First opened in 1946, Hotel Bel-Air has been a sanctuary for some of the most iconic names in Hollywood history. The iconic hotel has 12 acres of landscaped gardens, creating a peaceful oasis that is sheltered from the frenetic energy of Los Angeles.
Its Presidential Suite has been frequented by legions of Oscar winners and was described as being like “a rich friend’s home” by King Charles III, also known as the world’s largest landowner. It is also a regular inclusion in Elite Traveler’s Top 100 Suites and was once again featured in the 2023 list.
To celebrate their continued success, we spoke to the longstanding general manager Denise Flanders about how she has kept Hotel Bel-Air at the forefront of popular culture.
What attracted you to the GM position at the hotel?
Hotel Bel-Air is one of the most luxuriant and respected hotels in the world. It’s a timeless and legendary estate that is above the rest, in every way imaginable. It was a great honor to join Hotel Bel-Air and Dorchester Collection in 2012. I feel very fortunate to work for such an incredible company that truly cares about its people.
And what do you think you’ve brought to the hotel that has made it a better place?
I feel very passionate about keeping our guests and our team members at the heart of everything we do. Our team works tirelessly to create memories for each one of our guests through generosity and grace. It’s wonderful to see these connections and relationships being made as they are becoming the fabric of our story at Hotel Bel-Air.
And one of the physical updates that I am most proud of is when we installed our legendary Norman Seeff photos in the Bar & Lounge. The photos were actually presented to me by one of our neighbors. She came to me with her vision and said she would love to introduce me to her dear friend, Norman Seeff. As soon as I saw his photos I knew it would transform the space.
The captivating photo murals feature iconic black-and-white portraiture of Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, Ray Charles, John Belushi, Cher, and a then up-and-coming Steve Jobs, all dominating full portions of interior walls within the bar. As soon as they were installed, the bar became the place to be in Los Angeles and remains that way today.
Tell us about a defining moment in your role as GM that sticks out in your mind.
It’s difficult to identify one moment as they are all linked together. It’s like identifying which of your children you love more. I am proud to work alongside a team that has the innate talent of turning moments into lifetime memories. We take care of everything so the guests can focus on what matters most to them at that moment in time.
The hospitality industry has been through significant challenges in the last few years. How has the hotel coped with and adapted to those challenges?
First and foremost, we took care of our people. Dorchester Collection protected all jobs throughout the pandemic and this created a trust-based workplace with our team which was vital for our recovery.
And we remained open during the pandemic. We found creative ways to stay connected to our guests, and our community. We were creative with how we operated, and we continued to focus on keeping the guest at the center of all we do. In turn, our guests couldn’t wait to book a trip to see all the familiar faces and we’ve been seeing record business levels month after month.
We focused on what was in our control, our culture and our guest experience.
In what ways have guest expectations changed since the pandemic?
We’ve found our guests are really looking for memorable, one-of-a-kind experiences. They are so happy to be traveling again and want to make the most of every moment. In addition, they want high-touch customer service, which is what we love as it further strengthens our bond with each and every guest.
Hotel Bel-Air has legendary status. How do you keep that sense of history flowing while simultaneously being a modern, luxury hotel?
By creating a guest experience that is beyond compare.
Hotel Bel-Air has an elegance and charm that remains reminiscent of its past. With each restoration and addition, the hotel was fortunate to have owners throughout its history that protected the legendary status and original ambiance.
While so much has changed throughout our history, one thing that always remains a constant is our dedication to keep the guest at the heart of everything we do. We focus on creating the most memorable experiences for every single guest that walks over our famous bridge.
What can guests expect from a typical experience at the hotel?
They can expect to feel completely inspired and connected to our 12-acre paradise. Our beautiful rooms and suites have a spirit of understated elegance and our talented team members are ready to take care of every guest from the moment they arrive.
The Presidential Suite at Hotel Bel-Air has been selected as one of the Top 100 Suites in the world. What, besides the incredible amenities, sets it apart from the rest?
Our Presidential Suite offers exceptional privacy and feels like a private residence within LA’s most elegant and exclusive setting. Enter through your own private courtyard to discover a beautifully spacious living room with vaulted ceiling, grand piano and a monolithic fireplace, as well as a study, chef’s kitchen and separate employee entrance. Both the bedroom and living room lead out onto a large private courtyard with a dining area, and the pièce de résistance – a full-sized swimming pool. For complete seclusion, the separate terrace with Jacuzzi is a tranquil spot in which to relax and bask in the LA sunshine.
And, finally, what big plans do you have in store for Hotel Bel-Air in the near future?
We will be building a solar car park that will generate 2,050,088M KWh per year and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 35K tons of carbon dioxide over the next 25 years. This is a project we are all very excited about.
We will also be renovating our lobby space and introducing a new food and beverage concept later this year. We will share more details on those projects soon.
Lastly, we will continue to build offerings and initiatives based on the needs and preferences of our guests. If we continue to keep the guest at the heart of all we do, then our legacy will be protected for generations to come.