Hotel leadership really does matter; it is the General Manager who sets the tone and creates the environment for a positive guest experience. In fact, hotel websites should share the background of the GM as well as room rates, amenities and location. However, at this moment, hotel ambiance is left to WOM from personal experience; therefore, speaking personally, the Kempinski Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in Munich receives an A+ for management and ambiance thanks to Axel Ludwig.
The Kempinski in Munich has a fabulous location in the middle of the very expensive shopping area on Maximilianstrasse. Take a walk in the morning and window-shop for high-end clothes, watches, jewelry, handbags, shoes; smart and alluring displays are so seductive that waiting for the stores to open and shopping to begin can be very stressful. While waiting for the opening bell, a stroll down the side streets toward the center of town presents eaters (and voyeurs) with incredibly beautiful pastries and wursts that promise (and deliver) palate pleasures that are indescribable.
Then… satiated with shopping and eating, and maybe (perhaps) a visit to a museum or an evening at the opera (within a few short steps from the Kempinski) – a return stroll to the hotel is a pleasure unto itself. It is the grand circular entrance to the hotel that creates a Hollywood setting. As the doors are opened by the hotel staff, guests are engulfed in the sound of dozens and dozens of people, sipping their way through a bottle of champagne, nibbling on little creme cakes along with petite and succulent sandwiches, sharing stories about new and successful deals, or catching up on family news.
Aalk past the front desk and it is impossible not to admire the attractively attired personnel, many in stunning red outfits, who look like they were selected from central casting. Staffers have the perfect look of professionals, busy and efficient, delighted that you stopped by to check in (or out), ask a question, seek a direction, or to say hello.
The Munich Kempinski hotel is not a new kid on the block. This grande dame of Munich society was opened in 1858 for King Maxilmilian II. In addition to 6 marble bathrooms with rocking tubs and a manual elevator, it had stables for 60 guest horses. Considered to be the best place to hold events, in 1859 guests celebrated the 100th birthday of the poet Fiedrich Schiller. By 1889 the property had electricity in the form of 1000 light bulbs and in 1890 telephones were available to guests.
In 1910 the King of Siam (Thailand) was a guest at the hotel, arriving with 1320 suitcases. His visit was so memorable that generations later the Royal Family of Thailand purchased the property (and the other properties that were part of the chain). Four years later (1914) the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie von Hohenberg were guests at the hotel, only to be assassinated in June 28 in Sarajevo.
Over the years, the Kempinski has had found a way to survive and succeed in spite of economic and political changes. Recently 35 million Euros were invested in this 300 room (including 67 suites) property; an additional 30 million Euros is budgeted for investment through 2016. And yes, you can see where some of the money has been spent: Look for the Sicilian marble at the main entrance and the leather on the walls, plus hand-blown hanging glass lighting fixtures in the main lobby. For guests who cannot wait for the shops to open or find they close too early, there is on-premise shopping at Bulgari.
Although a large percentage of current guests are from the US, Europe and Asia, there is a growing number of business and leisure visitors from the Middle East, representing many of the Gulf region locales. Guests appreciate Arabic speaking employees, appropriate cuisine, and prayer carpets as well as the 50 Arabic-language TV channels, a giblah (indicates the direction of Makkah for the five daily Muslin prayers), and a prayer room for personal staff and security teams. The Islamic halal food is prepared by a Lebanese chef for the Muslim guests who prefer in-room dining.
Ambiance is Not An Accident
The hotel as theatre does not happen accidently. It takes the experienced hand of a c-suite executive who is finely attuned to the clientele and the strengths of the staff. A guest comment on TripAdviser reflects this reality ‚ A hotel with such a positive energy must have a great leader.
With over a decade of experience with Kempinski, Alex Ludwig took over the helm of this five-star Munich hotel in July 2010 and supervised the renovation. Although he thought he would be a pilot, Ludwig began his career with Kempinski and has been associated with the Hotel Atlantic in Hamburg (2003), moving to Moscow to manage the Baltschug Hotel. In 2007 he was the GM of the Hotel Barbaros Bay Bodrum in Turkey (2007) and the next step (before Munich) was at the Nile Hotel in Cairo. He also spent a bit of time with a Ritz Carlton property where he was influenced by the industry Total Quality Management guru, Horst Schulze.
Ludwig is ready to meet and exceed guest expectations. New hotel developments will include additional suites – some with a Middle East design focus, a new restaurant and new delicious items at the pastry menu.
His success does not go unnoticed by the industry and in 2014 he was honored as the Hotelier of the year by Busche publishing and the Corporate Research Foundation Institute selected his property as a Top Employer 2013 (the award is based on employee benefits, training and career opportunities).
Ludwig attended Reims Management College, receiving an MBA in Business Administration and he holds a Bachelor’s degree in economics from the Blindow Catering and Management College in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
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