CEO of St Giles Hotels
Abigail Tan-Giroud starts off our Travel Dine Relax features focusing on the people behind the places we love to visit and explore. We ask what it is that inspires hospitality leaders and the influences that provide guest experiences unique to their hotels.
What drew you to work within the hotel industry and who has inspired you during your career?
I have loved the hotel industry from a young age, from being fascinated with how a room goes from empty to occupied and clean to dirty to clean again, to how teams interact and how an experience can be moulded, and all the creativity behind the daily life of a hotel. This is all very exciting to me and what drew me to join the industry. The teams I have worked with have inspired me during my career. Through positive and negative experiences, I have drawn inspiration from acts of kindness, resilience, creativity, teaching me something new, using all these moments to strive for improvement.
Being a driving force behind establishing the St Giles collection must have brought many challenges and rewards, what have been the key highs and challenges you have had to overcome?
The key highs so far have been attempting to change and influence a company internal culture and slowly seeing it happen, as well as creating an external culture that resonates well with our guest. While rewarding, fostering change also bring its own challenges as change is rarely welcomed in the early stages. Other challenges have include making difficult decisions to part ways with colleagues
If you could give anyone entering into the hospitality industry any advice what would it be?
I’d say one of the most important advice is don’t be afraid to fail as with failure and hardship comes learning. Experiencing the process of failing and then having to pick up the pieces and try again, is what will make you strong and resilient.
How do you create a guest experience in each of your sites that reflects its location, local culture and individuality?
Here at St Giles Hotels, Each property is uniquely designed to reflect and connect with its locality to give our guest a sense of the local experience. This might be reflected in the lobby design – such as our Central London property – St Giles London, which welcomes guests with four bespoke art pieces by renowned London street Artist – Pegasus. The St Giles London Icons collection features Amy Winehouse, David Bowie, Naomi Campbell as well as the artist’s interpretation of Queen Elizabeth. – or it might be small touches such as the mini-bar selections – at The Tuscany – St Giles Signature hotel in New York , guests enjoy a taste of local with curated selection of healthy, guilt-free items from New York and surrounding areas
Do you have a favorite place that has driven you to recreate your guest experiences?
I take inspiration and ideas from many of our Asian properties, see how we can make them culturally relevant in our other locations to try and enhance every guest experience. I always try to see how we can bring luxury experiences through all our properties, mimicking my childhood experiences at the Shangri-La Rasa Sayang in Penang, to a more recent trip to the Amanpulo in the Philippines.
If you are not working what are your favourite travel, dining and relaxation pursuits?
Eating is definitely high on the list! I have a Ducati Scrambler motorcycle that I am completely in love with and enjoy taking out for little rides. I have also recently started getting more interested in gardening, so am becoming a garden centre person! I have a mini collection of guitars which I love to pick up and make some gentle noise with now and again. When the weather is good and time permits, I try to continue pursuit of flight and freedom in a helicopter. My closest friends and family are the most important things, so I try to spend as much time with them as possible when I have a break from travelling, so you may find me most Saturdays in the kitchen, preparing a large dinner for them and baking. My favourite restaurants to go to in London are the ones by Chef Jason Atherton, particularly the Social Eating House. In New York, my favourite haunt is Lolo’s Seafood shack in Harlem.
What’s next for the St Giles collection and where do you see St Giles in the next 2 years?
What’s next is the evolution of brand St Giles Hotels. We are in the process of defining the brand and guest experience for our 3 and 4 star portfolios to further established what it means to Stay Your Way with St Giles Hotel Group. In addition, we are enhancing our guest experience with the launch of our loyalty programme and amplifying personalized service with Inspired Joy – our guest initiative empowering our staff to surprise and delight our guests with unexpected moments of inspired service.
What are the challenges for the hotel industry today?
Our industry is ever evolving and hence faces many challenges, but I believe if we always keep the guest central – at the core at every decision or initiative -and remember that the human connection is a very important element in the guest’s experience, we as an industry can move beyond all challenges
When you are a hotel guest what are your ‘must haves’ and ‘must packs’?
I’m quite a non-demanding hotel guest, My ‘must packs’ are my own toiletries
Have you a favourite destination or holiday experience?
Though I have many favourite destinations, my number one is the island of Penang (in Malaysia) which is where I am from, Penang is a feast for all the senses – from the food, which is a delicious fusion of the Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures of Malaysia to the architecture (historical and modern) and the vibrant street art – world famous and very playful, inspiring joy as you travel around the island as well as the famous street ironworks that show such intricate details – Penang is always with me in my heart, and I am always excited when i return to explore and discover new and old favourite experiences
What can guests expect when they visit one of the St Giles hotels?
Our guests can expect a fulfilling and inspiring St Giles Experience. Each St Giles property welcomes guests to a warm and friendly atmosphere, creating a sense of family, a home away from home and enhances the guest’s experience of the city with a central, convenient location and great value.
To find out more regarding the St Giles Hotels then please visit their website www.stgileshotels.com