What is your take on the global economic context of the luxury hotels sector? Which are the key disruptors and what would be the opportunities you would highlight?
I only see positive growth in the luxury travel and accommodation segments. This is proven by the number of luxury hotels opening worldwide and even more ‘’experiential hotels’’ in remote location as well as expedition luxury yachts or cruise. This is a sign that people are more and more interested in bucket list experiences. As far as disruptors, M&A will continue to be the talk of the day, I can see several more take overs over the next 5-10 years, particularly in the ultra luxury segment. Glamping or Eco Luxury is another new trend and shall ramp up as soon as the Gen Z and future generations will enter their full working life. Finally, I see some issues on the ‘’sustainability’’ side of our business and human existence in general. As the hotel/real estate business grows at an unimaginable rate, as well as the world’s population, I don’t really see how humans can be sustainable. However, I see some efforts being done.
Most of your career included luxury resorts. How different is the operation of a luxury resort versus an urban hotel?
Actually not much. The only element of difference is the purpose of travel. While a leisure traveller has a more relaxed mode and the purpose is to discover, learn, and rest, the urban traveller have business as purpose and very short stay, although even this is changing with the emerging trend of urban resorts like Aman, Six Senses and similar brand concepts where integrating a resort experience in the busy lifestyle of a business traveller is becoming a new standard.
Considering consumers have become less loyal to a certain brand, what is the key strategic approach to a brand in order to secure returning guests?
Actually my approach is to influence and transform our guests into brand ambassadors. It is a fact that leisure travellers particularly, wish to explore new destinations all the time and make them becoming a loyal customer is getting more expensive and difficult. I rather invest the same money in marketing and sales, rather than a loyalty scheme. The loyalty model is dated, often all look the same and it appeals only to frequent business travellers using big box brand.
The luxury hospitality industry is considered to run behind luxury fashion in terms of marketing / communications / branding. What is your take both on a large chain but also a small cluster like the one you currently manage?
I partially agree with your statement. The big chains certainly are not able to achieve that ‘’status’’ when it comes to luxury, hence the creation of new brands appealing to this segment or the acquisition of one if they lack (i.e. IHG purchasing Six Senses and Regent recently). I personally consider brands like One & Only, Mandarin Oriental, Six Senses doing a pretty good job, and Cheval Blanc, Bulgari, Armani creating this magical appearance through their association with fashion. Let’s not forget that the distribution and volume of luxury travel is not near to those of luxury retail, therefore the difference in investments in each respective segment is relative to their sales and market penetration.
Beyond an impeccable product, luxury hotels & resorts are inherently dependant on consistent high customer service. What is your approach to recruiting and nurturing talent?
This trend is changing. I see that guests prefer a genuine smile rather than a coffee served by a non motivated team member within the 3 minutes international standard. Guests are often interested to learn about the personal life/experience of team members rather than talking to each other. We at Chable’, believe to greet guests with a handshake and bid farewell with a hug. This is priceless and means we have been able to transform a guest into a family member. This is a growing trend and many companies are more inclined to employ people with the right attitude ( I call it heart), rather than experience.
Hospitality in general has been losing desirability, as a career, for the young generation. Is it because of a lack of passion to serve or this is driven by other factors?
I guess this is our fault, I mean older leaders. Our job is to inspire people into the industry, be honest about the sacrifices one needs to do and accept in order to work for world class properties. Besides, education teaches students that once they graduate, they can get into management, that career is progression is ‘’easier’’ if you study in prestigious Universities. Of course, the better institutions have better quality of teachers and learning models, as well as providing internships in luxury hotels, however my take on working your career up is the following: first 10 years of your working life (20 to 30 years old) is about building your reputation, the second 10 years (30 to 40 years old) is about growth and advancement, the last 10 years (40-50 years old) is collecting the fruits of your hard labour. Yes, is hard work if you want to be a real GM in a world class property and not just a ‘’representative’’ of the management. With younger generations entering the working life, I guess we need to change our HR strategies if we want to attract and retain talents
How are the two resorts you are managing positioned? What is the profile of your guest? And what is your competitive edge? What is your competition?
We are positioned as a luxury boutique resort brand, focusing on wellness, gastronomy, design and service. We have been able to achieve this in such a short time because of great owners, a committed team, the partnership and affiliation with the right agencies and service providers. Our guests are affluent travellers in their early 40s early 50s range, often traveling to celebrate, eat well and have great resort facilities, spending most of their time within the resort. Our competitive edge is that in Mexico, at least for now, there are fewer boutique luxury properties. Although this is rapidly changing, our brand is very solid in the national market and growing in popularity internationally. I guess our popularity will continue as we are expanding our sales & marketing efforts into new markets like Europe and Middle East.
We have had some challenges in finding who our competitors are. Our product and service offering is so diverse from the vast majority of hotels and resorts in Mexico. For example, both properties have less than 100 rooms, our rates are near or above the 1000USD mark, we are associated with Jorge Vallejo, one of the best 50 chefs in the world and our SPA protocols have been developed with world class consultants. You have very few brands/hotels who can claim all this under one roof, but if you ask me which brands are closer to what we wish to achieve, namely are: Aman, Six Senses, Bulgari
What are the novelties we should be expecting from Chable’ Hotels in the next 2,3 years?
We have been approached by many investors about opening new properties, but we need to be humble and do this at the right pace if we want to remain relevant and not dilute the brand.
The owners are very cautious with whom to partner and wish to keep the best quality builds in order to provide an equal or better experience and product to our guests.
We actually have two upcoming properties I can talk (discreetly) about now. The first is a new build in La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur on the Sea of Cortez side. We are partnering with one of the world’s best architect and the resort design is very organic, using natural materials. It will be a stunner.
The second property is an existing colonial building in a thriving and upcoming Mexican city. I can only say so much for now.
Both properties are due to open and be operational in and around late 2021. This is no small feat when a small unknown brand has grown 200% in only 5 years.
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