BTN: Antony Lee, General Manager, May Fair Hotel, London

11th May 2011
BTN: Antony Lee, General Manager, May Fair Hotel, London

The May Fair Hotel, London is considered to be one of the most prestigious luxury hotels in the British capital with five star rooms, suites, health spa and gym.

All this is located in a prized location on Hyde Park in central London – which has just been voted the “World’s Leading Destination” by the World Travel Awards.

Here Breaking Travel News catches up with general manager Antony Lee - pictured - to discover what separates the property from its many competitors.

Breaking Travel News: How would you describe the May Fair experience?

Antony Lee: An eclectic mix of luxury and personalised experiences – today luxury is about the intangible not the tangible.

Many visitors also consider us an urban hideaway, a home from home and part of London fabric - everything you could possible want is at your fingertips.

BTN: How do you see the May Fair evolving?

AL: The May Fair is constantly evolving as should any world-class hotel. We aim to provide choice and surprising experiences.

Specifically we are developing and refining our choice of eateries and bars.

Our new restaurant Quince, led by chef patron, Silvena Rowe opens in June. It will serve fantastic eastern Mediterranean cuisine and is designed by the legendary Martin Brudnizki.

It will feature a divine lounge with huge open fireplaces, perfect for our irresistible afternoon tea as well as a landscaped al fresco terrace – which you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else in Mayfair.

Also on offer is 150 @ May Fair; a superb vintage champagne experience we have just launched in partnership with Moet Hennessy. It’s a sub-section of the May Fair Bar and is perfect for a special celebration or uber-exclusive treat.

We are also planning to open a cigar room this summer – so should you like the idea of enjoying a Havana cigar with a vintage Cognac in luxurious surroundings – keep your eye on the May Fair Hotel.

In terms of rooms and suites we will be creating another 25 Suites over the next year.

We are also converting our Deluxe Terrace Rooms into Junior Suites and have plans to develop two more feature suites along with Toto to give a spa experience.

There are also plans afoot to double the size of our premier suite – The Penthouse - to include a 270 degree terrace.

May Fair Hotel is famous around the world for its luxury offering

BTN: Which are your key markets?

AL: North America and Northern Europe are key, but of course we are truly international.

However, I still feel that a lot of people who should know who we are and what we have to offer still don’t. It’s my job to make sure they know what they are missing out on!

BTN: Which aspects of the hotel are you most proud of?

AL: In all my years of being in business it’s always my staff.

If everyone is working towards the same goal and with the same DNA that makes me most proud.

No matter what you put into a product it is still a shell, staff bring a hotel to life. It’s a people business and service has to be much more important than the physical product.

The biggest investment should always be in staff and many companies don’t understand this.

Service is what will make guests want to come back.

BTN: London has just been voted the “World’s Leading Destination” by the World Travel Awards. What is it about London that makes it the most exciting place in the world to be?

AL: London is truly a world-class city – why? The sheer range of what it has to offer - how much more can London absorb? We have a long way to go before we get to saturation point.

The shopping sales are incredible – London is unmatched with true sales in luxury brands compared to other major cities. Arts, shops, museums and many of them are free.

In terms of culture London is hard to beat.

The city has the most diverse range of cooking experiences in the world and as long as it continues it’s good for everybody.

You can measure the success of London by looking at the sheer number of new companies and hotels coming into London - The Four Seasons, Savoy, Corinthia, W and Shangri-La.

Do we look at them as competitors? No. It’s all part of what makes London a truly great destination.

BTN: What advice would you give to anyone embarking now on a career in hospitality?

AL: Always have a five year plan, that is the most important piece of advice I could give.

But it is also key to do time – to understand the basics and go bottom up. You must also love people and have a sense of humour - people used to be recruited in hospitality simply based upon their education and CV. Now the more important element is attitude.

It is considered one of the finest hotels in London, itself the world’s leading destination

BTN: What’s your favourite hotel outside of the Radisson Edwardian group, and why?

AL: It’s almost impossible to put down one favourite – the world has such a lot to offer and I like different hotels for different reasons be it city, spa or resort

However if I’m going to New York I love the Greenwich Hotel. It’s got a truly independent spirit in the middle of Tribeca where the local scenery is rich with everything naughty; food, shops, experiences.

If I had to pick a resort… I suppose the one thing I absolutely hate is to be processed – I hate it with a vengeance. I want to be recognised as an individual in a sophisticated and relaxed way - no pretences, just genuine.

A little gem in Italy (how can you resist Italian cooking!) is Il Pellicano – it’s amazing, special and the food - as you’d expect in Tuscany - is incredible.

BTN: What key attributes do you look for in potential staff?

AL: For me it’s a positive attitude where nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.
We’re looking for team players. No one individual will truly be successful if they can’t be part of a team.

Consistency is always the secret and attention to detail is a differentiator.

BTN: Describe your management style.

AL: I consider myself to be very democratic, very open, very inclusive, relaxed and fun.

However, it’s always focussed on the end goal – to deliver an unsurpassed experience to demanding customers on a world stage (no one less or more important than each other).

BTN: Describe your perfect resort of the future.

AL: Somewhere where I don’t have to go through the pain of travelling!

Ideally I would like to be beamed there - Star Trek style - directly into the beach bar, in crazy coloured shorts designed for Storm flies to settle on.

I’d hopefully be pre-tanned so I don’t shoot a beam into outer space with my London flesh and the bar man knows what my favourite drink is

Don’t take your eye off the May Fair – this is next on my list to do!


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