to open in 2014. The 160-room Mandarin Oriental, Doha will be located in Musherib, an ambitious 86-acre development adjacent to the recently restored, Souk Waqif and the city’s business center in West Bay. The Doha property will be the group’s second hotel in the Middle East, following an announcement earlier this year that MOHG will open Mandarin Oriental, Abu Dhabi in 2013.

“We were once known for being a hospitality leader in Asia,” DeVoe said. “Now, we have global recognition, and our aim is to become recognized as the best luxury hotel company in the world.”

Adventure Travel JDS Africa Middle East JDS Destinations