Mark Lettenbichler, the CEO of the rejuvenated group, talks to Sydney PauldenRegent has been such a consistently iconic name in the world of luxury hotels that people may not have noticed the many changes it has been going through. It became part of Four Seasons in 1992, before it was taken into the Carlson empire. Now the brand is in the hands of a new owner, Steven Pan, who bought the name in 2010. Well, not exactly an entirely new owner.
Steven Pan, from Taiwan, was the owner of the Taipei Regent Hotel some years ago and has maintained his admiration for the brand. It was no surprise when he invited Robert H Burns to be Honorary Chairman. Robert was one of the original founders of Regent in 1970. The Regent, therefore, can be said to be in loving hands.
And this nurturing is making the Regent grow back to a leading force in this sector. The new CEO of Regent is a Canadian, Mark Lettenbichler, who has moved over after 24 years with Ritz-Carlton. Even he is surprised that he has moved after so long, but he felt the opportunities and the challenges offered to him by Steven Pan at the new Regent were too attractive to resist.
He has launched himself into the new job with gusto. ‘It has rejuvenated me’, he says. ‘I feel I’m a young man again’.
Regent has currently seven 5-star properties in operation. They are in Bali, Berlin, Beijing, Phuket, Singapore, Taipei and Turks and Caicos. ‘A new-build is scheduled to open later this year in Montenegro’, he says. ‘We are already taking shape as a global group. But Regent is a bespoke product, not a production line of cookies. Wherever we are we follow a joint policy of ensuring that the hotel is a reflection of its local culture, whilst endowing it with real Asian hospitality. Regent has never forgotten where it was born and it will always have the highest standards of Asian service integral to it’.
Mark goes on to emphasise that they will never lose sight of the three Bs. ‘They are Bed, Bath and Breakfast’, he explains. ‘They have to be of the highest quality but also simple to use. We are not aiming for high technology for its own sake. It must only be adopted if it makes things easier and more convenient and comfortable for the guests. We are very much against the need that a guest has to be a rocket scientist to use our amenities.
‘For example’, he goes on, ‘Wi-Fi will be available free of charge and there will be no need for access codes’.
ITCM was able to talk with Mark whilst he was in London. The purpose of his visit was a series of negotiations with international investors who were keen to become partners in creating more Regent properties.
‘We have already signed agreements for Regent properties for Jakarta, Kunming and Xi’An, the location of the terracotta warriors. Discussions are advanced for Tokyo, Kyoto and Manila and we have had preliminary meetings for strategic locations in the Middle East.
‘Europe is obviously a target market’, Mark confirms. ‘We will certainly be in main gateways such as London, Paris, Munich and so on.’
The additions to the Regent Portfolio will be a mix of new-builds and existing properties being brought into the brand. It takes several years on average for a hotel to be up and running to the standard demanded by the group.
‘However’, Mark states, ‘I am confident that five years from now there will be at least 12 to 15 Regents in full operation.’
And the MICE market?
‘We can’t live without MICE business’, Mark emphasises. ‘We have noted that the incentive market is coming back and destinations such as Phuket, Bali and Montenegro will be in great demand for that, of course. All our properties will have large catering facilities, to meet, for example, the requirements of top quality weddings as well as conferences. Regent already has a name in that sector and we will be constantly adding to its reputation worldwide’.