Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas at CityCenter
Overcoming long odds and a couple bad hands, MGM Resorts International and Dubai World pulled off something approximate to a Royal Flush when they opened the CityCenter complex on time in December 2009. Marking the project’s six-month anniversary, Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan recently toured the complex, speaking to the General Managers of the three hotels (Aria, Vdara and Mandarin Oriental) to find out what each property offers elite travelers.
Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas joins Four Seasons and Trump as only the third luxury group to fly its flag in Las Vegas. While plans by other groups have been delayed or fallen by the wayside, Mandarin Oriental opened on time. Led by dapper General Manager Rajesh Jhingon, who oversaw the group’s successful re-launch of Mandarin Oriental Singapore, the property put the five-star group’s reputation on the line in a city where it’s not always easy to deliver the personalized style of service the company is know for.
ET: Any particular facets of the property that make Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas of particular interest to elite travelers?
Rajesh Jhingon: Adam Tihany designed three spectacular top suites, each with a totally different look and feel so whatever a person’s particular taste, we can please them. There is the Mandarin Suite, which is classic yet modern, and the Tianjin Suite which has strong Asian flavors, while the Taipan Suite is sleek contemporary design with Oriental touches. They are each stunning and each a top suite in their own right [The Mandarin Suite will be featured in the 2010 101 Top Suites list, coming out in Elite Traveler’s July/August issue]. It would be nice if you could show all three. They are each different but amazing.
ET: How is the hotel being received?
Rajesh Jhingon: We just hosted the American Express Luxury Conference, which as you know draws a very elite audience and they were all extremely impressed. I think even more impressive is that we get quite a few visitors who aren’t staying here who have just come to see what we are all about, so I think we have gotten very good word of mouth. We have also had a number of top developers, designers, architects and so on who have come just to see the property, so again I think that speaks to the positive buzz, especially since we have done very little advertising.
ET: This is a tough town to stand out in.
Rajesh Jhingon: Actually, we are very different. We are a non-gaming hotel and with 390 rooms we are small. We are the only hotel that has a split lobby, so when you enter at the ground floor it is a residential lobby feel and then you take the elevator to the 23rd floor where you have a spectacular floor-to-ceiling view of Las Vegas. We are valet-only, so there are no lines of people, and by welcoming guests as they get out of their car or limousine we are able to escort them up to the main lobby and pass the word that Mr. and Mrs. Smith are on the way.
One of the biggest issues in Vegas is the arrival experience and we think we have made a breakthrough.
ET: So you don’t see yourself as part of the Vegas luxury boom?
Rajesh Jhingon: I don’t think so. For us luxury is about acknowledging the individual, irrespective of purchasing power at the casino.I don’t know that you can really do that when you get to a certain size. And luxury is location, location, location, so to be a true top luxury property wherever you are in the world, you have to have the best location and we are the only property of our type that has that location here in Las Vegas. What we find is that we are a cocoon for our guests. Everything they could want to come to Vegas for is literally a hundred steps away, so they can go out and experience anything they want. At the same time, when they come back here they are in a tranquil environment with bespoke service backed up by the heritage of Mandarin Oriental. At the basic level, we provide good F&B, a great spa, inspiring design, good housekeeping and people who really know how to provide an incredible level of service. So we are getting families and groups of friends who use us as a base because they know they can come back to the hotel and feel at home. We have excellent meeting and function space, and we can also deliver the Mandarin Oriental level of service. Our pool is private so there are no crowding issues.
ET: Were there any challenges opening the hotel last December during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression?
Rajesh Jhingon: The hotel was built for the next 30 years, so while maybe you could say we were able to plan for a lower occupancy to start than we would have liked, everything was done to create an amazing guest experience. It wasn’t that we didn’t do this, or do that. We definitely wanted to get off on the right foot and we have, and in fact, we are doing better than we expected—which I think reflects that when you have good people, you are smart about how you do things and your customers are happy, you will do well. If you look at our group, the service before the recession was good. If you talk to guests who stay at our hotels now, they will tell you that the service is still good, and when the economy improves, we will still be providing good service. It’s just what we do and we don’t change that approach based on the stock market.
ET: Have there been any surprises?
Rajesh Jhingon: Well we have been thrilled with the word of mouth. But I guess as surprises go, Mandarin Oriental is about tradition, so we decided to bring to Las Vegas a traditional afternoon tea service in our lobby lounge. Now you might say afternoon tea and Las Vegas don’t mix, but I think it shows that we filled a need for a quality experience. From Thursday to Sunday, you simply can’t get a table and at $45 per head, we are not offering a low-priced product.
ET: So do you think your hotel will appeal to elite travelers?
Rajesh Jhingon: The profile of your readership, people who have private jets, is that they are very sensible or they wouldn’t have achieved what they have. They can see that we have the bells and whistles of a great hotel, but they also demand consistency and, as I mentioned, a bespoke level of service. They want to know the quality will be there, be it toiletries or the linens, and they know that is something they can depend on with our brand. Also, with 57 suites we have a very nice variety of offerings for them, depending on whether they are here for business or leisure.