Jan-Paul Kroese arrived at the five-red-AA-star, 32-bedroom Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in December 2015 to take up the reins left by managing director Philip Newman-Hall, who left the property three months earlier. The Dutchman tells Janet Harmer that he has been most impressed by the sophistication and intelligence of British guests
What was your perception of Le Manoir before considering the position of general manager?
As a hotelier, I've always been interested in the leading hotels of other countries. So I was very much aware that Le Manoir was a hotel that had been developed by Raymond Blanc, with a fantastic team who interpreted his vision to the highest level.
What were your initial impressions on visiting the hotel?
Where did you previously work?
I was general manager for nearly five years at ChÁ¢teau St Gerlach, which, like Le Manoir, is a member of Relais & ChÁ¢teaux. It is a larger property, with 97 bedrooms, two restaurants, a spa and pool, in the Maastricht region of the Netherlands.
Have you worked in the UK before?
In 1992. I applied with my then girlfriend, who is now my wife, for a traineeship at Gleneagles. She got it, but I didn't, so I applied for a similar role at somewhere I thought was close by. That's how I ended up at the Crowne Plaza in Birmingham for six months, little realising that it took a whole day of bus rides to reach Gleneagles.
You have worked in several countries, including China, Kenya and the US. Which position best prepared you for the UK?
It was probably the time I spent in New York as a senior sales manager at the Mandarin Oriental. It provided me with an understanding of Anglo Saxon customers and their culture. It also taught me something about delivering a luxury proposition to high networth individuals.
What has surprised you most about the UK hotel sector?
UK guests are very sophisticated and have very high expectations. But if things go wrong and you recover the situation well, the guests are very understanding. I think they genuinely appreciate that we consistently aim to deliver the very highest service standards.
How does your relationship with Raymond work?
Raymond is a great visionary who is still full of ideas after 32 years at Le Manoir. But he needs someone to run his business and that is where I come in. I'm very open to the many great ideas he constantly challenges us with.
What do you regard as your strongest qualities?
I have an open personality and I'm not difficult to read. I'm also very versatile, which is helpful when Raymond wants to drive forward one of his ideas.
What's the plan for Le Manoir?
We want to continue to offer an educational role in developing careers and expanding our social media strategy, and one thing I would like to introduce would be beehives into the garden.
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