Even seasoned business travellers and other visitors to Kuala Lumpur who have not visited in the past few years are in for a surprise, not least when it comes to the abundance of new top-notch accommodation choices.
With only 55 rooms and a minimum size of 51 Sq m Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur stands out in the Malaysian capital’s now very hot and comprehensive international five-star hotel scene. And with the arrival of Banyan Tree to the country (and with the launch of a second property named ‘Pavilion Hotel Kuala Lumpur Managed by Banyan Tree’ right across the street in December 2018 and a third property named ‘Angsana Teluk Bahang’ coming at Penang in late 2019) Kuala Lumpur has also added a Scandinavian General Manager back to its scene.
Swedish hotel veteran in Asia
His name is Anders Dimblad, a hotel veteran who also is as Asian as a Swede can possibly be; born in the Philippines, raised in Hong Kong, where his Swedish father worked, Anders is also married to an Asian and with two children.
Anders’ hospitality career, which started in Hong Kong with the Shangri-La Group, has also taken him to various places across the Asia Pacific as well as the Middle East, where he prior to joining Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts was Vice President of Hospitality in DAMAC Hotels & Resorts, Dubai. Anders worked with Shangri-La in Singapore before he was recruited to Banyan Tree back in 2003.
“Banyan Tree Seychelles was my first experience with the brand. I used to joke because we always used to feel very busy in the Shangri-La hotel when we had 200 – 300 arrivals and departures in one day. Then in Seychelles we had 60 villas and everybody would get nervous if we had more than ten arrivals and departures. So, it was a completely different philosophy and way of running hotels, but equally challenging – and what a beautiful challenge!” states Anders over drinks in the Altitude wine lounge on level 53 overlooking Kuala Lumpur’s stunning city skyline.
Later Anders was also Resident Manager for Banyan Tree in Bangkok, well-known for its rooftop restaurant Vertigo. And now Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur has its very own Vertigo, but a rooftop bar version of it!
“Vertigo, our jewel in the crown upstairs, will definitely be an icon in the city, , similar to the one in Bangkok – probably one of the most photographed bars in the world, if not the postcard view from it. We are very excited about it. But we also don’t want that to take away from the rest of the property which has its own uniqueness as well.”
Sense of place, romance
And this “uniqueness” – which is also how the brand creates its differentiation – lies in the brand ethos, described by Anders as he introduces the hotel and brand.
“We are a boutique property and as a brand are more known for our resorts. For us here, we call it an urban resort, because we have the 55 keys and want to keep with the ethos of our Banyan Tree philosophy; a Sanctuary for the Senses. From sense of place, sense of romance to sense of rejuvenations, we want to have all those touch points and we can achieve that with our urban resort feel and the warmth of our associates. Without them we are nothing; the reality in today’s world is that you can go anywhere and somebody else will come up with a larger room or a newer concept but it’s the soft touches that count. People will always remember people.”
“We are truly blessed here with our team; very proud of them and the achievement that they’ve done so far, although we are at the very start of our journey for our guest experiences,” adds the GM.
In this also lies his management style, which appears to be very much in tune with the Banyan Tree philosophy: “For me the service that you offer is perhaps out of sight but never out of reach. I’m not a philosopher where you want to have someone hovering around your table for example when you’re having breakfast or a meal and every two minutes coming up and asking if everything is fine. For me it’s more the anticipation of the guest’s needs, that all our associates are there for our guests when they need them. And before guests need to ask they should be approaching and anticipating the guest’s needs and to be able to deliver on that, which of course is very easily said, but I think it’s more that we practice consistency and get to know our guests. That is to me the big difference, we really need to know who are our guests are.”
With 55 rooms they must be able to speak to all guest on a daily basis, and do it spontaneously, not as something scheduled. And that goes for all associates. “Everyone should feel: ‘There’s no excuse for why I cannot do it.’ And breaking the mould and never be afraid to try. We learn from our mistakes most of the time and that’s also about speaking to our guests, because they are the ones using our products and their personal feedback is invaluable.”
“And for me it is also about consistency; a lot of times, you can have great service one day and the next day it is a little bit under par, but if we can consistently maintain our high levels then I think guests appreciate that and that’s what they come back for.”
Pavilion Hotel Kuala Lumpur Managed by Banyan Tree
Concerning the 55 rooms Anders says: “Whether it’s 55 or 155 from a Banyan Tree perspective I think that is the range we need; most of our properties aren’t larger than 200 – 300 keys even in cities because we need to maintain that sense of place and wellbeing in every destination.
And in fact, Anders will need to oversee many more rooms (325) soon when the neighbour hotel – the Pavilion Hotel Kuala Lumpur Managed by Banyan Tree opens on top of the Pavilion shopping mall. This will also enable guests a bigger range of choices.
Asked to present what they can offer business as well as leisure travellers he replies: “We offer the best of both worlds, we have all the latest business facilities and meeting rooms for our guests, we can accommodate any private functions and launches. Here at Altitude, I believe we have unbeatable views, whether for a product launch or cocktail reception, not to mention Vertigo on the rooftop or Horizon Grill on level 58, from a destination perspective and in terms of dining or events space I really believe we offer the business traveller everything.”
“For the leisure guest, going back to our ethos of being a Sanctuary for the Senses, our award-winning Banyan Tree Spa, our location attached to the Pavilion Mall and situated in the heart of Bukit Bintang, we offer everything as well. If a couple is coming and one of them is on business and one on leisure it’s the best of both worlds.”
As for increased competition from the world’s top hotel brands now in Kuala Lumpur Anders thinks this is healthy.
“Everyone has their little bit of uniqueness and all have something they can offer. For me, I go back to that Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur really are an urban resort and not a big 300 keys cookie cutter sort of property, with a very warm feel, our ID, our spa and again the engagement with our guests, which is for me the most important thing: to make sure that when our guests are here we are with them and they know that they can enjoy their time with us.”
Anders also describes Kuala Lumpur as a beautiful city with its melting pot of cultures. “There are a lot of mixes you can see all around, and to me that’s a great to experience. I love learning new cultures; when you are able to celebrate culture in a city and the diversity of it, it’s just a win. There are also still a lot of classical old buildings they’ve kept maintained. So sitting here and looking out the window you can really see a diverse range of skyscrapers and buildings, but the beauty of it is also that you have a lot of greenery and with even more nature within close proximity of the city.”