I recently stayed at a one-of-a-kind property in the Hyatt hotel group, the newly opened Hyatt Centric Gran Via Madrid.
I had a lot of questions about not only the new hotel, but this distinct Hyatt brand, so I took the opportunity to sit down with General Manager Gonzalo Maggi and ask about his experience both designing and opening the new hotel.
I had a lot of questions for Gonzalo regarding his background, how much he as a general manager participated in the hotel design, how Hyatt conveys Centric’s role and what he brings to the job to help carry out this mission. I also wanted to learn about the clientele choosing this hotel.
Designing and Opening the Centric
The Hyatt Centric Gran Via opened in December of 2017 and it’s Europe’s first Centric property. There are also two other Centric properties in Europe, one in France and one in Turkey. It’s in the heart of Madrid on Gran Via and was originally an office building that got renovated especially for its purpose as a hotel.
Gonzalo comes to Hyatt from the Starwood-Sheraton group. He took the Gran Centric position after managing the W Barcelona property. He also worked at Le Meridian Barcelona.
Gonzalo worked closely on the design of the hotel from its conception. The corporate design team is based in Zürich, and started on the project seven to eight months before the managers come in to assist with operational aspects.
Gonzalo told me that he felt the original design for the hotel lobby placed both the bar and the reception in proximity that would make it awkward for arriving guests. Gonzalo wanted the reception area to be easily accessed by all guests, without having to walk through the bar.
After listening to Gonzalo’s ideas on the lobby design, the Zürich team did indeed change their floor plans.
Centric properties are either converted from other hotels already in existence that are converted to a Centric or a brand new hotel designed as a Centric. This Madrid Centric is under corporate Hyatt ownership and was designed from scratch to be a Hyatt Centric. This classic style Madrid building had primarily been used as office space, so Hyatt totally renovated the building in creating the Centric.
What is a Hyatt ‘Centric’?
Since Hyatt came out with the Centric brand I’ve wondered what it meant. I have asked this of many Hyatt employees at hotels I’ve stayed at, and I have to say that no one really gave me a good answer. They fumbled for an explanation of where the Centric fits in the Hyatt line-up.
It seems to fit somewhere between the Hyatt Regency and perhaps the Andaz as far as the price point. When using Hyatt points for stays, generally a Regency is 15,000 points, a Centric 20,000 points, a Grand Hyatt 20,000 points and an Andaz is 25,000 points a night.
When I told Gonzalo this, he laughed. It’s no secret, even to Centric employees, that it’s been a challenge to explain Hyatt’s goal for the Centric properties. Gonzalo said Centric is meant to connote the “center of the destination”…….not the center of the city.
So it’s the center from which you can base your exploration.
Given this Centric’s location, I could see how that made sense. It also made sense then that with each Centric there will be a theme throughout the hotel that matches its location. I like that each Centric will have its own personality and that Hyatt will be using bespoke designs at each Centric location.
Who Stays at Centric and For How Long
For the Grand Cetric Via Madrid, where during the week it’s mostly a business crowd, Gonzalo told me the average stay is one-and-a-half nights.
Gonzalo shared that most people come to Madrid for a quick stay and then head to Barcelona and Seville, so a two or three night stay in Madrid is typical.
He felt Madrid needs to do a better job at showcasing itself to improve this statistic. Given that I was in Madrid for 10 nights, and left many places to explore and things to see still on my list, I certainly agree with Gonzalo and hope Madrid will do a better job of presenting itself as a great destination for longer stays.
It’s natural for me, as a happy Hyatt elite to wonder how many of the guests at Hyatt hotels are also “Hyatt people”.
In this case at the Centric, 50% of the guests they’ve had so far are Hyatt people. About 15% of the rooms are suites. Gonzalo helped me understand that in Spain, when a new hotel opens, people love to try it. The new Gran Centric is benefiting from that buzz.
How Do You Hire Staff for a Brand New Hotel?
Gonzalo believes that you hire personality and train the skills. He wants to let staff be themselves. He also felt it was best to hire for the particular personality of the hotel.
This property was very lively and very much in the heart of the city’s busiest area on Gran Via. The staff was young and energetic and very much suited the personality of the hotel. Interestingly, the hotel outsources housekeeping, but the other seventy employees are in-house Hyatt staff.
There was always plenty of staff around. They were well-trained. The restaurant crew was excellent, as were the front desk staff. Room service was always fast and housekeeping was eager to help with whatever you needed.
One item unique to the Centric was boxed water in the rooms. Have you seen boxed water yet? Instead of water in plastic bottles, the water comes in boxes. It’s being touted as better for the environment and many businesses are using it instead of bottled water. Apparently boxed water in Spain is popular as Spain moves away from using plastic.
Some hotel managers I’ve spoken with periodically stay at their hotels to experience first-hand whether operations run smoothly. Gonzalo does indeed stay at the hotel with his family to test the services, but readily admitted that he gets better input from his friends who stay at the hotel. It’s tough to hide when you’re the hotel manager.
The Ideal Centric Guest
Perhaps the most difficult question I posed to Gonzalo was when I asked him who the hotel is NOT for.
By his way of thinking, Park Hyatt regulars wouldn’t like the informality of the team at the Centric. The level of service is not what you’d expect or receive at a Park Hyatt. The Centric has no formal concierge or someone to necessarily greet you at the door or help with luggage.
The Centric brand of service is more casual. The team helps you check in, presents your room key, and encourages you to go have fun.
Gonzalo suggested that people who like to travel, know what they want from a place, and don’t need or want guidance are more typical of the Centric guest. When asked “what do you want to do and see”, they already know.
I am definitely a Park Hyatt person and yet a Centric person, too. I appreciate what a Park Hyatt has to offer, yet if all my Hyatt Centric stays turn out to be as much fun, and as great as this one was, I may just choose the Centric over the Park Hyatt next time I have that option!
When you couple a manager’s passion with great staff and give them a winning location and a beautifully designed hotel, it’s a win for us all. I can’t thank Gonzalo enough for his time and honesty. We could have easily talked for a few more hours!
Shelli Stein is a health and fitness entrepreneur who travels the world in search of culture, food, and fun! Besides contributing to PointMeToThePlane, you can find her at Joy in Movement.