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You may have seen Thomas Kochs, general manager of Claridge’s hotel, on the popular BBC Two docuseries Inside Claridge’s — or, if you’re lucky, you’ve met the man himself during a visit to the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel. At 42 years old, Kochs is a distinguished chap in London’s elite circle of luxury hotel managers, not to mention the youngest manager in the storied hotel’s history. Our team caught up with the emerging leader to discuss how he helped turn Claridge’s into a Five-Star destination.
What does winning the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Award mean to you and the hotel? And how will you celebrate the win?
We are excited and honored to be part of such a distinguished travel site, and to receive the highest accolade of Five-Stars is very prestigious to us. We will be very proud to share this achievement with the team. After all, it is their achievement. I really believe that it is the team who creates the magic, and is the key factor in providing exceptional service experiences and in creating meaningful, lasting memories. There will definitely be a glass of champagne involved.
What makes Claridge’s stand out from other London hotels?
Claridge’s is a wonderful and unique hotel. Our artist-in-residence, David Downton, always says, “Claridge’s is Claridge’s, and everywhere else is everywhere else.” We are very proud of our heritage and the many historic moments and stories Claridge’s has, but what makes the hotel special is that we are conscious of the present and the future. And we find it very important that the overall Claridge’s experience has a feeling of relevance to today. This is reflected in our design choices and our partnerships, but also in how we approach the single most important element in hotels—our service.
What are some of the biggest challenges of running a Five-Star hotel?
Something that gets a lot of focus is our service and our team, however I wouldn’t want to call that a challenge. It is great fun to work with our people. We have some of the world’s best hoteliers under one roof. The challenge is to keep motivation levels up, to create excitement every day, to nurture a sense of perfection, to deliver a lasting and meaningful experience consistently and at the same time do this effortlessly and naturally. The secret is this has to come from within and you have to be sincere in your approach to service and luxury on all levels.
What are your favorite features of Claridge’s?
I love the overall feel of Claridge’s: the lobby, our food, the atmosphere, the people—staff and guests alike. I am very proud of our newly created Map Room. It is a gesture from us to our guests who travel on business. It is a lounge space on the ground floor, where our resident guests can work, reflect and, hopefully, be inspired.
How do you think luxury has evolved?
In the past, luxury was all about offering guests the widest choice possible, whereas today, it is more about an edited choice, carefully chosen and curated for them by experts. Sometimes a fully immersed experience is required, guided by us, and sometimes guests want to be fully in control of the experience themselves. I believe what matters more and more is that the experience is authentic and that it makes sense.
What made you decide to participate in Inside Claridge’s?
It  was a historic year in the U.K.—the Queen’s Jubilee, the Olympics—and Claridge’s celebrated 200 years of hospitality here in Mayfair. When the BBC approached us about the documentary, we needed to figure out how this would work operationally, how we could film without impacting our guests, or put any confidentiality at risk. Everything we do, we do with a lot of integrity, so we have nothing to hide.
Why do you think the documentary was such a success?
I think it has shown a different side to hospitality, and the viewer could sense the true spirit of how Claridge’s operates. Everyone who works here is very proud and honest; there is no pretentiousness. We just like to do things properly and really enjoy that level of detail and dedication.
Claridge’s has stayed ahead of the curve, hiring a fashion-artist-in-residence and inviting groundbreaking restaurant Noma to open a pop-up at the hotel. What’s next?
Those are all part of Claridge’s culture. I guess there is a bit of boldness in us, from our Art Deco influence. We have regular Charleston master classes to capture the spirit of The Great Gatsby, and there is, of course, a new restaurant in the pipeline. We love working with our design partners Guy Oliver and David Linley, and we will unveil 20 brand-new rooms and suites by the end of May.
Photos Courtesy of Claridge’s