European Business: Ms Yokell, the Wellington Hotel, which opened in 1902, is one of the oldest hotels in New York. What would you say makes your hotel such a successful and special place?
Lucille Yokell: We are actually not sure when the Wellington Hotel opened. We do know, from a photo in a New York Times article dated 1902, that the original building was in full operation. In addition to our fabulous location, our employees make the Wellington a special place.
We have many long-time employees: on the front desk, one person has more than 30 years’ service and several others more than ten years; in accounting, the newest person has been with us for eight years and three have more than 25 years’ service. In my own office, the newest person, our group coordinator, has been with us nine years. We all passionately believe that making people happy is a great job!
European Business: Having been operating for such a long time, your hotel has seen many guests come and go. How have the expectations of your guests changed over the years and what do you do to cater for their needs?
Lucille Yokell: While some people say they don't mind the hi-tech check-in, most of our guests are happy to see a smiling, welcoming face and hear 'good morning, welcome to New York City and the Wellington Hotel'. We are also great believers in small, personal celebrations, so if a travel professional tells us about a special day in the lives of the guests they have booked with us, we put a surprise in their room for them.
We are also fortunate to welcome guests from all over the world. Many have specific expectations that we try to fulfil to make each one comfortable.
European Business: Located in a 27-story art deco building, your guests can certainly expect some fantastic views of the city. Which rooms would you recommend staying in for the best view of Manhattan?
Lucille Yokell: Do you really expect me to give away those secrets? Seriously, it is true that we have a number of rooms with awesome views of Central Park and some rooms with great views of Times Square. We used to have Hudson River views, too, but now we see new buildings.
European Business: Your slogan ‘We put Manhattan in the palm of your hand’ is quite a statement. Where exactly are you located and what local attractions are close by?
Lucille Yokell: I wish I could take credit for our slogan, but it was already in use when I joined the Wellington in 2000. I can, however, take credit for putting it out there and on everything - even at the bottom of internal memos.
We are located at 871 Seventh Avenue at 55th Street, one block to Broadway, Carnegie Hall and City Center, two blocks to Spyscape, three blocks to Central Park and MoMA, five blocks to Radio City, the Rockefeller Center and Time Warner Center, seven blocks to Times Square and within a five-minute walk of more than 100 restaurants. THE RIDE stops in front of the Wellington several times every day for one of their live performances, and the hop-on-hop-off buses all stop across the street.
European Business: There is a lot of competition in a city like New York when it comes to hotels. What do you offer potential guests so they will book a room at your hotel?
Lucille Yokell: In addition to our great location we offer comfortable rooms with a variety of bedding options and we have 60 one-bedroom suites that are perfect for families. We offer a huge variety of breakfast options at affordable prices in our Park Café, which is open from 6 am to 1 am every day.
We have special rate offers; for example, arrive on a Sunday and stay three nights, or stay seven or ten nights, or buy one of our packages that are themed around the US Open, Christmas, New Year, Valentine's Day, and more. We also offer a personalized service, as I mentioned, for special occasions. Our groups are also very well taken care of, and I am delighted to say that many come back year after year.
European Business: New York is certainly worth a visit in every season. Which season do you think is the best to come and see the city that never sleeps?
Lucille Yokell: Well, let me think: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall - every season is great in New York.
Interview: Andreas Detert | Pictures: Wellington Hotel