John vanderslice, Global Head of Luxury & Lifestyle Brands, Hilton Worldwide
Can Faik meets Hilton’s Global Head of Luxury and Lifestyle Brands, John Vanderslice, to discover what the future holds for one of the biggest companies in the luxury global hospitality market…
Hilton’s luxury brand, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, boasts an impressive portfolio of 26 iconic properties in the world’s most sought-after destinations. Unified by their inspirational environments and True Waldorf Service, Waldorf Astoria hotels deliver unparalleled, bespoke service from the moment a guest books through to check out. From gourmet dining, helicopter rides, spa retreats and more, guests can enjoy unforgettable experiences in iconic Waldorf Astoria destinations. Guests also have the exclusive opportunity to drive Lamborghini’s latest models as part of the brand’s Waldorf Astoria Driving Experiences, now in its fourth year.
What was your background in hospitality prior to working for Hilton?
Prior to my role with Hilton, I served as President and CEO of Club Med Americas, operator of more than 65 leisure resorts around the world in North and South America. During my time at Club Med, we successfully repositioned the all-inclusive resorts as true upscale destinations, while integrating marketing and commercial activities, finance and operations. Before joining Club Med, I served as CEO for Miraval Spa in Tucson, Arizona, and assisted in the transformation of the 13-year-old spa into a top-ranked lifestyle resort. I have also had the pleasure of working with well-known brands from Triarc Restaurant Group, Fort Lauderdale, and its subsidiaries, including Arby’s and T.J. Cinnamons, Inc.,
What is your position within Hilton?
Today, I’m pleased to represent Hilton’s luxury and lifestyle brands as the Global Head, overseeing Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, and Canopy by Hilton hotel brands. In this role, I lead each brand’s operations, product innovation, training and culture, development strategies, and global marketing initiatives.
What are the complexities of meeting the demands of shareholders, fulfilling the growth of your management team and delivering the brand’s values to the guests?
The demands for luxury brands significantly differ from other industries and hotel segments. Our investors and owners understand that the luxury consumer appreciates unique offerings and will invest in these types of unforgettable experiences. In the luxury sector, you need to constantly evolve your brand standards to match ever-changing guest expectations.
What are the unique selling points of Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts?
As Hilton’s iconic luxury brand, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts properties are located in the most sought-after destinations in the world. As part of our commitment to delivering unparalleled and unforgettable experiences for our guests, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts has launched a variety of enriching experience programmes. These include the Taste of Waldorf Astoria programme, now in its third year, which celebrates the brand’s continued commitment to delivering best-in-class culinary experiences while paying homage to historic dishes that were invented within the iconic hotel’s walls. Additionally, Waldorf Astoria Driving Experiences, an exclusive partnership with Automobili Lamborghini, offers guests the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to test drive the luxury car maker’s newest models during select dates at participating properties. Each of these programmes ensures that our guests truly leave with an unforgettable experience.
What are the personality traits that define a successful and happy hotel proprietor, in your opinion?
I have always insisted on being a part of the hiring process of each of our general managers. These leaders are the true captains of their ships, driving the success of each property. Hotel proprietors also define their success by surrounding themselves with team members who thrive on positive guest interactions in all aspects of a guest’s stay.
Tell me about the newly opened Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, and what we can expect from your new property?
Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills opened in June 2017 as the brand’s first new-build hotel on the West Coast. Featuring 119 deluxe rooms and 51 suites with unrivalled views of downtown Los Angeles, guests can expect to receive the brand’s signature True Waldorf Service throughout the Art-Deco designed hotel. The hotel also features a fine-dining restaurant and a unique rooftop concept, both by Michelin-star rated chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a 5,000-square La Prairie Spa, and rooftop pool deck for guests.
With the famous Waldorf Astoria New York now closed for a three-year refurbishment, can you tell us something about the new design or what we can look forward to when it reopens in 2020?
We are at an exciting and transformative point in Waldorf Astoria’s renowned history, during which time Waldorf Astoria New York will be restored to its original grandeur while maintaining a modern and inspirational look and feel. We are working with a world-class design team, including leading architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and renowned interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon (PYR), to breathe new life into this iconic hotel and provide unparalleled True Waldorf Service to our future guests.
What other exciting projects do you have in the pipeline?
In eight short years since its inception, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts has experienced unprecedented growth to 26 distinctive hotels and resorts in the world’s most sought-after destinations.
In addition to our new Beverly Hills property, we recently debuted Waldorf Astoria Chengdu in China. The 300-room hotel features six restaurant and lounges, including a rooftop bar with breath taking panoramic views of the city, stylish and sophisticated meeting rooms complimented by an outdoor garden terrace, an indoor pool perched on the 48th floor overlooking Chengdu, and a 24-hour fitness centre. Additionally, the Waldorf Astoria Spa features six private suites with exclusive June Jacobs and Valmont treatments. The hotel is the cornerstone of the in99 Plaza, located in the centre of the Chengdu Hi-Tech Zone and convenient to the New Century Global Centre, the Metro Station, and Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel interior design?
Open design has returned. Luxury hotels that were filled with small, intimate spaces are now focused on creating settings that encourage social interaction. Although not new, luxury brands continue to put a large emphasis on incorporating high-end finishes into design, anything from custom chandeliers to richly-upholstered furniture, while also keeping comfort top of mind. Ergonomic design is also a trend we are proud to introduce to our hotels, which challenges each hotel to truly think through how guests use the hotel’s public and private spaces, incorporating functional furniture, convenient electrical outlets and strong Wi-Fi.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Working alongside a smart, dynamic, and creative team makes coming to work so enjoyable and fulfilling. It is extremely rewarding to work with teams that are committed to creating peak experiences at our properties worldwide.
What would be your dream hotel project?
To develop a Waldorf Astoria and Conrad property side-by-side. I think it would be intriguing to showcase the differences in these luxury brands all in one location.
Where currently ranks highest on your travel wish-list?
Australia is at the top of my bucket list.
Let’s finish with the issue of personal and work life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
I am a believer in planning your work and working your plan. When I travel for business I focus on wellness and incorporate spinning into my exercise routine – an update to my once strictly running routine. To relax outside of work trips and office time, my family travels to our Cape Cod vacation home where hard work is rewarded with family time.
Look out for SPACE’S review of the new Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills in Issue 5 2017.