Guest Blogger – Tom Ernsting, Director, Group Market Sales at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

new-york-suite-mandarin-executive-suite-living-roomMandarin Oriental Hotels operate award-winning luxury hotels and resorts throughout the world. Offering guest’s world-class accommodation, spas, dining options and outstanding service. The first one opened in Central District Hong Kong Island in 1963. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group now operates, or has under development, 41 hotels representing over 10,000 rooms in 27 countries, with 18 hotels in Asia, 12 in The Americas and 12 in Europe and North Africa.

Tom Ernsting has been with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group for approximately five years. We chatted with him recently about conference and incentive groups and his experience in the industry.

Q:  Being in the business for many years, you must have seen the different industries go through their ups and downs.  What industry do you think has been the most consistent in booking annual conferences, over the last 10 years?

A:  Over the past year, the association market has been the most steady.  I would also say that educational travel has been strong.  Corporate business decreased a few years back but has come back strong in the past year. Incentives, sales meetings, law retreats………

Q:  Out of the roughly 30 properties Mandarin Oriental manages, how many have you been to?

A:  I am proud to say I have been to 24 of our fantastic hotels.

Q:  Which property is your favorite and why?

A:  My most favorite hotel is the New York Mandarin Oriental. Not only is it truly a unique hotel floating above the city and central park, but it was the first New York hotel I stepped in when I moved to New York 12 years ago and I said “WOW….. I would give anything to represent this type of hotel.”  I also had my first interview at a table there overlooking Central Park, and I spent a “milestone” birthday at this wonderful hotel and it was special and personalized in the most important ways.

Q:  What is the number one error you see Corporate Event Planners make when researching hotels?

A:  The number one mistake I see is that they might only be focusing on the room rate.  There are so many other areas to provide value.  And the esthetic and the service are so important which you cannot exactly measure like you can a room rate.

Q:  What do you feel sets Mandarin Oriental apart from the other luxury brands?

A:  We have our four brand pillars which make us stand apart;

  • We have the “sense of place” where we hire local architects and designers to provide the most appropriate product for that location.
  • We have our SPA concept, which is unique to and operated by Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.
  • We have a strong focus on food and beverage, with destination dining concepts located within our hotels, and currently 13 Michelin Stars within our restaurants around the world.
  • Finally, the understated and sophisticated Asian-hospitality service delivery is core to our entire brand.

Q:  Is there something unique about the Canadian market vs. the US market with regard to what we request in hotel contracts and things that we look out for?

A:  I do not believe there is anything unique between how and what the Canadian market requests vs. the US market  (though warm weather is more often a driver than in the US!).  I do believe that both markets have become very savvy in their planning and negotiating and program operations.

Q:  What is the craziest thing you have ever been asked for as part of a group sales contract?

A:  One of the clients working on a car launch event wanted the contract to guarantee that we will arrange a red carpet entrance only for the participants of the group and have “enough staff” to welcome them with an applause when they entered….. this was a 35-person group with scattered arrivals…..

Q:  What is the funniest thing that has happened to you at one of your hotels or on a site visit?

A:  We recently had a site visit where the client was so impressed by the master suite bathtub that she jumped in to have a picture taken by her colleagues. Unbeknownst to everyone, the bathtub has motion sensors and she got completely soaked…. and it was all caught on film!

We would like to thank Tom for taking the time to answer some of our questions!


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