Langham CEO: A great hotel stay starts at the front door

Hotel doorman, be alert.

The new boss of the Langham Hospitality Group, Robert Warman, is watching as he steps out of the taxi to stay at your hotel. What happens next will set the tone for his entire stay.

Speaking during a visit to Australia last week, the Chicago native who signed on as CEO in March says it all begins with the welcome.

“The arrival becomes the essence of all of it,” he says. “Everything I need to know happens right out the front. I always start watching, how fast do they open the door?

“I know how long it should take. If it takes longer, I already start moving down to dissatisfaction. I’m sceptical. What’s going on here? Is it too busy? Are they not paying attention?

“It’s all about the arrival.”

That sets the tone, Warman says, and how you feel. “I’m on a high and until you do something to drop me down, I stay there.”

“If I feel bad, it just goes downhill – you have to try so hard to lift me back up that it becomes impossible. You have to have one of the ‘Wow!’ moments to get me back up. The easiest thing to do is open the door and say ‘Welcome, nice to see you’.”

The big change he’s seen in his three-decade career is that the things that were once considered luxury: marble, chandeliers, a day spa, oriental carpets, even afternoon tea, have all become the standard.

“That’s the expectation at the luxury level. If you don’t have that, they walk out the door, you have to do more,” he said.

“If you have a great building and nobody says hello to you when you walk in, it’s finished. It’s no longer luxury.”

Modern luxury, Warman says, isn’t about the fixtures and fittings. It’s a about shaping the experience in a great hotel to match the guests.

“That’s the future of luxury: understand my needs and make sure we adapt to them. Help me accomplish what I need to do.”