If there is one word to capture the spirit of the Peninsula Hotel Group, it has to be – in the simplest but all encompassing of words – dedication. It is dedication that has led to the expansion of the Peninsula Hotel with chains across Hong Kong, its original “birth place”, Shanghai, Beijing, Manila, Tokyo to New York, Beverly Hills, Chicago and recently, the first of its kind in Europe, Paris.
In an exclusive interview with Peninsula Paris’ Hotel Manager Vincent Pimont, The Sybarite gets a first glance at this modern day palace to discover what makes this gem so gratifyingly memorable and how it is able to carry the spirit wherever it sets up – be it Tokyo, New York or Paris, ultimately leaving guests with the ‘Peninsula experience’ imprinted in their sensory world. It is no wonder at all that the hotel has a record of many returning guests and although Peninsula Paris has only just recently joined the family in August 2014, guests are returning like never before which is only testament to the hotel’s approach in nurturing exceptional hospitality and attention to detail.
The first question we had to ask Pimont was why now and why Paris? We were surprised to discover that it was not about timing but rather finding the right place – “We were looking at Europe for quite a long time – most of our hotels are based in Asia and in the US. We were looking at properties in Paris for a few years as well as in London, but we were unable to find the best place. So why Paris? Because, it is the city of lights, it is in Europe and everybody knows Paris. It was very important for us to be there.
Why now? It is not about the timing, it was just about finding the right place, and we had this opportunity to get this place.” The 19th century Huasmanian building which was once a hotel back in 1939 but eventually left to abandon as its former proprietors could not afford to keep it running, finally became an administrative building before the Peninsula bought it out. “You can imagine that you have all this architecture inside that was used as an office space. In the basement it used to be a kitchen but we do not have that any more, instead we have built a beautiful swimming pool. So we went through a real work of restoring the building – everything is original – what you see in terms of decoration are all original.” One might have thought that with a new hotel taking over a historic building tearing down the interior would be the norm but in this case, Peninsula has kept to the originality of this otherworldly façade from the wooden floors to the ornate ceilings whilst restoring rooms and spaces with the Peninsula touch. Every detail has been taken into account so as to let its guests recognize the spirit of the Peninsula – from its signature Peninsula Pages who are dressed in spick and span white uniforms and hats ready to attend to guests to its long-serving staff, guests are sure to recognize and remember the experience.
We asked Pimont if he could – in his own words – tell us what the quintessential Peninsula Paris experience is – “our employees will treat the guests as a family, taking care of them from A-Z. Usually when you run a place like this, which is ‘big’, in a lot of hotel industries you sometimes find a lot of obstacles. The good thing about Peninsula Paris and the Peninsula Group is that we can basically treat the guest the way they want to be treated and not the way we want to treat them, therefore having a customized service for them, which isn’t difficult. This is what is quite unique for us in Paris – treating everyone here as a family. It is really about caring; we are a company where as Hotel Manager up to the entire management staff, we stress on nurturing our guests and even our employees. By doing that, there is always a follow-up – we will always remember guests and sometimes we may call and ask how they are doing, etc. It is not about different departments taking care of everything; it is about each staff taking care of their own customer from A-Z.” And it really is A-Z, even if a guest should have an out-of-the-ordinary request, Peninsula Paris will go above and beyond to hopefully give the answer the guest wants. Out of the ordinary requests seems to be the Peninsula’s forte “It will be difficult to give examples because it is part of our daily life – special requests. For example if tomorrow we had a wedding, someone could ask to have ten Rolls Royce Vintages and we will find that out. Or you might have a customer who wants to rent a church and use it as a nightclub and that is something you will find happening more in the US and therefore more complicated in Europe. But our team will try and fulfill it and we will always find out. If it is not possible than it is really not possible and we cannot do it, but we will always find an alternative”.
Speaking of Rolls Royce, one of the most unique services Peninsula Paris provides is its own fleet of Rolls Royce Vintages along with a host of other luxury vehicles ready for the guests own disposal. The hotel has recently acquired a fleet of hybrid BMW bikes for those that wish to pedal through the city, making Peninsula Paris the first hotel of its kind in Paris to provide such attractive amenities. “Peninsula is known for its super cars and we are the only one in Paris to own a fleet of Rolls Royce vintages that we can use for our guests. Usually hotels will rent, but we own a fleet, which is a service we are providing. We also have mini coopers and a fleet of BMW hybrid bikes and many Americans love it”
Adding to the uniqueness that perhaps not many hotels would follow is how the Peninsula staff is taken care of and how they are the ones who are in the end, the true spirit of Peninsula. “A lot of people were asking me how we would be able to bring the Peninsula spirit to Paris, and it is in us staying humble – if you really take care of your clients, if you really take care of your colleagues, you can carry the spirit with you. We can see our guests realizing it.
And what we do with our staff is that we train them overseas – a lot of managers went to Hong Kong for exposure in order to realize the Peninsula spirit. Therefore the goal is for our staff to go to different properties to let them understand the spirit, but we do not only do this with the managers, we also do it with the junior levels, such as the famous pageboys. One of them is working right now at the Peninsula Tokyo just to understand the spirit. People might say ‘why spend so much money to send someone at that level?’ but you are investing for the future to make sure that the family understands the Peninsula spirit – from waitresses, pageboys to managers, all will all gain exposure by visiting our other chains. Even our bartender is in Hong Kong right now gaining experience.”
The Peninsula Paris will certainly have plenty of things to look forward to – with preparations for the second Christmas celebration to an exciting dim sum menu in honor of Chinese New Year to the introduction of moon cakes, Peninsula is one without spirit, heritage, loyalty and above all dedication at every Peninsula touch point.