Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur, a landmark of the city, recently unveiled Pavilion Hotel Kuala Lumpur Managed by Banyan Tree. The Peak speaks to Anders Dimblad, General Manager of both hotels, to find what makes the two properties unique.
Walk us through your experience in luxury hospitality management, especially on how you started and your years with the Banyan Tree group.
I started my career with the Island Shangri-La in Hong Kong and, after that, I was in Singapore with the same group, before being recruited by Banyan Tree for its Seychelles property. I went from a 500+ room hotel to a 66-villa resort. It became much more personalised, and there were different philosophies in terms of service and attention to detail. Banyan Tree Seychelles was my first property back in 2003 and I stayed with the Banyan Tree Group until around 2014, just shy of 11 years. I had the opportunity of being in the Seychelles, the Maldives, Bangkok, Ras Al Khaimah, Dubai, and even in Kuwait, before rejoining two years ago to manage Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur.
This is your first time in Kuala Lumpur, and you came to manage Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur and Pavilion Hotel Kuala Lumpur. Tell us about making the move down here, and how has the past two years been.
It’s always nice to come back to Asia! I grew up here – I was born in the Philippines, and raised in the Philippines and Hong Kong, so Asia has always been home. Although this is my first time working in Kuala Lumpur, I’ve been to Malaysia on a couple of vacations and, obviously, the excitement about this country is that it has such a diverse culture, background and history. To be able to come in and experience that is definitely one of the excitements we’ve had as a family and as an individual. The opportunity to bring the brand into Malaysia, not just from the Banyan Tree perspective, but also for Pavilion Hotel Kuala Lumpur Managed by Banyan Tree, it’s greatly exciting and one of those things you can’t turn down.
What do you expect when you travel, both in terms of hospitality experience, and in getting a taste for the local culture?
For me, when I’m travelling alone or for work, I don’t stay in mainstream hotels. I always look for a local brand or unique property. There are always those little niches, quirks – some people call them service differences – what others are doing that you can pick up on and hopefully take back, improve and offer to your guests. When you go for local hotels or chains, you’re definitely much more immersed in the local culture and experience, and so you get to see a lot more first hand.
For Banyan Tree, we try as much as possible to do the same thing. We are not your cookie cutter big hotel chain; we do look for those unique experiences, small touches that guests can take back with them. You can stay with us and find the things that make you feel that sense of belonging but we also work very hard to bring in local ingredients and culture. We have guests who stay at other Banyan Trees who recognise us, but also appreciate the little differences that we tweak to suit local needs. It’s always the small things that make a guest experience that much more pleasurable.
What are some of the values you hold for yourself in a leadership role and for your team that are vital in creating that unforgettable hospitality experience?
I tell this to all our new hires: my management style is based on four pillars: honestly, humility, integrity and passion. I believe you have to have all four of these in what we do.
Honesty, we’re not perfect, and we can never truly be, but we try our best. If something goes wrong, we hold up our hands and make sure that we rectify it and leave the guest feeling happier. In integrity, we always have to do the right thing and you want to make sure you are there for a reason. In the service industry, it’s from the heart and, if you don’t have the heart for it, then it’s not for you. People feel it when you do something out of the love, joy and passion that you have. The passion keeps you wanting to do better and improve instead of resting on your laurels. It’s not just from top-down; it’s got to come from bottom-up too – the people on the floor that the guests see on a daily basis. And you have to be humble: in the service industry we can’t pretend to know everything. There are a lot of individuals and everybody has a personal taste. That’s why we make sure that we treat our guests as individuals; we respect their desires and create memorable experiences for them.
Of course, you have to lead by example, be on the floor and show the team that you’re walking the talk, and we’re very fortunate to have a lot of good leaders in the team who do.
You’ve added another hotel under your belt here in Kuala Lumpur, just a few blocks down from Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur. What can we expect from Pavilion Hotel Kuala Lumpur?
We have 325 beautifully appointed rooms. They range in size from 30 sq m all the way up. We have some beautiful F&B outlets as well; on Level 8, we have our Japanese restaurant Ebisu in one wing and, in the other, we have The Courtyard for all-day dining. In between there’s a water feature, with a roof 60m above, so it’s an enclosed open air area where we can offer our guests al fresco dining. We also have our Whiskey Cove located on a floor all by itself, a hidden gem for people who want to disappear and not be seen. In terms of meeting rooms and facilities, we have a ballroom that can accommodate up to 500 guests and several meeting rooms that all have natural light from floor to ceiling windows. So, we offer almost everything, including direct access to Pavilion Kuala Lumpur mall on three different floors.
Finally, where is your favourite place to travel to and why?
My favourite place to travel to is home, because that’s where the heart is. Home for me is Sweden; we live in the countryside, by a lake, which is the complete opposite of the city experience and it’s very peaceful. In terms of travelling, as a family, we love the ocean and the beach, so anywhere with the sea and the sun, and activities to do. In Malaysia there’s a lot to experience; we’re still fortunate enough that we haven’t seen all of it, and we’ll try to get to as much as we can, but a nice beach and beautiful waters will always be our choice.