Seoul, Korea-based Lotte Hotels is set to open its second US property next month in Seattle. Not in the blueprints was the fact that it would be opening this luxury hotel right in the middle of a pandemic.
But the winds for business travel are pointing to Seattle, a place that finds resilience with a proliferation of new and legacy technology companies that are, so far, faring well in the changing circumstances.
Victor F. Caguindagan, General Manager of Lotte Hotel Seattle is a seasoned leader with over 20 years of experience in the hotel industry who has been on the Lotte team for the past eight of those years. Business Traveler sat down with Caguindagan to find out more about the new 44-story, 189-room property and why it should appeal to business travelers.
BT: Describe the process so far of trying to inaugurate the hotel company’s second U.S. signature during a pandemic.
Caguindagan: Our team has such a passion for the hospitality industry, and at a time where our friends and colleagues are facing hardships, I think it really drove us to put our all into the opening of Lotte Hotel Seattle. We are fortunate enough to be backed by our ownership team, who has seen much success in opening hotels around the globe as the largest hotel group in Korea.
We additionally had a unique opportunity to consider what the hotel industry might look like moving forward, and were able to implement more space and exclusivity into our operations – such as gym equipment that guests can opt to bring to their rooms and extra space between all services in our spa – to give guests what they will be looking for in the new normal.
We were also able to shift gears in our hiring process by moving this to a fully virtual format. There are of course a few challenges here as technology and WiFi can sometimes be an issue, but we were pleasantly surprised by the vast array of applicants that allowed us to tap into a larger pool of potential employees.
BT: Why did Lotte decide to spread out and enter the US market starting in 2015?
Caguindagan: As the largest hotel group in Korea, Lotte Hotels & Resorts has been expanding as a global brand, most recently with new locations in the United States, Vietnam, Japan and Russia, and historically since 2010 with its first overseas expansion to Moscow.
The acquisition of Lotte New York Palace in 2015 served as an entryway into the North American luxury hotel market, taking an iconic property and inserting Lotte’s brand culture to establish the brand in the United States. Lotte Hotels & Resorts’ entrance into the US market in 2015 was the natural next step to becoming a global leader in hospitality, and now our Seattle property solidifies its position as a new worldwide hotel chain encompassing both the East and West coasts.
BT: What are some of the new, exciting and salient elements guests can expect to see when the Seattle property opens?
Caguindagan: Lotte Hotel Seattle features a total of 189 artistic and modern guestrooms, including 33 suites, that offer unparalleled views of Seattle’s skyline with a full wall of floor-to-ceiling windows in each room. The guestrooms boast a mid-century modern design, inspired by Seattle’s natural landscape and the creative and contemporary nature of the city.
The hotel features extensive facilities, such as a cocktail lounge and signature restaurant, Charlotte Restaurant & Lounge, that offer spectacular views of the Pacific Northwest from the highest floor of the hotel, as well as a world-class spa, Le Spa de l’hôtel Lotte. A prime destination for elegant events and weddings, the hotel also houses the nation’s oldest Beaux-style architectural building founded in 1908, The Sanctuary, in addition to a selection of meeting spaces for events of all sizes.
BT: What has the reception been like so far? Are you targeting meeting planners? Leisure agents? Corporate travel? Mega travel sites? Who do you see as your ideal customer?
Caguindagan: We recently launched reservations and are excited by the response to-date. Our ideal customer is the luxury consumer who wants to enjoy all that Seattle has to offer, staying in the heart of the action, while also being able to escape to a beautifully designed hotel with standout spa and culinary offerings.
BT: What are the chief concerns and interests you are hearing from potential guests and how are you addressing those questions?
Caguindagan: The safety of our team and future guests at Lotte Hotel Seattle is of utmost importance, and Lotte Hotel Seattle is implementing a number of overarching health precautions with this in mind. Guests want to know that we are taking every precaution to keep them safe, and we are being completely transparent in our process to give them this peace of mind. Upon arrival, guests will receive an amenity bag containing masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, a button pusher, and a COVID-19 awareness card.
Another measure the hotel will take is electrostatic disinfection. Throughout the course of the day, public areas will be sprayed with a specialized solution that is combined with air and atomized by an electrode inside the sprayer. The spray contains positively charged particles that are able to aggressively adhere to surfaces and objects, allowing it to effectively sanitize areas for extended periods of time. Small handheld sprayers will also be given to room inspectors to provide final sanitization of room pre-arrival.
BT: Will you be offering special opening rates and packages at the Seattle property?
Caguindagan: As part of our reservations launch, we are offering a selection of opening packages and promotions to entice future travelers. The Celebrate Lotte package includes a complimentary room upgrade, cocktail, breakfast and spa credit, as well as flexibility in check-in and check-out times and a welcome amenity. We also have a Spa Getaway package with special spa rates and credits, best available rate and complimentary glass of Prosecco post-treatment.
Additionally, the hotel is offering a Suite Weekend Stay promotion for 10 percent off all suites for stays between Thursday and Monday, as well as its Bed & Breakfast package, including the best available rate on rooms or suites and up to a $60 credit for breakfast daily.
BT: How will your Seattle property differ from your New York property in style, target guest and amenities?
Caguindagan: Lotte Hotel Seattle prominently situated along the business district of downtown Seattle and offers a new approach to luxury that we have not yet seen in this market. Our target consumer is similar to New York, but as the first continental US hotel to open as Lotte Hotels & Resorts property, we have the unique opportunity to build in South Korean culture and service to our hospitality approach that is not seen at the New York property as it was already an iconic hotel with a distinct identity.
Our artistic and modern guestrooms including 33 suites is inspired by Seattle’s natural landscape and the creative and contemporary nature of the city. Something that our target guest will enjoy that is exclusive to our property is the Sanctuary, our nation’s oldest Beaux-style architectural building founded in 1908, previously America’s first United Methodist Church, a venue that is available for larger meetings and events. The newly renovated venue still preserves the traditional piece of the building such as pipe organ and beautiful stained-glass windows and ceilings with a view of Seattle skylines. On the top floor is Charlotte Restaurant & Lounge, which offers unobstructed views of the bay and downtown Seattle. Our unique designed conference rooms, fitness center and spa will provide more enjoyable stay for all incoming guests to our hotel.
BT: Tell us what defines Lotte hospitality and how those elements answer the needs and interests of US business travelers.
Caguindagan: Lotte Hotels & Resorts continues to develop and seek innovation under the vision of becoming one of Asia’s top hotel brands. We aim to be a brand that deeply moves the hearts of our guests with consistent quality of services and facilities in all Lotte chain hotels across the world.
The history of Lotte Hotels reflects pride and genuine heartfelt respect for our guests, and we strive to consistently provide the ultimate in satisfaction at every property across the world. Comfortable rooms in an elegant and modern style, warm and attentive services, haute cuisine, refined fitness clubs, and reliable conference rooms are at the forefront of our brand.