In the wake of the current political issues surrounding Israel (whose embassy is adjacent to the hotel) and middle east politics, our Diplomatic Consultant, Charles de Chassiron, explains his role at the Royal Garden and how the hotel caters for high-profile diplomats and visitors.
The role of Diplomatic Consultant at a London hotel is something that first appeared in the 1980s. There are four or five other hotels in London who employ someone in a similar position, but not all 5-star hotels have someone doing a job like mine.
I’m not a public member of the hotel staff, I’m a part time consultant (as my job title suggests!), but I work closely with a lot of my colleagues – particularly those in the sales, banqueting and guest relations departments – to help them cater appropriately for the international diplomatic visitors we welcome frequently to the hotel.
Having worked in the FCO (British Foreign & Commonwealth Office) for 35 years, the main focus of my job is to ensure that the needs and expectations of high-profile diplomatic guests are understood and any special requirements are seen to.
Of course, there are a lot of diplomatic missions in London – around 180 embassies and 30 international organisations – with Kensington Palace Gardens itself in the heart of ‘embassy land’. We have a close relationship with many of these missions, and our proximity makes us the perfect choice for guests here on diplomatic and international business.
In 2008, for instance, President Sarkozy was here on a State Visit and we were able to cater for a 90-strong journalistic corps from France. Obviously, being just up the road from their ambassador’s residence was very convenient for them. The same applied in 2009, when President Medvedev of Russia stayed while attending the G20 summit.
In addition to this convenience factor, my former colleagues in Protocol department of the FCO will recommend a hotel that employs somebody in my position – like the Royal Garden Hotel – because they like to use somewhere that really understands the diplomatic requirements of different guests. Of course, I also know a lot of the staff at the missions and ambassadors themselves, which helps to build relations between particular missions and the Royal Garden Hotel.
In an average week, I’m in and around the hotel for three days, but I’ll be on hand at special events or when a particularly high profile guest is arriving. A couple of weeks ago, we hosted two national days in our state-of-the-art Palace Suite – one for Cameroon and one for Senegal who were celebrating 50 years of independence.
It helps for me to be on hand for certain events such as this. Of course, the vast majority of my colleagues, especially in guest relations are very good at what they do, but with so many different nationalities and cultures coming to the hotel, sometimes they just need that extra bit of guidance or advice.
When it comes to welcoming diplomatic guests, what makes a good hotel is being aware of who visitors are, what they need and – above all – levels of service. In this respect it is no different from the demands of every guest who come through the doors at the Royal Garden Hotel, even if the reasons for or the practicalities of their stay are rather different!