At the centre of it all
A new general manager, a new chapter for Andaz Tokyo
Text by Andrew Howitt / Photo by Kageaki Smith
Text by Andrew Howitt / Photo by Kageaki Smith
Part of the Hyatt Group, Andaz Tokyo has just celebrated its two-year anniversary. In this short amount of time, it has established itself as a popular and internationally esteemed hotel, with a majority of its guests arriving from overseas. Its prime location will also be ideal for those coming for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 since it is positioned on Loop Road No. 2, which will connect the Olympic Village and the Olympic Stadium.
Change is also taking place at Andaz Tokyo. This month, Arnaud de Saint-Exupéry, who oversaw the planning and opening of the hotel, is stepping down as general manager and handing over the responsibility to Ross Cooper, who has been general manager at the Park Hyatt in Busan for the last two years.
Cooper, originally from Wellington, New Zealand, has worked with the Hyatt Group for 19 years. His career has taken him to several world-class cities: he started a Grand Hyatt in Melbourne, worked in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, and was in Tokyo once before at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo in Roppongi before his most recent assignment in Busan, South Korea.
His time at different Hyatt brands has allowed him to see that, although the Hyatt DNA runs through all of the Group’s hotels, the Andaz brand provides guests with an experience unlike anything else in the portfolio.
“It’s a very different atmosphere,” Cooper notes. “Park Hyatt Busan is a little more on the formal, or traditional, side of a luxury hotel. Whereas here, Andaz Tokyo retains that five-star experience, but in a more casual and personalised manner.”
De Saint-Exupéry — whose nearly 10 years working for the Andaz brand at different locations means he knows it intimately and has helped to shape it — relates how this personal style has been realised at Andaz: “We don’t have typical uniforms. And we don’t have a front desk,” he explains. “We have removed every barrier, because, at the end of the day, if I welcome you into my home there’s no front desk. I open the door, I welcome you, I offer you a drink; and we start a conversation.”
In other words, Andaz Tokyo has been designed to be a home away from home.
The need to put people first and give guests the best experience possible is, of course, paramount, but Cooper’s extensive experience has led him to understand that this can only be achieved by putting a priority on training and mentoring his staff.
“The industry itself relies heavily on having staff who understand how to care for guests,” he says. “You really need to put a lot of time into coaching and showing, rather than just telling.”
He takes pride in the fact that he has helped others realise their full potential and get ahead in their careers. He recently reconnected with some of his former colleagues from the Grand Hyatt Tokyo: “It’s great to hear about some of their achievements,” says Cooper, “and to feel that perhaps I played a part in helping coach them along in their own careers.”
Outgoing general manager, de Saint-Exupéry, states that at the planning stage, concepts such as “indigenous”, “vibrant”, “unscripted” and “creative” were fundamental in helping to make decisions about the hotel’s design and décor, but also in creating the story of Andaz Tokyo. As Cooper takes the reins, he sees the further propagation of the concepts underlying the brand as an essential part of his new role.
“There’s a story that has been established and that has started to be told by the staff here about what Andaz Tokyo is,” Cooper explains. “I think my role as general manager is just about continuing to grow that story. It’s about keeping the momentum of what has been so successfully set up in Tokyo.”
De Saint-Exupéry is relocating to London to oversee the UK and Ireland region, including an Andaz that he once managed. After having put so much of himself into Andaz Tokyo, he says that he will miss being here, but he believes that he is leaving an important legacy behind him.
“I know that this exciting story will continue,” he says proudly. “Of course, Ross will now be the storyteller, the keeper of the story. But the team members are storytellers, as well. I have seen them take so many initiatives that have really made Andaz even more of a living brand.”
There is a real sense of excitement with all of the changes that are taking place. And with Ross Cooper now in charge of the hotel, there is a great deal of expectancy about the future of Andaz Tokyo.
“Toranomon is going to be such a vibrant and changing place, and Andaz will play a part in that change,” Cooper says. “The team here will also change and evolve, and we’ll make sure that we are continuing to deliver the Andaz story to the people who choose to come and stay with us or use our facilities. It won’t ever stop.
“And with the Olympics coming,” he adds, “we’ll be more in the centre of the action than ever before.” •
“Arnaud de Saint-Exupéry … is stepping down as general manager and handing over the responsibility to Ross Cooper”