Even in the luxury industry, where it can look from the outside as if every day is Christmas Day, Christmas comes but once a year. As shops close and offices empty, as the last train slips into a siding, and as the last bell chimes for midnight mass, the familiar mid-winter hush settles over the land.
But not quite everywhere. The hotel break over the Christmas season has become an understandably popular way to celebrate the season in the company of family and friends. Luxury hotels are warmed by the merry blaze of log fires while mulled wine steeps and scents the air. As night falls on Christmas Eve, guests gather by the light of candles and Christmas trees, stinting just a little on freshly made mince pies to keep appetites taut for the annual feast – which will, of course, be brought to the table with not a blackened roast potato or overcooked sprout in sight. This is the magic of a luxury Christmas. And in each hotel, there is a small army of staff and managers working round the clock to bring it into being.
As tradition dictates, Christmas is a time for counting our blessings and singing the praises of those making quietly heroic efforts on our behalf. A good time, then, to take a moment to spare a thought for the cast of thousands in the hospitality industry, whose Christmas Day is spent creating the perfect Christmas for guests.
Even the smallest hotel needs a full complement of staff over the festive season. The kitchen team will be at their busiest, producing a near-ceaseless banquet of traditional – and not so traditional – fare. As anyone who has ever cooked one knows only too well, this is the one meal of the year where the pressure really is on – from sommelier to saucier, head waiter to kitchen porter, the hotel’s Christmas kitchen is the nerve centre of the hotel.
If the kitchen is a vision of plucked geese and baskets of vegetables, the housekeeping team are similarly under considerable pressure. Christmas guests often book in numbers, and arrive en famille with younger guests in a fever of excitement. Ensuring the hotel looks at its best while accommodation meets the same high standards during the rest of the year is a 24-hour a day challenge.
The public-facing team are also hard at work. Christmas guests arrive with different expectations at this time of year; the hotel becomes home, the place they have travelled to rather than a temporary base that they will be travelling from. It falls to the front-of-house team to create a festive atmosphere, a happy task, and a demanding one.
Co-ordinating a luxury hotel Christmas keeps management and office teams fully occupied, making sure staff are where they need to be, and that the hotel operates as smoothly as it does during every other season of the year.
All are hard at work, all with a ready smile and a dash of Christmas cheer. For the staff, it is a day and night at work, but with a difference: they are the ones conjuring a Christmas and bringing it to cheery life.
As Santa starts his world tour, distributing largesse and goodwill wherever he goes, spare a thought for the elves and helpers who make it all possible – and the staff behind the scenes at the luxury hotel.
About the author
Paul Russell is co-founder and director of Luxury Academy London, www.luxuryacademy.co.uk, a multi-national private training company with offices in London, Delhi and Vishakhapatnam. Luxury Academy London specialise in leadership, communication and business etiquette training for companies and private clients across a wide range of sectors. Prior to founding Luxury Academy London, Paul worked in senior leadership roles across Europe, United States, Middle East and Asia. A dynamic trainer and seminar leader, Paul has designed and taught courses, workshops and seminars worldwide on a wide variety of soft skills.