A day in the life of a General Manager dedicated to ultimate luxury guest experience.
The senior project manager of the Hotel Innovations SMARTreport, Masha Polshinskaya has the chance to “shadow” Thierry Lavalley, General Manager of the Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva from sunrise to sunset, to get a better understanding of the intricacies involved in being a top level palace director.
The shadowing begins before 8am in TL’s office. He is already on the phone, negotiating with a famous personality, discussing the creation of an event. He puts down the phone and gives me a warm welcome. The first impression I have is one of a man of stature and elegance, from his style of dress right down to the quality of the watch he is wearing. When I comment on the beauty of the timepiece, Mr Lavalley explains that he in fact has a large collection of watches and thus chooses the one he will wear in relation to the people he will be meeting that day. It stands to reason; Geneva is the world capital of timepieces and the choice of the watch one wears here reflects one’s savoir-faire and is a delicate attention towards those one is dealing with. It’s also a mark of respect to locals, as Thierry Lavalley has managed to open his hotel up to the local clientele, allowing people who live and work in Geneva to be indulged in a real “Kempinski experience”.
We start with a brief rundown of the agenda of the day which is set to be a busy one, with 185 arrivals and 115 departures. The assistant manager outlines special snippets of attention to be dealt out to key clients, such as a Metallica album for the son of a star who adores heavy metal music, a special reduction on spa treatments for a famed Swiss lawyer, and chocolates and cards for others. Thierry Lavalley’s doctrine is to leave each one of his managers a good deal of autonomy on their savoir-faire: finance to the accountants, the sauce to the chef, the management of massages to the head of the spa, to allow the general manager to be totally dedicated to the promotion of his hotel and to permit him to listen more attentively to his clients’ wants and needs.
But the general manager is also the “interface” between the operator and the owner. This is why, from 9:30, we are in the office of the financial director to study the reports that are to be submitted to the owner. Mr Lavalley says the general manager is the true spokesman for the operator, in this case, the Kempinski Group. He must constantly convince the owner that in having chosen Kempinski, he has chosen the right operator: “I am the ‘face and the voice’ of Kempinski in the owner’s mind and my role is to ensure his entire satisfaction in this respect. We work here under a management contract, which implies financial engagements on the part of the owner, and it is essential that the GM be able to explain and justify exactly what his investments correspond to.”