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Q&A with Stuart Bowery

How has the Covid-19 pandemic and new restrictions affected The W Hotel?

It was pretty devastating for the industry as a whole, that being said, everybody in the industry is in it together. We took a considered approach immediately, our utmost importance was for the welfare of our guests and our associates.

Obviously, two weeks ago London moved into Tier 2 and had greater restrictions imposed and it’s been very difficult. Luckily the Marriott is an international brand which has made things easier than what I imagine other people went through.

What measures were taken to adapt to the new way of living?

We continue to operate, adhering to the distancing rules and the one household per table rule, maximum six people, we are managing it. Is it ideal? No, but we are respecting the position we are in. Fortunately, I’m pleased to say we haven’t had guests needing to quarantine.

Obviously we have all the track and trace measures, we’ve got all the training in place and strong communication with staff. We’re getting a significant number of positive responses on our guest surveys saying they’re pleased.

We have hand sanitiser stations placed throughout and we make sure guests are well informed with the rules and Covid symptoms, and that they make sure they speak to staff if they feel unwell.

How were staff taken care of during the lockdown periods?

During the closure there was a huge emphasis on engagement with our team members and making sure that we communicated weekly. We supported them in their communities activities, supporting their learning development and tried to give them a positive outlook.

We have just around 100 staff with most of them on furlough except for the core team. We have tried to bring back as many staff as we can on a rotational day basis. We are trying to understand the news from the chancellor in terms of wages and our position in that regard and how we can benefit our team members from it.

What was the start-up process like for the hotel after lockdown, given that tourism in general had become more limited?

Luckily, there was a huge appetite for people wanting to socialise after being in lockdown all the time.

The streets were very much alive before we opened. This gave the hotel a huge advantage in drawing in guests who weren’t able to go to the coast or to countries and instead saw the appeal of coming into London.

What happens to the hotel if London goes into Tier 3?

If we go into Tier 3 then clearly first and foremost, we will be needing government support, I do think Tier 3 is probably more of a short circuit break than long term. I’m trying to be hopeful and upbeat about this as people adjust to what is probably the new normal.

Fundamentally, if the hotel has to close and is forced to close that we need to respect that and we will do what we did when we closed last time, we will keep our team members positively engaged,communicate with our guests, and hopefully the infection rate will lower.

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