Q&A: Kurt Macher, GM, Shangri-La The Shard, London

Kurt Macher has been the general manager of the glamorous Shangri-La The Shard, London since 2019 where he led the property through the various ups and lockdowns of COVID. The hotel, arguably, has the very best views in London and thanks to Macher, the experience on the inside is just as exciting––each season he completely reinvents the decor from Alpine forest to English garden. His ability to create immersive experiences has caught the attention of the big bosses at Shangri-La who promoted him to Innovation & Luxury Customer Experience Lead, overseeing new initiatives for Shangri-La properties in Middle East, Europe, India & Americas (MEIA). London correspondent, Emily Goldfischer, chatted with Macher at the preview of a “Tropical Oasis” at the hotel’s Gong Bar.

It is amazing how you reinvent the Shangri-La The Shard, London every season; is the idea of your expanded role to have you bring the same magic to other destinations?

Yes, we do have to bring that sense of magic, creating new experiences that surprise and delight our repeat guests as much as the first time they come through our doors. We’re also focussing on finding ways to integrate the excellence of the Shangri-La brand and ethos of "hospitality from the heart" with celebrating the local culture of each property. Through creative and innovative offers, we hope to propose new and unique experiences for our other hotels in the MEIA region. We really want to enhance our guests’ perception of luxury when staying with us, to differentiate ourselves from what is a competitive market when it comes to luxury hospitality.

What other Shangri-La destinations will you be focusing on first?

Initially, we are focusing on Shangri-La Paris, Shangri-La The Shard, London, Shangri-La Toronto, Shangri-La Vancouver, Shangri-La Bosphorus, Istanbul, and Shangri-La Al Husn, Muscat.

In London, you have been able to work with incredible partners—McQueens florist, local artists and even a proposal vendor; will you bring similar experiences to the other locations?

The key focus will be to find suitable partners for pop-ups and collaborations to bring exciting things to each destination, which have the potential for longer-term activations. At each property, we will dedicate a lot of time to really understand what is in demand and find partners that are a natural fit, who will help tailor those experiences.

What is the source of your creative inspiration for these inventive partnerships?

I draw inspiration not only from the hospitality industry but also from my personal travels. I spend a lot of time in museums, wandering the streets of different cities, and really absorbing different cultures. It’s important to me to always be speaking to people in different professions to gain a broader perspective and often I am inspired by fashion and those creative industries.

According to American Express, 70 percent of travelers want a culture and local experiences; are you seeing evidence of that? What is your concierge team offering?

This is definitely true—even more so now that we have more visitors from abroad again. We can book guided tours around the local area, and we like to do this to support local businesses. There is so much to see and do in the vicinity of the hotel: Borough Market, Tower Bridge, Bermondsey and Tate Modern are all within short walking distance. We have a ticketing partnership this year with Historic Royal Palaces, which opens the doors to the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace or Kensington Palace for guests who book our "Shangri-La Jubilee Celebration Stay." This is a very special partnership and it’s great to be able to highlight historic landmarks to the guests who are staying with us.

We have an upcoming RIBA-accredited architecture program, which will include a walking tour of London’s hidden architectural gems and our Skyline Afternoon Tea experience in TĪNG Lounge.

It’s also important to us that we use our position in The Shard, one of London’s most iconic and recognizable buildings, to collaborate with charities and non-profits supporting our local community. We work closely to donate food and supplies to a London Bridge-based homeless shelter and annually support Guy’s Cancer by turning the hotel pink and launching a special afternoon tea for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Since 2019, we have collaborated with London Pride, hosting the annual Pride Volunteers party and this year participating in the 50th Anniversary Pride Parade. On a wider level, select Shangri-La properties in the MEIA region have recently launched a new partnership with Make-A-Wish International to create special family offerings and wish-granting for children with critical illnesses.

What are the top experiences your team is suggesting for guests visiting London this summer?

  • Tower of London with their "Superbloom" wildflower display
  • White Cube Gallery on Bermondsey Street, which will be on our RIBA Architecture tour
  • Notting Hill Carnival which is returning for the first time since 2019
  • Stroll through Broadway Market and relax at London Fields Lido

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