Thomas Harlander is the Managing Director of the newly opened ultra luxury Rosewood Bangkok. Having managed numerous luxury properties around the world in cities including Washington DC, Cologne, London, Los Angeles,Buenos Aires, Tokyo and Seoul, Harlander brings his many years of luxury experience to his latest post at the newly opened Rosewood Bangkok. Prior to joining Rosewood, his career had largely been spent with Hyatt hotels, primarily with the Park Hyatt brand where he held senior food and beverage, and general management roles.
Thomas Harlander is a passionate, hands-on hotelier who spends most of his day making sure everything in his property is up to Rosewood standards.
What’s the most challenging aspect of running your hotel?
The most challenging aspect of running an ultra-luxury hotel in Bangkok is to always be available to be there meeting our guests. This is something that may sound so easy to do, but it is actually a lot of work, as we need to ensure that we are delivering a personalized experience for our guests each trip.
That means that most of my days are not spent behind a computer crunching numbers, rather I'm out there on the front line each day.
What makes your hotel unique?
I truly believe that at Rosewood hotels, there is no individual formula or playbook that we are made to follow that makes Rosewood hotels unique. Rather, with our Sense of Place philosophy, we ensure that we truly embrace the Thai culture, as we are in Thailand. Rosewood Bangkok goes even deeper that many other hotels to support the local community, artists, artisans and producers. One other thing that I picked up during my time in Japan, is the Japanese philosophy of omotenashi, which literally translates as wholeheartedly looking after guests. I want to deliver service so intuitive to my guests, that they receive things that perhaps they didn't even realise that they didn't want or need, yet when they do receive it, they truly appreciate it.
What does 'luxury' mean to you? What kinds of things can the 'Rosewood' brand offer that other luxury brands don't?
Luxury for me is not about having the most expensive chandelier or the most lavish decorations.Rather, it is about the experience and the journey. It’s about bespoke experiences for guests that money cannot buy - that is Rosewood Bangkok’s main mission. Luxury to me is spending time with, and taking care of your guests. We need to treat them as though we were hosting them at our own home instead of a cold hotel. Getting the right hardware is easy, but without the right software, the hardware will not mean anything. At Rosewood Bangkok, we are truly lucky to have the opportunity to handpick our talented associates, and then allow them to embrace their individuality and provide a space where they can truly be themselves.
From my experience, 'people' are the highlight of your property, and the way your team makes me and other guests feel is what keeps us going back. How do you train your associates?
A lot of people learn and grow as a reflection of how you treat them. For me it all starts with the culture and how we truly care about our associates well-being. It’s about care, empathy and intuition. We are truly lucky that we have such an amazing team in place. It means that we have a much easier job in projecting Rosewood Bangkok’s world renowned service with a particularly warm and gracious Thai flavour. Also, running an ultra-luxury hotel, I would never put my associates in a box and treat them as a machine where they are told what they must do or say. I am also extremely lucky that part of the DNA for Thai culture, is that the Thai people truly enjoy taking care of people. At Rosewood Bangkok, we go beyond the normal wai (bowing with the hands together in front of the heart) - My team delivers service that is comes from their soul.
Many people want to be in the 'Luxury' segment - What are the myths about luxury hotels that people might not be aware of? What should people know about 'luxury'?
Once again it's all about emphasizing 'the journey' and 'the experience'. Nowadays it has never been more important. In a fast-paced digital era like today where most people are looking for shortcuts and an easy ways out, in the luxury industry, if you wake up and start the day thinking you are the best, that will be the day that you fail. Every day is a blank canvas, and you are only as good as what you do 'today'.
What's your advice for hoteliers or those who want to work in luxury hotels?
Don’t take yourself too seriously and never stop learning.