By Amy Looker in Tokyo
Park Hyatt Tokyo spent this year celebrating its 20th anniversary, showcasing the style which has made it synonymous with luxury around the world. HM catch up with general manager Philippe Roux-Dessarps to chat about this milestone and what we can expect to see in the next 20 years.
Tell us the path of how you became General Manager of Park Hyatt Tokyo.
My romance with Hyatt began while at the Lausanne Hotel School, when I undertook a six month internship at Grand Hyatt Bali during my third year. Upon graduation I was fortunate enough to be selected as a Corporate Trainee with Hyatt International, undertaking intensive training in all departments at Hyatt Regency Tahiti, where I was then appointed Front Office Assistant Manager upon completion of the program. My career later brought me to Tokyo and the Park Hyatt in 1996 where I worked as Front Office Manager for three years. One might call it fate, or a homecoming of sorts, but I had the pleasure of joining the Park Hyatt Tokyo team again in 2008, assuming my current position as General Manger of the hotel.
How is business and what are you expecting for the coming year?
Tokyo is bustling with tourists once again, and the steady organic growth has seen an added boon from the city’s 2020 Olympic selection and a recent weakening of the yen. This applies to both the leisure and corporate segments. Aside from these macro-factors we are experiencing quite an exciting year at Park Hyatt, with our Tokyo property celebrating its 20th anniversary and recent additions of high profile properties in both Vienna and New York. The synergies and collaboration between these flagship properties is something that we hope will add to our offerings for guests.
Tell us about what makes the property so unique in your opinion.
There are many factors that go into creating a great hotel, but I believe ours stems from our people and the passion they hold. Starting at the hotels very inception, we were blessed with a super-team in our owner, Tokyo Gas, our interior designer John Morford and Hyatt, with the three entities being committed to creating a truly magnificent destination and unparalleled guest experience. The result was something that the market had never seen, delivering a finely-appointed hotel that was ‘timeless’ rather than merely ‘new’. We have continued to evolve and innovate over time, and in testament to our founders’ greatness we’ve celebrated our 20th anniversary this year.
What have been some of your biggest challenges over the last 12 months?
The biggest challenge has been coming to grips with the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day, and only seven days in a week. Coordination of the 20th anniversary celebrations and planning of the overarching direction our next 20 years has been an intense yet rewarding feat.
Park Hyatt Tokyo does food and beverage extremely well. How have you managed to achieve this?
Culinary culture is an integral part of our DNA at Park Hyatt, and I feel the core concepts of our restaurants and bars here in Tokyo are very clear and well formulated. We have many talented chefs that have graced our kitchens, bringing their own character but always holding true to the core concepts and brand identity. What is that, you ask? On a macro level we aim to deliver unique and truly genuine culinary experiences. We showcase the passion of our chefs, not only through the seasonal menus served within the hotel, but also by engaging guests through intimate events like our global Masters of Food & Wine program, and more recently with a special Chef’s Table initiative led by Executive Chef, Thomas Angerer. Next year we look forward to presenting the second instalment in our ‘Tohoku Heroes’ series, with Chef Ooe highlighting produce from Japan’s northern region which was so heavily impacted by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
What’s your tip for the aspiring General Managers of the future?
My first tip is one that I was given 24 years ago, when I started out on my career path, by a professor in hotel management school… “Get a tuxedo that fits, and learn how to dance.” While the technological advancements of the hotel business may render certain analogue items redundant, one should not forget that we work in a people business. With that in mind, initiatives and innovation should be based on the needs of guests. There are growing demands for GMs to wear the hat of a business manager, too. Aside from this, I encourage aspiring leaders to take on opportunities and challenges. I was lucky enough to gain a lot of experience early on in my career, and was later given the opportunity to effectively work as acting GM during my time at Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome under the mentorship of Michel Jauslin. Conversely, affording those same opportunities for growth to your junior team members is also a leadership skill one needs to practice.