Following a six-month closure at the start of the year for a renovation, luxury London hotel, One Aldwych is back open, firing from all cylinders and showing off its shiny new look. We sat down with general manager Janine Marshall to find out how bookings have been impacted and what the plan is now the multi-million pound project is complete.
One Aldwych in London reopened in June following an extensive refurbishment that saw its bedrooms, dining room and bar redesigned with a ‘bold’ new look.
Over two decades after it first opened its doors to the public, One Aldwych relaunched after a six-month project that saw the hotel close mid-January to carry out the works.
The new-look bedrooms have been transformed by Robert Angell, whose previous projects include The Connaught, Lime Wood and The Berkeley, while London-based Fabled Studio has reimagined the hotel’s public spaces including the entrance, reception, events space, Lobby Bar and Indigo restaurant, which now boasts a new colour scheme.
A major part of the brief was ‘Britishness’, with UK manufacturers supplying many of the features including flooring from a British company and throws made in Skye.
The hotel’s entrance has also been reconfigured to give a more ‘smooth and striking sense of arrival’ with bronze greeter desks and a new reception.
One Aldwych has 93 guestrooms and 12 suites, plus two restaurants: Eneko London by three Michelin-starred basque chef Eneko Atxa; and Indigo.
Managing director Simon Hirst, the hotel’s original GM who returned in 2017 as managing director after four years at Raffles Hotel Singapore, departed following the completion of the project, leaving general manager Janine Marshall in the driving seat.
We caught up with her to discover how she intends to keep momentum going at One Aldwych and the response to the hotel’s new look.
How will you drive momentum to the hotel now the refurbishment is complete?
One Aldwych has a fantastic reputation as one of the first true luxury contemporary hotels in London. Now the refurbishment is complete, we are enjoying meeting with our travel partners to spread the news and make sure they know about what’s new at One Aldwych. I’ve just come back from New York and it was so exciting to see their wonderfully positive reaction to the photos of the new rooms and suites.
How has business been since the project?
The hotel has received an exceptionally positive response from our guests since reopening in June. We are seeing many of our existing guests return and welcoming new guests who’ve heard about the ‘new One Aldwych’.
We are currently seeing a trend of reservations being made with a much shorter lead time, however both occupancy and rates have exceeded our expectations. In our restaurant, Indigo, overlooking the Lobby, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea business has returned to pre closure levels and continues to grow.
What was the most challenging part of the refurbishment?
The home of One Aldwych is a beautiful Edwardian building which was the vision of the Anglo-French architectural partnership, Mewès and Davis in 1907. It was built as the offices of the daily newspaper, The Morning Post and is considered to be one of the most important buildings in London, known for its blend of Edwardian grandeur and wonderful Parisian elegance. Its distinctive features include curved corners, a coppered cupola dome and a mansard roof, with decorative features such as female head keystones, cornices and balconies. So during the refurbishment, it was essential that the design teams from Robert Angell (who did the guestrooms) and Fabled Studio (who did the public areas) acknowledged and worked with the building’s heritage and architecture, whilst updating the look and feel of the hotel to ensure it remains relevant in today’s world. They have certainly succeeded.
Where do you look to position yourselves in the market now?
Independent. When One Aldwych originally opened 21 years ago, it broke the mold in contemporary hotelkeeping and set a new standard for modern luxury – both in design and in the style of the service. We love to do things a little differently and we can, because we are independently owned. Even our building stands as an island, three-sided, a little unusual, not joined to any other buildings, a true independent landmark in London. We are very proud of being independent, in a world where everything seems to be becoming more and more standardized. I think it really resonates with our guests too.
Luxury. The competitive landscape of London hotels is changing rapidly and with more luxury hotels due to open over the next couple of years, the refurbishment has helped to re-establish One Aldwych’s position in the luxury market. There is increasing demand for suites in London and so as part of the refurbishment we have increased the ratio of suites to rooms at One Aldwych and now have a total of 16 suites – these include four uniquely designed signature suites and a new category of suites perfect for families visiting the city or guests planning a longer stay and looking for a little more space whilst in the capital.
But luxury today is not just about opulence. It’s about living well and being responsible, too. One Aldwych has had a Green Team for years – and introduced paraben-free bathroom amenities before most people had even heard of the word. Sustainability is fast-moving and is very important to our guests – and to us. Our bathroom goodies from Mitchell & Peach in Kent are SLS free and come in biodegradable bottles. We also have a wide-ranging recycling scheme, from glass to cooking oil and an in-house water-bottling filtration plant. That to me, is luxury.
Location, location, location! Our location, in Covent Garden, gives One Aldwych a huge advantage: we are within walking distance of some of the best cultural highlights in London – like The Royal Opera House and The Donmar Theatre – and we are at the point where the West End meets the City, for our business guests.
What have you been specifically tasked with now Simon has left?
My task is to increase occupancy and the ADR, and to continue to elevate our offering in product and service.
What marketing techniques have you used to promote the hotel now?
Over the past 18 months we’ve looked at who we are and distilled our brand values for the next chapter of the hotel’s story. We then appointed a creative agency to bring those values to life by refreshing of the look and feel of One Aldwych. This brilliantly brings together the heritage of the building with the contemporary aesthetic of the hotel and our independent spirit – overlaid with a dash of personality!
To support the brand and positioning of the hotel, exquisite new photography works in conjunction with the luxury messaging to re-establish One Aldwych at the forefront of the mind for both trade and consumer bookers.
We continue to use a variety of digital and offline marketing communications to reach our audiences. A key focus is to build partnerships with brands where there is synergy, to reach like-minded audiences. Because we an independent hotel, we seek to partner with brands and businesses that also embody that independent spirit and essence of Britishness – and who are passionate about sustainability.
What are the occupancy levels at the hotel at the moment?
Occupancy has not returned to what it was before we closed, this is expected and planned. However, what we have achieved has exceeded our expectation and we are delighted to be winning market share
Can you tell me the inspiration for the new look?
Design studio Fabled has created an elegant aesthetic across the public spaces, inspired by the building itself. For example, the Art Nouveau flourish of the fanlight over the front door was the inspiration for the new and strikingly beautiful black and white marble inlay floor in the Lobby, that really embodies the essence of the original design. The fanlight’s design has also been carried into the new wrought ironwork screens that help to partially screen off the Lobby Bar.
Upstairs in the guestrooms and suites, Robert Angell also worked with the unusual shape of the building – it is three sided, its own island site, with a Mansard roof, which means some of the top suites and rooms have charming sloped ceilings – as well as amazing views over the rooftops and the river Thames. The new guestrooms come in a palette of gorgeous cool, calm pastel hues and showcase British craftsmanship throughout the room, from the English oak floors, the Skye Weavers blankets made using a traditional peddle loom (actually a bicycle, on the island of Skye!), to the Mitchell & Peach bathroom products from Kent.
What are the future plans for development at the hotel?
Following the considerable investment my focus will be on the guest experience and retaining our position in the luxury market. Not only is the building dynamic, but so is Covent Garden, our home, it’s changing all the time – and One Aldwych needs to reflect that: this is a natural evolution. This latest work builds on other developments, including the recent launch of Eneko Basque Kitchen & Bar and the full gym renewal. We just want to continue to do what we do best, as perfectly as we can. Ultimately it’s all about service.