Wednesday 7 July 2021
Interview with Ben Ford, Head of Business Travel at Edwardian Hotels, London, UK
For many years now, IASeminars has enjoyed a great working relationship with Edwardian Hotels London group, hosting most of our public courses in London. Indeed, the Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt hotel in London’s Kensington district feels like a home away from home for the IASeminars team when they stay there!
2020-21 has been a challenging time for everyone around the world, with travel restricted and hospitality venues ordered to close.
Now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel we have started planning for a return to business travel and to hosting face-to-face training events for our clients. A vitally important part of that planning is ensuring the safety of our clients. We spoke to Ben Ford, Head of Business Travel at Edwardian Hotels London, UK, about the issues we all face. Ben has really helped us with our plans, and we believe that Ben’s responses here will also reassure you of the continued professionalism and customer care provided by our carefully selected training venues.
Ben, it’s great to be speaking about booking training rooms again after such a long time. Tell us a bit about the training facilities at the Edwardian hotels and your experience and reputation in hosting short training courses.
Thank you – it’s been far too long indeed, especially as we are accustomed to hosting people from around the globe on such a regular basis! Edwardian Hotels London has close to 45 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, with an immense back catalogue of successful events and training courses held for anything from intimate groups to large scale courses with 700 attendees. We are proud to say that we have many returning clients, who love us for our varied and nutritious dining menus and technology offering, such as our Wi-Fi with industry-leading speeds of 150Mpbs and the state-of-the-art audio-visual facilities. All our venues are close to key business districts, transport links and entertainment areas, set in fantastic locations such as central London’s Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Oxford Street, Mayfair, Kensington, Canary Wharf, as well as Heathrow and Manchester.
Zoom meetings and training has worked well during the pandemic. Why do you think that people should be planning to get back out and have face to face meetings and training?
Zoom meetings and training have undoubtedly played their part in these difficult times following the pandemic. But collaboration, networking, creativity – these key elements just don’t have the same impact in a virtual setting. The best ideas are sparked when people come together. Meeting and sharing experiences, in a new space with refreshing surroundings, with delicious and daily changing dining experiences; there are no limits to what can be achieved.
Understandably people may be cautious about booking travel and accommodation. What advice and reassurance can you give?
The safety of guests, delegates, and employees has always been of utmost importance to Edwardian. Our standards and protocol for sanitation were at the highest level even before the pandemic, but we have taken enhanced measures to keep everyone safe in this new environment, setting out protocols that have been approved by SGS, a world leading testing and certification body. We are constantly reviewing these new measures to ensure they are in line with regulation and recommendation.
We also understand the need to be flexible when booking rooms and events so we have introduced generous cancellation policies.
Lastly, I would like to mention that the UK has at this point one of Europe’s most successful vaccination programmes, which is a promising sign for business and normal life to resume.
Your team has always looked after our clients very well at the Vanderbilt. What changes might we expect to see on return to these venues when we resume our training events?
We continuously adapt our spaces and service to adhere to the rules and guidelines of the UK Government and Public Health England. While guests may notice some changes such as social distancing measures, everyone will receive the same exemplary service and personalised care for which we are known and trusted. Changes such as enhanced sanitation, improved air circulation, and other initiatives have been implemented behind the scenes for guests to stay comfortable and safe without impeding on the experience.
IASeminars usually brings an international audience to our London events, with attendees travelling in from across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and sometimes even from the Americas. That usually means a wide range of tastes and expectations for the catering. Has anything changed with the restaurant options and menus for 2021-22?
We continue to serve daily changing menus for meeting attendees. Our Executive Head Chefs have taken inspiration from our award-winning restaurants across the group, spanning different cuisines and flavours. Visitors to Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt will be excited to learn that the concept and menus have been developed to include The Farmer’s Selection, serving a collection of distinctive contemporary European dishes led by carefully sourced ingredients from our handpicked farms and suppliers.
Some of our clients will want to book accommodation at the venue hotel. What additional facilities and precautions are in place in the hotel bedrooms and in the public areas in the hotel outside of the training rooms?
Our enhanced sanitation measures mentioned previously include more frequent sanitation of our gym and social spaces, using specially sourced antiviral disinfectants. Our restaurants have been made suitable for social distancing, featuring one-way systems and hand sanitiser stations.
What changes will our returning clients find at the Vanderbilt? Will early check-in still be an option for those arriving in London on an early flight?
Absolutely. Whenever we have rooms available for early check-in, they will be offered to your clients with our compliments. We have worked hard to minimise any changes to the experience and benefits our guests and returning delegates have enjoyed in the past.
You had already introduced some online check-in and check-out options before the pandemic. Your staff are always friendly and professional – but for those who wish to use their smartphones or other devices, can they save time by using online options?
Edwardian has spent time and resource to further enhance our Edward App. It is without a doubt the most efficient and contactless way to stay with us. Not only do guests save time by checking in and out online, Edward also allows guests to make payments, order room service, book taxis, and even ask for directions. Available 24/7, the app also comes with a built-in chatbot (also called Edward, of course) who speaks more than 59 languages and is powered by AI technology. He replies instantly to any question guests may have and also actions requests by notifying relevant team members. We are very proud of this piece of technology, which has won multiple awards including at the Cateys 2020 and ECCCSA Awards 2019.
We don’t think that smartphones will ever replace a knowledgeable hotel concierge! Will your helpful team still be available at reception to assist IASeminars clients arriving at the hotel and during their stay?
The interaction with our guests is so important to us, so yes, our team will still be there with a smile to assist and welcome in person!
Do you have any final comments for our prospective delegates?
After such a long time of being closed, we are really looking forward to seeing people back in London and our hotels and restaurants again. We cannot wait to welcome everyone back in a safe and memorable manner.
Upcoming face-to-face public courses in London
As we are gradually coming out of lockdown, we have scheduled some face-to-face public courses in London for the end of this year and beyond.
IFRS Fundamentals - Comprehensive Workshop (5 days)
06 - 10 December 2021
16 - 20 May 2022
IFRS 9 – Financial Instruments (2 days)
08 - 09 December 2021
IPSAS Fundamentals - Comprehensive Workshop (5 days)
06 - 10 December 2021
16 – 20 May 2022
International Oil and Gas Accounting and Financial Management - Comprehensive Workshop (5 days)
25 - 29 April 2022
If you are interested in attending any of our face-to-face courses, in any location, let us know. There’s a “Keep Me Updated” button on each course page – click that and fill out the form to let us know of your interest and we can keep you updated about the arrangements for the course and answer any questions you have about venue facilities, etc.