The team at City Matters sat down with John Kelly, Hotel Manager at Pan Pacific London to speak about his new role, his aspirations for the hotel and the festive season.
Q. What do you love most about Pan Pacific London?
A. There are many great things about the hotel one of which is the location, it is an exciting vibrant place to work with a broad mix and cross section of guests. In the recent years The City of London has really come to life not only is it a wonderful place to work but also a fabulous location to stay. The hotel’s location allows convenient access to iconic landmarks like Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral providing a rich historical experience, not only that but with the opening of the Elizabeth Line our guests are well-connected to all areas of the city.
The hotel really epitomises gracious comforting luxury hospitality with service from the heart. The team’s genuine enthusiasm, willingness to assist and personalised service goes beyond the standard offering, it reminds me of the Irish hospitality from my home which is renowned for being one of the warmest and provides me with great pride and joy.
Q. What are the characteristics of a successful Hotel Manager?
A. In my opinion it is all about how you treat people, whether you are managing teams or welcoming guests.
Treating people well is the hallmark of a successful hotel manager and plays a crucial role in the overall success of the hotel. It is important to develop the team and manage associate morale, a positive work environment contributes to achieving overall hotel goals.
You need to have a real passion and love for the industry, adapting and thinking on your feet is part of the every day. Strategic thinking is a necessary characteristic with the ability to develop an approach for hotel success in a very competitive market in London.
Being a hotel manager is a vocation it fills you with higher purpose than the everyday job.
Q. What do you think will be some of the biggest obstacles in this role and how do you plan on tackling them?
A. Recruitment Challenge: The pressure to recruit is always there but its recruiting the right people with the right attitude that is the real challenge, particularly for higher level roles, you need to recruit the right fit for the brand, existing employees and the environment.
Managing guest expectations is always a challenge particularly around sustainability. We are all trying to balance and navigate luxury with sustainability, which is a challenge some guests may perceive sustainable practices as incompatible with luxury and comfort. Striking a balance between providing a high-quality experience and implementing eco-friendly measures without comprising guest satisfaction is a delicate task but we need to take risks and do the right thing and we have to do more not only just in the future but in the immediate 12-18 months.
Staying fresh and at the forefront of people’s mind is so important, particularly now as we are no longer the new property in the market, there are so many more. It is essential to stay fresh and stand out in a competitive market, it involves a commitment to innovation, continuous improvement and a keen awareness of evolving trends and guest preferences. We will continue to pursue awards, evolve our offering and develop our guest care. We need to be resilient to challenges and demonstrate agility in response to the ever-changing market conditions.
Q. What advice would you give to any aspiring Hotel Managers?
A. Take your time, I hope this will be a long career for me, I have enjoyed each position I have held on the way to being a hotel manager. This is my third hotel being a hotel manager and every single one has been so different, each with its own challenges, differences and success.
Take time to understand and learn all areas of the business, how different people operate in the industry, I find this aspect so interesting. Never stop learning.
Being a hotel manager is more than a profession; it’s a vocation that demands dedication, passion, and a genuine love for the job. This level of commitment not only enhances your own satisfaction but also contributes significantly to the success and reputation of the hotel.
Balancing resilience and humility is a delicate but crucial aspect of effective hotel management and a skill that I hope will set me in good stead as I grow my own career with a goal of becoming a general manager.
Q. What’s in the pipeline for 2024?
A. ‘Steady as she goes’. I have joined as the hotel enters its third year, a key year to have a steady and unwavering approach. Maintain stability, consistency, and reliability in various aspects of the hotel operations. Continue to strive for Forbes Five Star every year. Continue to grow more covers in Straits Kitchen, The Orchid Lounge, Ginger Lily and Silverleaf bar whilst upholding quality standards.
Q. Tell us about how you got into the hospitality sector and what encouraged you to build a career within this industry?
A. I have over 20 years’ experience gleaned across the UK and most recently worked at Adare Manor in Ireland as Deputy General Manager, managing daily operations around the resort as well as leading strategy and culture across the property before joining Pan Pacific London as Hotel Manager. A key highlight was co-chairing the J. P. McManus Pro-Am in 2022, one of the biggest charity sporting events in Ireland. Prior to that, I worked as Hotel Manager at The Bloomsbury Hotel, part of the Doyle Collection, and held other senior roles including Director of Operations and Director of Rooms at The Hoxton Holborn and W Hotel London Leicester Square. I also held positions at Turnberry; A Luxury Collection Resort in Scotland, Fairmont Le Montreux Palace in Switzerland, and Starwood Hotels in central London. I’ve always been rooms driven and that was definitely the route I took in my career. I also enjoy food and beverage and was awarded distinction at Level two in 2018 and distinction at Level three of the Wine Spirit and Education Trust (WSET). I love the buzz, pace and people. No two days are the same and you can connect with so many people. I would also say I can be quite particular and have strong attention to detail, so the luxury market always appealed to me and felt like a natural fit in that regard.
Q. You’ve just joined Pan Pacific London. Tell us about your new role at Pan Pacific London?
A. My role includes maintaining a positive hotel culture, and driving operational management across the property and its 237 rooms and suites. When it comes to looking after my team, I make sure they have what they need to do the job that they’re in to a high standard. I would say I am a very fair person and my key values are fairness and equality. I stand by them and treat everybody the same and invest in my team so I can learn and understand their needs, where they’d like to grow and what their interests are. When I know that, I can help them in their journey and bring out the best in people. If you look after your team, they’ll look after your people and guests, so I don’t lose sight of that.
Q. Does Pan Pacific London have anything special planned for Christmas and NYE?
A. At Pan Pacific London, we are pulling out all the stops this Christmas with our luxury ‘Festive Family Fun’ package, designed to keep children happy and engaged. On arrival, guests are greeted by immersive festive installation MOSAIC on the hotel’s plaza, designed by Arnaud Lapierre and launched in collaboration with EC (Business Improvement District) and MTArt Agency. MOSAIC is a unique reimagination of the traditional Christmas tree made from recycled emerald-green glass and up to 200 mirrored cubes.
As well as the hotel’s incredible light installations, the concierge team are on hand throughout to deliver seasonal itineraries. Children are checked into the Singa Cub Club and are encouraged to take their stay into their own hands. Each is presented with a ‘goodie basket’ featuring a Little Explorers Adventure Pack complete with a treasure hunt leading to a fabulous prize, alongside a Cub Club activity booklet. During their stay, parents and children can take advantage of our world-class SENSORY Wellbeing floor and enjoy the hotel’s unique collaboration with luxury French brand, Bonpoint. Families can then head to the18.5m infinity pool during dedicated swimming hours. Food and drink are no after-thought. Festive feasts await at Straits Kitchen. What’s more, guests can delight in the new Kaleidoscope Afternoon Tea Collection in The Orchid Lounge.
Q. The City is full of amazing hotels. What do you think makes Pan Pacific London different?
A. At Pan Pacific London, we are committed to providing the most memorable experience for all guests from the moment they arrive to their departure and this extends across the rooms, our six fantastic restaurants and bars as well as the state-of-the-art SENSORY wellbeing floor and its impressive offering complete with holistic and scientifically-led treatments, a spectacular infinity pool, interactive high-performance gym and sauna and steam rooms. There really is something for everyone. Whether guests are looking for a relaxing and restorative stay, an adventure-fuelled holiday or for a quick whistle-stop trip whilst travelling in the city, Pan Pacific London epitomises gracious luxury and elegance for an unparalleled stay.