For the last few years, the team at StayWell Holdings have worked tirelessly — meticulously obsessing over every little detail — to bring the brand’s inaugural property The Prince Akatoki London into being. Today it stands to welcome globetrotters in Marylebone near the iconic Marble Arch, offering Japanese hospitality and the best of 5-star luxury in the heart of the city.
In this exclusive interview, TD speaks with Fiona Godfrey, StayWell Holdings’ Global Director of Revenue Generation, about the hotel’s highly-anticipated debut, infusing Japanese hospitality into the soul of the hotel and what’s next for the group’s global brand.
TD: Congratulations! These are exciting times. How was the launch? How has the hotel been received so far?
FG: Thank you! They certainly are. The official opening of The Prince Akatoki London marked a huge milestone, in what we see as a new beginning for StayWell Holdings, as the first hotel to open under The Prince Akatoki brand.
The launch attracted a huge amount of interest, with a series of events attended by over 400 people throughout the launch week, including key business leaders, group executives and hospitality trade professionals to leading London media and socialites. We even had the UK’s Japanese Ambassador, the honourable Koji Tsuruoka, in attendance.
“Consumers are excited by the concept”
The events were themed to represent the very best of what the hotel has to offer; the Japanese art of “service from the heart” or “absolute genuine hospitality”, alongside understated luxury. The resounding feedback was that guests were delighted with the level of attention to detail and craftsmanship of our team members. For me, it was the smaller touches the hotel team went to the effort of executing each night, ensuring our guests felt a sense of absolute luxury at every touchpoint.
This feedback from the launch has also been echoed more broadly since the hotel’s opening, which has been resoundingly positive. Consumers are excited by the concept of The Prince Akatoki London and the fusion of Japanese culture and western hospitality.TD: You’ve been working with the biggest hotel companies for more than two decades and the group manages hundreds of properties worldwide. What’s unique about this hotel?
FG: The Prince Akatoki London truly is a one-of-a-kind hotel. For me, the hotel is the perfect blend of East meets West — a celebration of the elegance, art, ritual, food and unique Japanese hospitality. The hotel is perfectly positioned in the London market, offering guests a sanctuary for renewal — a place for people to relax and recharge, closing the door on the hustle-and-bustle of Marylebone to feel an immediate sense of tranquillity and calm when they enter the hotel.
“A labour of love”
Developing The Prince Akatoki brand has been a labour of love that has stretched over two years in total, right down to making final tweaks to ensure our guests’ experience reflects the brand principals of attention to detail, strong aesthetic and design, craftsmanship, natural and sensory elements, and mindfulness and wellbeing.
I feel the genuine passion and excitement for the project from all of those involved has delivered a remarkable product that will be sought after on a global scale. The hotel team have truly immersed themselves into the brand, training and delivery of the hotel to perfectly encapsulate our vision.TD: How exactly does the hotel infuse Japanese hospitality into the service and experience?
FG: When developing The Prince Akatoki brand and travelling to Japan, we found service was the cornerstone that would allow us to perfectly capture the essence of Japanese culture at a hotel. This finding enabled us to deliver every element of the hotel with the intent to provide service from the heart, and it is this dedication to delivering perfection, down to the most minor details, that flawlessly encapsulates The Prince Akatoki London.
“Down to the most minor details”
To ensure guests experience the most authentic and traditional sense of Japanese hospitality during their stay, all staff at the property received specialty training in Japanese hospitality. Outside of this, refined Japanese hospitality and culture are more broadly reflected in the hotel experience at every touchpoint – from the meticulous attention to detail and the fusion of food and beverage, to the hotel’s turndown service offering and the yukata that is placed on the bed.
In total, we have created 19 signature brand experiences for The Prince Akatoki which in part will be rolled out across all the hotels.
TD: After the brand’s highly successful debut — what’s next?
FG: Continued global expansion is the focus of The Prince Akatoki brand.
For now, our next hotel is scheduled to open in early 2020, The Prince Akatoki Guangzhou. The hotel offers 275 luxurious accommodation rooms, extensive banquet and event rooms, all-day dining international restaurant, speciality Chinese and Japanese restaurants, lobby lounge bar, pool bar, rooftop pool with 180-degree views, state of the art gymnasium and a Japanese inspired spa.
Excitingly, the launch of The Prince Akatoki London has cemented interest in the brand in our key global city targets, including the likes of New York, Sydney, Paris, Singapore and Shanghai – just to name a few. The future is looking very bright for our global expansion plans, and we can’t wait to take the brand to the rest of the world!