Langham Hospitality Group CEO Bob Warman wants to make his wellness brand Cordis a worldwide player but does not expect his luxury brand The Langham to completely fill its rooms with existing guests.
LONDON—Cordis, the wellness and health brand unveiled by Langham Hospitality Group in early 2015, has plans to grow around the globe but will not depend on The Langham brand’s guests to fill rooms outside of their preferred luxury segment.
Bob Warman, CEO of Langham, does not see hotel guests displaying such cross-segmentation behavior.
“Is there loyalty across a hotel firm’s segmentation? Do customers move one brand to another within a firm’s brands?” Warman asked.
Warman said Langham is happy having the few brands it does and companies like these succeed every year with more people entering the luxury market. He added that most of these new customers have grown up with some degree of luxury.
“When customers move up segments, they look around to see what is relevant to them,” Warman said. “When we opened the Langham Chicago, how many guests came to us from the Peninsula Chicago? None. Our marketing goes into attracting the new consumer.”
However, these new guests aren’t being attacked with heavy marketing to draw them in.
“That’s a little softer (and) friendlier now… It’s about creating unique brands,” he said.
Warman said he wondered if any hotel firm actually had personnel who knew how to build a brand.
“Generally, they’re experts at acquiring things,” Warman said, who added that the same firms might think rather too highly of how stockholders viewed such growth via acquired brands.
“Expanding via back-of-house synergies is different from a Wall Street perspective. I do not think they’re interested in having everything under one umbrella,” Warman said.
Owned by parent company Great Eagle Holdings, LHG’s Langham Hotels & Resorts stable contains its flagship brand The Langham—exemplified by The Langham, London, which opened in 1865 and has kept its best-in-class status ever since—and Langham Place, a product that is slightly less classical and slightly more contemporary.
But perhaps the firm’s brand of note currently is Cordis, a wellness concept that despite also being luxurious is not on the same level as The Langham.
A new consumer will go there, Warman said, someone looking for something more fulfilling than the average amenities.
Cordis currently has only one asset open, a converted property in Hong Kong with 664 keys, but a Shanghai property will open this summer next to what Warman described as the “largest convention center in the world” in a city where he says the demand for both luxury and wellness has increased significantly in the last few years.
Cordis’ pipeline is robust, with Warman saying the firm needs to have hotels where its new guests want to go, not where Langham Hotels & Resorts’ guests desire to.
The initial focus is on regional expansion in Asia, with Warman saying “we’ve not really marketed it around the world, rather gone to our customers directly, to those around us.”
Warman has a unique plan to get his executives all on the same page in regards to Cordis.
“For Cordis, I tell (my executives) to go visit a Buddhist monastery. There, everyone eats together. They communicate and smile,” Warman said.
Ideas for a new type of wellness provision will include caring staff “that make you feel good” and might include wine tastings for single travelers, Warman said.
“We want programming that makes wellness more encompassing,” Warman said.
He said it was a holistic approach to a brand that went beyond so many of its competitors who offer only a place to sleep and stop after designing an organic menu.
“The next step is to establish a market position and be the best in what is a tightly controlled niche segment, but we envisage Cordis to be a worldwide brand,” Warman added.
While Cordis is young and fresh, Warman is not taking his sights off The Langham brand, the overall company’s legacy and lifeblood, he said.
The next Langham asset, to be adjacent to the convention center and new, fast-speed rail line from Mecca and Medina, will open in summer 2018 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with 238 rooms and a partnership with Advanced Hotels Company.
According to Warman, 14 Langham additions are in some form of design or construction, with China being the main expansion front.
“I want to grow around the world,” Warman said.
He explained there were three Langham hotels in design in North America, two in Dubai, one in Doha and additional properties were planned for Bangkok and Jakarta.
“We’ll have another Chinese property open by end of 2017 and seven more by the end of 2018,” Warman said.
Warman said Chinese goals mean not just openings in its five or so largest cities but being everywhere and being the best everywhere.
“We’re becoming the leading luxury hotel brand in China. China is learning luxury fast,” Warman said.
Despite a lot of the brand’s DNA stemming from London, the rest of Europe is proving a challenge, Warman said, due faltering economics and increasingly regulatory.