Taking over a hotel can be a disaster if done inaccurately

A familiar name at GHM, Morton Johnston was previously the general manager at The Chedi Muscat,Oman. Upon his return in January 2022, Johnston will play a critical role in leading the landmark opening of The Chedi Katara Hotel & Resort in Doha, Qatar in the second half of 2022. Johnston’s extensive luxury experience includes key leadership positions at Regent Hotels & Resorts in Taipei and The Leela Palaces & Resorts in India.

What do you think would be the key challenges for you in opening this hotel? And how do you anticipate overcoming them?

Opening a hotel is fraught with various challenges and I believe that our biggest hurdle now is to work towards anticipating an accurate yet seamless transition between the construction and operations teams.  Taking over a hotel can be a disaster if done inaccurately but it can turn into an art if orchestrated well, so we have taken pre-emptive measures with extensive preparation and comprehensive takeover checklists to ensure a smooth and uncomplicated transition. Other considerations for this effective handover include consistent reviews of each functional area of the property to identify issues and solutions the moment they appear, and training modules as part of the overall management evaluation process.

What’s the USP of The Chedi Katara that attracts travelers?

Set to launch in time for the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022, The Chedi Katara Hotel & Resort, Doha, Qatar is GHM’s most anticipated new hotel opening as it will usher in a new era of ultra-luxury and bespoke hospitality in one of the most alluring destinations in the world. The property is strategically located in the heart of Qatar on a beachfront setting within the landmark Katara Cultural Village district, making it a waterside sanctuary for all sorts of family-friendly and adrenaline-boosting experiences such as boat paddling, parasailing, water skiing and kayaking. Besides aquatic activities, the hotel is also easily accessible to theaters, concert halls, exhibition galleries, mosques, restaurants, shops, an open amphitheater and park for fun and recreation.  

What do you love the most about being in the luxury hotel segment?

The beauty of being a member of this culturally diverse and people-centric industry is that I get to meet hundreds of people from various backgrounds and nationalities in one hotel. People are at the heart of what we do and in such a destination like Qatar, it would not be an exaggeration to say that you are part of a workforce of over 50 nationalities under the same roof. With luxury hospitality, I love the added emphasis on authenticity and being able to establish genuine one-on-one relationships with guests through curated experiences and personalized service at the highest level.

I find this very rewarding and it does not necessarily have to be something done on a grand scale – it could even be something as simple as the respectful intimacy of addressing our guests by their names.

In your opinion, what’s the essence of luxury brands like yours? And what kind of experiences are your customers looking for?

I believe that at its core, it is all about recognizing guests’ need for privacy and being able to provide unobtrusive and attentive service that is truly unmatched. The very word ‘Chedi’ typically refers to a place of meditation where one finds peace and across each Chedi property.  We emulate this by welcoming each guest to a tranquil environment with bespoke and discreet services for unrivaled lifestyle experiences as part of our hallmark as ‘A Style to Remember.’  The essence of our luxury guest experience is to be recognized by the team not as a customer, but as a family member or close friend, one whose needs are anticipated intuitively and met with great sensibility in an unobtrusive fashion.