Fairmont Hotels puts a focus on employees in new art exhibit

Luxury hotel chain uses staff from around the globe to help tell its brand story

Danny Kucharsky May 05, 2016

Fairmont Photography #2

Laurence Ledanois, a staff member of 19 years (right) arranges tables with Jessica Azoulai for tea at the Eloise Boutique at the Plaza in New York.

Fairmont Hotels has turned the camera on its own employees to show what goes on beyond the scenes at its hotels and resorts around the world.

The luxury hotel chain commissioned seven photojournalists from Namara, a Toronto-based visual storytelling agency, to shoot photographs of scenes that guests never get to see.

Some 85 photos from nine Fairmont hotels, including the Royal York in Toronto and Pacific Rim in Vancouver, will be exhibited May 5 to 20 at the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival in Toronto.

The photos will live on Fairmont’s brand websites, Fairmont Magazine, which is distributed in all hotel rooms, and in displays in the hotels that were photographed.

“This is our first foray using photojournalism to talk about the brand,” says Alexandra Blum, vice-president of public relations and partnerships at FRHI Hotels & Resorts in Toronto. “It’s really a very, very innovative way to tell a brand story.”

Blum says Fairmont was looking to show how its employees bring luxury service to life. The behind-the-front-desk photos are based on research Fairmont conducted that found its guests “are seeking truly genuine connections to the destination and to the people that serve them.”

Lau Chun-Tai cleans the Palm Court. He has been doing custodial work on the night shift at the Plaza for 8 years.

Lau Chun-Tai cleans the Palm Court. He has been doing custodial work on the night shift at the Plaza for 8 years.

Fairmont’s affluent guests “don’t really want for anything,” Blum says. “So what they’re seeking and what they’re wanting from us are cultural immersions when they come to our hotels. The only way to really get at that is through our colleagues.”

One of the photos shows an employee at the Plaza in New York City vacuuming late at night. “It’s like he’s doing a dance with the vacuum,” Blum says. “There’s sort of art in their craft, no matter what they’re doing.”

Another depicts a housekeeping staffer at the Plaza in New York City polishing Baccarat crystal glass from one of its chandeliers and holding it up to the light. It shows the attention to detail that is paid by staff, Blum says.

“There’s some really tender moments of our colleagues congregating behind the scenes,” Blum says. One photo, for example, shows three members of the same family – husband, wife and daughter – who work in the Fairmont Grand Del Mar in California having dinner at home.

The other Fairmont properties that were photographed were the Savoy in London, Peace Hotel in Shanghai, Fairmont San Francisco, The Palm in Dubai and Norfolk in Nairobi.

“We may be glossy on the outside, but we’re also glossy on the inside and we take really good care of the people that take care of [guests],” Blum says, “We believe that is the secret sauce to our brand.”

The photographers had full creative control over the photographs that are being exhibited at the Contact festival, while Fairmont selected the photos displayed at each hotel.

Fairmont has 43,000 employees in its 70 hotels.