Frank Bowling on Legendary Luxury Hospitality

Frank Bowling on Legendary Luxury Hospitality

On a recent visit to Spherical’s client, The Maybourne Beverly Hills, Lori Kresse, VP of Client Service and Integrated Marketing, sat down with Frank Bowling for an afternoon chat. With one of the most impressive resumes in hospitality history, Frank started his career in London at Connaught eventually moved to the States where he was the Vice President and Manager at The Carlyle (twice!) and General Manager at The Ritz-Carlton Central Park in New York City. Years later he relocated to the west coast to the Bel Air and Peninsula in Los Angeles, and most recently is a Hotel Ambassador at The Maybourne Beverly Hills. Loyal guests and close friends like Nancy Regan followed him along the way.  

London, New York and Los Angeles are also primary markets for our hospitality marketing agency clients and their guests, so Lori couldn’t wait to uncover his insights. While how and why we travel evolves over time, there’s something special about preserving the essence of luxury, and there’s no better person to gain that knowledge from than Frank Bowling. 

Here we go:    

What is the main similarity and difference in New York City and Los Angeles hotel markets?

The main similarity is the clientele. Both cities have very similar guests with a heavy entertainment focus like stars, producers, and agents. The main differentiator is the type of service. Service in New York City tends to be more professional and cooler, and service in Los Angeles has more enthusiasm. People are really enthusiastic about what they’re doing. 

How do luxury hotels stay true to personal touch and service while balancing the need to embrace emerging technology like touchless experiences?

One area of improvement that could be aided by technology is the first impression when checking into a hotel. Being asked for ID and credit card at check-in is jarring. Staff should already know who you are, have your favorite room ready and welcome you right in by name. Overall hotels need to embrace technology as guests are adopting it in their lives already. 

On the other hand you can’t lose sight of close relationships and the power of a handwritten note. Get to know people, recognize special moments and stay in touch – it all takes work, but it’s worth it.  

What is one of the big advantages of staying at a luxury hotel?

The concierge. It’s the most important person on the staff, and you should introduce yourself to them upon check-in. A tip helps too! No one else can score you those hard to get tickets or unbeatable table reservation at the hottest restaurant. You’re not going to have access to this type of knowledge at AirBnB. 

Is there a key thing luxury hotels should do to improve?

Do not charge guests fees for items that should be free. Free wi-fi. Free snacks and minibar (excluding alcohol). Free coffee in the lobby in the morning. No matter what a guest is paying for a room night, they don’t want to be nickel-and-dimed over these amenities. 

What is something that helped shape your career?

Stick with 5-star hotels. The caliber of guest and staff will elevate your experience and learning potential. There is a noticeable difference between 5 and 4 stars – forget the 4 stars. Working at a 5-star hotel also comes with a service level expectation – “no” doesn’t exist. It’s not in your vocabulary. 

What is the day like as a Hotel Ambassador?

Currently, it looks like 3 days per week with a generous 10am start time. Connecting closely with the staff and ensuring guests have the best experience all surrounded by the beauty of The Maybourne Beverly Hills is what drives me each day.   

Tell us one misconception about luxury experiences?

Men don’t go to spas like women do, and they are missing out. The prices can be shocking but get a 2 hour facial and then you feel like a million bucks and look 10 years younger. The price is worth it. 

PXL 20210930 205517813.PORTRAIT

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