London's Lowndes hotel reopens next week as a five-star boutique property under the Jumeirah banner. General manager Jane Renton has overseen the £8.5m, 10-month redevelopment. She talks to Emily Manson
What was the aim? To reposition the hotel from the four-star level it was, to part of the Jumeirah five-star portfolio while remaining a boutique property.
What's changed? We've built a new top floor of dedicated suites, a new bar for hotel guests and locals and overhauled the restaurant. We've also extended the alfresco dining area at the front of the hotel and equipped it with heaters in preparation for the smoking ban next year. The bedrooms have been revamped and have all the latest technology like iPod docks and plasma screens.
What was the hardest part? It's always the time pressure - especially when things don't go quite to plan. We're so used to having control, but I've effectively handed over to the project managers and the reliance on them is quite a change from the norm. It also feels completely alien not to have the day-to-day guest contact.
If you had to do this again, what would you do differently? We would allow more time preopening to get everything right and all the equipment tried out before we open to the public, but it's always difficult as every day you're closed affects the business's results.
What are the plans?
We're hoping to get planning permission for phase two of the renovations, which will see the rear of the hotel turned into an alfresco dining area. We're talking with the local community and hope to have a shrubbery maze on the terrace with tables in between so it also looks attractive for residents who look down on to it.
Would you rather be GM of your bigger sister hotel around the corner, the Jumeirah Carlton Tower? JR Definitely not at present! I'm particularly attracted to and enjoy being general manager of a boutique property where the focus is on creating an intimate environment for guests and the integration and leadership with a smaller team. It's very much a hands-on approach.
What's the biggest achievement? That we've completed everything in such a short time and have been able to reposition the hotel so effectively. We've already passed our targets of signing new corporate accounts, while managing to keep the interest of our existing guests, so that's a huge plus.
What difference does it make being part of Jumeirah? The biggest difference has been that we were able to invest the money which was needed to bring the hotel up to scratch. Jumeirah is an established luxury brand and it makes a big difference in terms of placing us on the map.