Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park.
Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park GM is on top of hard-core renovation for the 5-star hotel targeting people who work hard and play hard.
By Percy Roxas.
“What you’re seeing at the moment is normally what I am,” says Mark Winterton, general manager of the hotel that underwent a rebranding in 2010 to become what is known today as Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park.
Described as a highly driven motivated leader with over 15 years of international experience in successful strategic and operational management, Winterton is a warm, very friendly chap with an easy, engaging laugh and very articulate in expressing his passion, vision and commitment to achieving both his personal and organizational goals and targets for the property he’s been managing for more than two years now.
Winterton came to Thailand from Crowne Plaza Changi Airport, Singapore’s flagship Crowne Plaza, also as GM from April 2007-Nov. 2010. There, he achieved for the hotel a SGD$35-million turnover and SGD$14-million GOP, and he was honored as “IHG Crowne Plaza Leader of the Year for Asia Australiasia.” The hotel won “Best Crowne Plaza for Asia Australiasia,” and the “Reggie Chua Best Designed Hotel Asia Pacific” during his term.
Mark first came to Thailand in May 2008, spending the first 15 months building the property, but in fact rebranded the first Crowne Plaza in Thailand within a five-week period, increasing its RevPar year-on-year by 19% and its GOP by 40%, increased guest and employee engagement, and completed hard renovation of its conference and meeting spaces in preparation for the launch of the hotel’s “New Face” in 2013.
“Five weeks is quite short, you don’t usually don’t turn around a property that quickly,” Mark says. “But again, it comes down to change and trying to adapt. Guests want things tomorrow and we should be able to deliver.”
“We’ve done a lot since our rebranding almost two years ago,” reiterates the International Hotel Management (Hotel Mgt, French, German) graduate –with honors — from The Manchester Metropolitan University. “We have completely gutted and turned the meeting spaces around on the designated function space on the 21st floor, increased the meeting rooms by three, and appointed a Crowne Meeting Team to help companies organize creative meetings with out of the box ideas – among other things, all based on flexibility and creativity.”
Their unique meeting room facilities include state-of-the art panel lighting, which changes the color of the room and defines the mood every time. The upbeat, colorful, and modern meeting rooms are fully flexible and can be adjusted for different occasions and purposes. “They offer lots of daylight, creative spaces, modern décor, incidental lounge zones, a pre-function bar and reception zone, and the latest audio-visual docking points and equipment help people meet and connect in an imaginative and inspired way,” he says.
“At the moment,” Mark continues, “we are working on the ground floor (Lobby G Level) as guests will see when they come in. They will definitely be surprised with a new sense of arrival greeting them. The new concierge area is already 80 percent (as of the time of interview); a new florist will be completed by the end of the year, and the new driveway with water features, green walls and outside café. By end of 2012, we have done a lot of hard core renovation.”
For 2013, Mark says they plan to renovate the club lounge, which is about 16 or 17-years-old already. The new modern club lounge will become more beautifully appointed, brighter, and more spacious and relaxing, a perfect hideaway after a long hectic day. As well, the presidential suites will be renovated and converted into three connecting rooms. The television in the guestrooms — the hotel currently has 241 guestrooms, including 17 suites, 181 single-bed rooms and 60 double-bed rooms – has already been replaced with a new 40 –inch LED TV. The handicapped room (Room 2507) has already been finished.
Even The Panorama, an outstanding dining venue, and the Deck Bar will offer new surprises, starting with the infusion of a Latin theme, including in music and entertainment. Food – sharing style — will vary from South American countries and integrate Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French. And A new deli, Short Cuts, will be opened soon with a new spacious seating area both inside and outside, with a greener, better environment.
All these, Mark says, is part of their efforts to serve Crowne Plaza guests better. “Crowne Plaza is very modern brand targeting what we call “Strivers,” – people climbing that ladder for success, are on their way up, people with Iphone, Ipads; with a need to be constantly connected, and need for things new. Also, Bangkok is a very competitive market. We are surrounded by a couple of hotels that are brand new, we have to compete to stay ahead.”
Their target market is expected to change naturally with the Crowne Plaza rebranding. Even the age profile of their guests has gone a little bit younger —
25-55 as general, Mark says.
Before the rebranding, the property is a hotel catering strongly for the Japanese market. This market has been reduced now to 65 percent, mostly corporate, says Mark. “We are still very much a Japanese property because of our location and the building we live in, we take that – but we’re also seeing an increase of typical Crowne Plaza guests staying with us.”
“Again, we classify our guests as “strivers” – businessmen or leisure visitors who want to work hard and play hard,” he explains. “When they come to the Crowne Plaza, they want to have ability to get their business needs, can do business anywhere. That’s why we have Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and it’s free.”
“Our guests also want to be able to relax and we have a great gym on the 24th floor, just completed – with the equipment arriving in December,” Mark says. Their Spa and Health Club actually comprises a spa a sauna, and a gym. He also mentioned their swimming pool – the Oasis Rooftop Pool—also on the 24th floor – giving guests the “ability to relax and work at the same time.”
More than the hardware though, Mark believes Crowne Plaza Bangkok Lumpini Park differs from hotels in the city because of their focus on service. In fact, he says, “the only way you can stay afloat with your distinctive brand of service, we
try to be much more personal, we try to keep our guests’ confidence in us, we affirm our brand’s reputation and give a service and experience that more than exceeds their expectations. More importantly, guests come back because of the team and the service they provide – that’s what really wins business and loyalty these days.
Mark started working in a hotel when he was 18, when he was doing a summer job behind a bar in a hotel. But as he says, “Ever since I was that tall, I have always wanted to work in hotels, and I’m lucky because I have known about hotels all my life. His father was a managing director for a steel company and the family traveled a lot and he remembers sitting a lot in very nice hotels with his Mom and sister waiting for my Dad and wondering what its like to work in them.
After getting a university degree, he joined the InterContinetnal Hotels Group (IHG) as a management trainee. “I literally started a one- year training program, then went to housekeeping, and 17 years later here I am,” he says.
As a GM, Mark says he likes working as part of a team. “I have always liked other people’s involvement,” he says. “As a GM, I have a clear vision of what we want to do but I am happy to discuss them with my associates. I love my job and I get frustrated if people don’t love their job and I like to get things done now.”
He said IHG has a “very clear program on how we manage and develop our team and but again passion should come from you.”