Graham Kiy, Area Vice President EMEA at Hard Rock International
With more than four decades of international hotel management experience, Graham Kiy, Area Vice President EMEA at the Hard Rock International, opens up to Can Faik about the brand’s future…
Internationally recognised as a world-class entertainment and lifestyle brand, Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos offer stylish and contemporary design, unparalleled service, and the thread that unites them all – music. Hard Rock’s current Hotel and Casino portfolio is located in the world’s most enviable resort destinations, as well as urban gateway cities.
What was your background in hospitality prior to working for Hard Rock Hotels?
Before joining Hard Rock International as Area Vice President of EMEA, I spent over thirty years in Asia in Hotel Operations. My last role before Hard Rock, was General Manager and Regional Vice President of Operations for Jumeirah Nanjing where I oversaw the operations and pre- opening phase of a number of Jumeirah Hotels in China.
Where are you based?
I am based in the UK but travel is an integral part of my job and I often visit numerous Hard Rock Hotels in my region.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
My role is extremely varied. I enjoy working with all the wonderful existing and new Hard Rock Hotels dotted across the region. We have such an interesting mix of city centre, resort and convention properties under development in Europe, to complement the existing Hard Rock Hotels in Davos, Ibiza and Tenerife.
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?
There are always challenges in balancing all interests for any brand but ultimately these three parties are all working towards the same goal: to enhance guest’s experience.
What are Hard Rock Hotel’s unique selling points?
For more than 47 years, Hard Rock International has embodied the spirit of music. It has become an internationally recognised brand that offers guests stylish and contemporary design along with unparalleled service. Each one of our hotels is unique but music is the common thread that unites. We work hard to ensure that Hard Rock Hotels are constantly evolving to cater to the needs to today’s travellers who want to move away from traditional, predictable properties. Every hotel adds character to the iconic brand. Passion, authenticity and unpredictability are key players in delivering an imaginative environment for each. Hard Rock International uses amenities such as the one-of-a-kind The Sound of Your Stay® music amenity program, which allows guests to set the mood with complimentary vinyl players and records or rock out on a Fender guitar in-room, complete with an amp and headphones.
What are the personality traits that define a successful and happy hotel proprietor, in your opinion?
To be humble enough to assume the role of ‘InnKeeper’, even if you are not personally delivering services. Inspiration is also vital. You need to be bold enough to create an exciting experience that guests will want to return to, and have determination to see the vision become a reality.
With 27 hotels already opened, will Europe become a bigger focus for the Hard Rock Hotels and Resorts brand?
Europe is certainly a huge focus for the brand, with hotels opening in Madrid, London, Budapest and Dublin in the near future. These projects are very exciting and are the precursors for further European expansion.
What other exciting projects do you have in the pipeline especially after the recent opening of Hard Rock Davos?
We have a number of new exciting openings, and I can’t single out one of these properties.
I am thrilled about the opening of Hard Rock Hotel Madrid, set to open later this year. Hard Rock will bring its signature vibe to this historic metropolitan city with the development of the new 159-room music-centric hotel, situated within a prime location with access to the tourist hotspots, in the heart of the vibrant city.
What can we expect when Hard Rock Hotel London opens?
London is the iconic home of the very first Hard Rock Cafe in 1971, so the opening of the hotel is something that everyone in the company is looking forward to. The hotel is situated in an iconic location, Marble Arch, and will have our signature Rock Royalty level; offering exclusive rooms, suites, and lounge alongside luxurious perks that allow guests to live like a true VIP. Each lavish room features a hand-crafted Hypnos® bed, a whole host of personalised amenities such as the Ultimate Room Rider and a personal concierge. We are certain the new hotel will bring a fresh wave of excitement around Hard Rock Hotels.
Are Hard Rock Hotels and Resorts looking at any countries in particular for new openings?
I have seen the brand expand rapidly in recent times, with some really exciting projects in the pipeline but we pride ourselves on being an international company. We are looking to expand on a global scale.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotels in Europe compared to US and Asia?
Experiential travel has become a large part of luxury travel in the last year. Our team is continuously exploring ways to incorporate music, our differentiator, into the guest experience at our properties. Hard Rock Hotels has accommodated for this trend with the introduction of amenities such as Rock Om. This is a way to combine the zen of yoga with the power of music. This fusion of concepts is still new to the ancient practice yet aligns perfectly with the vibrancy of the Hard Rock brand.
What is your plan for Hard Rock Hotels and Resorts in the UAE?
Our very healthy pipeline of projects under development are literally scattered across the world, with no particular focus on any single region.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel interior design?
I have noticed that hotels are offering more personalised experiences, making stays memorable and unique. Modern guests, especially millennials, expect increasingly tailored experiences, such as personalised welcome amenities or unique products curated by the hotel. Hard Rock Hotels look to make every guest feel at home and personally welcomed to each hotel.
How important do you feel hotel design has become when launching a new hotel?
Interior design is paramount to the launch of a new hotel, I am sure every guest will enjoy the contemporary interiors of our new Hard Rock Hotels. Each of our hotels has a unique style and we are proud of our roots in music; we own the world’s largest collection of music memorabilia, which all began with an Eric Clapton guitar at the Hard Rock Cafe in London. Drawing on connections to the locations of our hotels, this tradition will continue at the new Hard Rock Hotel London which will showcase extraordinary photographs by famed photographer, Terry O’Neill featuring some of the most iconic English musicians of all time such as Amy Winehouse and David Bowie.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
The buzz of being involved with an internationally renowned brand that is expanding at a fast pace is the thing that I enjoy the most about my role. It offers so many opportunities to create new experiences for our guests. Building a new team and seeing them thrive is also very satisfying.
What would be your dream hotel project?
It would be in a prime location, designed by an internationally recognised firm, offering superior amenities, great restaurants and a musical twist. Actually, that sounds like a typical Hard Rock Hotel!
What would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed?
Madrid is inspirational, the history, culture, cuisine and nearby attractions are superb. I have stayed at several boutique hotels in the city which are charming and memorable. Bangkok has been a favourite for a long time for similar reasons, and the Maldives is a location I will never forget. I enjoyed being closer to nature, learning to dive and being forced to slow down, all invaluable components of a luxury paradise.
Where currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
New York, New York! I love large cosmopolitan cities and have seen a glimpse of the interiors of the new Hard Rock Hotel – I can confirm it will be a great addition to the portfolio
Let’s finish with the issue of work-life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
My family have always supported my career and understand the travel I need to do. I simply ensure that we all have a good holiday or weekend together on a regular basis. We all enjoy eating and cultural activities, so no conflicts there.