Confessions of a Hotel GM

Philipp Knuepfer, General Manager of Mandarin Oriental, Boston, on the changing perceptions of luxury.

Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

Luxury is changing. You see interesting phenomena like Airbnb or people just wanting to move into corporate apartments. There’s a shift in what people perceive as being luxurious and what a luxury hotel has to offer. So I always try to mention to the team that at the end of the day, whether it’s the Mandarin Oriental or Four Seasons or Marriott, everyone will eventually have nice marble and nicely designed rooms and all that. When you turn off the lights, except for the thread count of your sheets, every hotel room is pretty much the same. So we have a very short window for leaving an impression. The key is to make sure that we promote personality, that we give our team the opportunity to be themselves rather than following a script.

I have my office in the lobby, and I have my two dogs, Bonnie and Tara, with me there. They take a bit away from all the granite and marble and polished glass and make the place more approachable and humble. The other day was funny: I came back to the lobby, and Tara was sitting on a sofa. I went to the guest utterly embarrassed and said, “I’m so sorry.” And he said, “No, no, I invited her for afternoon tea, so I insist that she sits here with me.”

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