St. Ermin’s lobby
Marriott International launched its lifestyle Autograph Collection brand in 2009 due to high demand from both FIT and group planners for hotels with a unique history and design tied to local culture. Today, the brand continues to expand inventory quickly with 47 hotels open and 22 in the pipeline, averaging roughly 200 keys per hotel.
Two of the things we hear most from planners is a growing need for more mid-size hotels, and hotels that provide a fuller destination experience. The Autograph Collection was conceived specifically to meet those needs.
In May, the wonderful St. Ermin’s Hotel in London, centrally located near Buckingham Palace, became the newest hotel to join the Autograph family. Built in 1895 as part of Parliament, the 331-room hotel is famous for its role as a meeting place throughout the years. It was here where Winston Churchill and MI6 gathered to hammer out espionage tactics during WWII. In the 1950s, infamous traitor Guy Burgess delivered top secret documents to KGB spies downstairs in the Caxton Bar.
Last summer, the hotel completed an 18-month, $46 million renovation to restore the hotel’s original glamour while updating the infrastructure to today’s standards.
“This is the classic London hotel, Americans love us,” says Stuart Leckie, director of marketing. “It’s one of London’s first grand dame hotels, and inside the shell of this grand old hotel, you have the most amazing architecture, design and modern meeting space. Our interior designer’s vision was to make you feel like you’re visiting a smart London apartment.”
The centerpiece of the hotel is the Crystal Ballroom with ornate plasterwork and chandeliers, seating 200 theater-style, supported by 15 modern breakouts. Churchill gave speeches here. Margaret Thatcher debated here.
Leckie says his top two markets are pharmaceutical and energy, adding that 17 of the 20 global pharma companies have met here and continue to do so. Part of this is because St. Ermin’s is a 5-minute walk to five major conference centers, including QE II. Another reason is the charm. Attendees coming here first pass through lovely courtyard gardens upon arrival.
Leckie adds, “Everyone says we’re a peaceful haven in the madness of London.”
The new partnership with Autograph Collection was spurred by the hotel’s success with the North American market, accounting for over half of the annual meeting and business room nights.
“Their philosophy matches ours; it’s about offering individual experiences, something that doesn’t feel like a cookie cutter hotel,” says Leckie. “We want to provide our groups something a little different, something outside the norm. And that’s what our customers are coming back telling us. That’s what the U.S. market wants.”
Special events at the property utilize the Crystal Ballroom, which Leckie says is like a blank canvas. The A/V team paints the venue with different types of lighting that bounces off all the crystal to create different moods.
There is also an outdoor terrace for 100 pax, something that’s rare in this part of London. And many planners love the ability to create 200-pax arrival receptions in the open courtyard, another rarity.
St. Ermin’s Hotel is within walking distance to Elizabeth Street with dozens of unique bistros, pubs, cheese shops and bohemian boutiques. And the hotel works with many planners to organize group picnics in St. James Park, fronting Buckingham Palace.
“You don’t need a permit and it’s really quite wonderful on a nice day for a casual lunch,” says Leckie.