INTERVIEW: AARON KAUPP, REGIONAL VP & GM, THE CARLTON TOWER JUMEIRAH
During what has been the most extensive refurbishment in its history, we caught up with Aaron Kaupp to find out more about the transformation of The Carlton Tower Jumeirah and how lockdown was the perfect timing for the project.
Despite various concerns for the hospitality industry over the last 18 or so months, it seems a global pandemic and national lockdown was exactly the right timing for many hotels to take advantage of refurbishment plans that would have otherwise caused major upheaval and inconvenient closure time. As such, refurbishment was already on the cards for The Carlton Tower Jumeirah in the UK’s capital at the end of 2019, it just so happened the timing for which was perfectly timed to coincide with the national lockdown.
“Every aspect of the refurbishment was delicately choreographed to compliment the ever-changing restrictions of the pandemic, with our teams navigating unchartered territory at every turn.” Says Aaron Kaupp, Regional Vice President and General Manager, The Carlton Tower Jumeirah. “Each time the countdown was extended, we were given the opportunity to push our expectations, to elevate our standards even further, allowing us to deliver the most exceptional version of the opening possible. A small silver lining to the situation!”
With more than £100m invested in the project, it was paramount the team appointed to take on the design understood the brand’s high standards and what The Carlton Tower’s guests expect from the hotel. Design studio 1508 London was appointed to transform every aspect of the hotel with the brief to maintain The Carlton Tower’s DNA while reinventing it at the same time. “The right designer is crucial and with today’s traveller becoming more and more sophisticated and further accustomed to being surrounded by impressive design throughout their working and private lives this was something we knew we had to excel in,” Aaron explains. “1508 is acknowledged as a leader in that very crowded field but most importantly the studio was founded on private residential projects and brings this perspective to bear on everything they do, and very much so in our hotel. The lessons absorbed from their work in designing private homes and the understanding about how the world’s elite live their lives filters up the creative ladder in their practice. After all, many hotels will purport to be a ‘home away from home’ and this much over-used phrase is truly rather hard to justify. Who would be better than 1508, the company the world’s most successful individuals entrust to design their homes to create their residence in London, The Carlton Tower?”
Completely redesigned to emphasise the importance of the guest arrival, the lobby is now a striking double-height space echoing a classical British grand hall, while the discreetly positioned reception ensures privacy for guests at check-in. In addition to the exceptionally crafted details, major structural changes have taken place in almost all areas of the hotel; with an increased number of suites, remodelled flagship restaurant and transformed spa and event space. “We have completely reinvented the hotel for a new generation of discerning guests, retaining what made the Carlton Tower so special but radically changing much of the building to ensure we offer everything today’s demanding global traveller would expect, and more. One of the key actions was to reduce the number of keys in the building to allow for more suites and we have also created brand new dining offerings that will resonate with our guests, both local and international.”
Stepping into the lobby, those visiting will notice the stunning chandelier, so delicate it looks as though you could blow it away. Created by renowned Czech glassmakers Lasvit, this chandelier takes the place of a supporting column that originally dominated the lobby, removed at a cost of more than £1 million. The awe-inspiring design and thoughtful touch points continue throughout the hotel. Accessed from the lobby is The Chinoiserie, the hotel’s much-loved all-day dining area, now transformed with an elegant and light design. Additionally, a newly created lobby bar offers a refined cocktail and spirits experience in glamorous surrounds. The hotel’s flagship restaurant Al Mare offers a sophisticated yet informal dining experience taking guests on a journey through Italy and features a theatre kitchen, private dining room and al fresco dining. Continuing upwards, The Peak Fitness Club & Spa comprises a pool and spa located on the 2nd floor and a gym on the 9th floor. Occupying a stunning double-height glazed space, the 20-metre pool is bathed in natural light and the spa offers five elegant treatment rooms and a relaxation area as well as a dedicated consultation room. The Peak Fitness Club is an equally light-filled space benefitting from panoramic London views and cutting-edge Technogym equipment. In addition, hotel guests and members have access to the private Cadogan Gardens and its two all-weather macadam tennis courts.
Aaron talks about the obvious components that make a hotel great: from the design to the materials, and of course the staff and service. “For me,” he adds, “to differentiate those with an iconic property there must be something almost intangible, beyond the heritage and history that must be present to achieve this status of an icon.” Aaron describes the return to the basics of hospitality in its truest sense, establishing personal relationships with guests and visitors, and creating a genuinely authentic experience. “It is widely acknowledged that while the memories of décor and amenities may fade over time, it is how we are made to feel that remains with us forever. Knowing this, our devoted colleagues provide a thoughtful and personalised service which reminds the guest to ‘expect the unexpected’, creating unforgettable experiences for guests seeking only the best.”
Because The Carlton Tower’s transformation took place during the pandemic, design and experiences were hot topics of many planning conversations. “First and foremost, the hotel will offer the impeccable service and experience for which Jumeirah is known and admired,” Aaron says. “Furthermore, safety and security around COVID-19 can only be looked upon as day to day and essential. We have been in this pandemic for many months now so the correct standards and practices must be second nature. At the same time, the guest experience we offer cannot be sacrificed, we must offer the same sense of luxury, indulgence and magic that makes people return to grand hotels again and again, we are not running a hospital after all. For example, while we had an opportunity to alter the design of our restaurant to make more efficient use of space in reference to social distancing, we chose not to – we will ensure the guidelines are followed in the space designed. We are creating a hotel for the ages, one that will outlive the virus and as such have built it for this purpose. In practical terms we will of course have thermal imaging cameras, the highest levels of cleaning and safety protocols and our staff will adhere to governmental and medical regulations on PPE.”
The Carlton Tower, now opened fully to the public, is in good hands with the team that look after operations too. “Our corps de colleagues is comprised of world-class hoteliers from across the globe, with a rich background of experience gained from some of the most iconic hotels worldwide,” Aaron boasts. “It is their excellence and dedication that will create the personalised, touching service and ensure that guests create wonderful lifelong memories. It’s safe to say, the only thing that remains unchanged is the silhouette of the hotel itself. With all the advantages that come with being part of an organisation as successful and innovative as Jumeirah I have been able to put together an opening team of experts in their fields as well as tapping the skill of our incredible build and design partners, Beck and 1508, both acknowledged as leaders in their fields.”
The hotel has been transformed in every way imaginable, but Aaron is keen to point out the The Carlton Tower’s identity and charm are very much still intact, with plenty for returning guests to get excited about. “From the moment they arrive, those returning will have the chance to fall in love with the hotel all over again. Every inch of the expansive hotel is waiting to be discovered, whether by enjoying a restorative morning swim under the skies in the 20-metre pool, enjoying the classic Italian cuisine at Knightsbridge’s new hotspot, Al Mare, or taking a moment to unwind with the Australian ‘clean beauty’ products by Grown Alchemist. There is as much for returning guests to explore as first-time guests, and thanks to the warm welcome and personalised service from our team of colleagues, it won’t take long for guests to call us home again.”