Tell us more about your expertise in luxury hospitality
My wife Anna and I have been engaged in luxury hotels for the last 20 years travelling the world a few times over operating luxury hotels from Ritz-Carlton to Raffles and The Norman Tel Aviv to now operating our boutique hospitality consultancy based in Mallorca. We both studied hotel management in the USA and Switzerland and since 2015 have relocated to Mallorca.
What are the projects you have been recently involved in?
Last 18 months we were engaged by a Vienna based investor to put in place and launch Almanac Hotels which was successfully opened in Barcelona with its 91 rooms and suites. The exercise comprised of the branding, sales and marketing positioning as well as putting in place all the operational aspects of the hotel’s opening that took place in December 2017, with its official launch in February 2018.
What is your view on how luxury hospitality has been changing in the past years?
Luxury has been changing over the last few years especially on the experiences side of things as well as the personalization of how service is meant to be delivered. Gone are those days where the bed, shower and coffee machine were a luxury; this is now the norm. luxuries in fact are considered to be of such special heights that perhaps one that we believe in the most is the one of access. Providing our guests with access is probably one of the most sought out luxuries. People want to experience the authentic, genuine, back to basic and rich in local flavors as much as possible so as to be able to be connected to the destination.
Creating a good product is less challenging than achieving a high standard of service.Do you agree? Tell us more.
Absolutely, anything you can buy is easy to achieve, service is nothing you can buy as such, it’s something that is created, and it is something that is delivered by people who bring it to life. There is a great deal of investment in training that hotels need to consider and for this reason, some of the larger hotels might have greater budgets and the Little ones not, it remains that the little ones might be more engaged and more involved in the day to day operations that the larger ones. The product standards still belong to the top three areas being the bed, the shower and the coffee / tea program in room but the main differentiator must be service. You can have all the gold on the ceiling if you don’t have the human factor providing service and creating this story it will not make a difference. In creating a hotel we have come to realize that of course you have to have a great design relative to the brand, the music must be just right and of course the light and mood must be perfect, but none of these can be more overpowering the other; therefore all must be in balance with the most relevant one to people that truly enriches them is the human engagement and creation of stories.
Can you think of any disruptors to the luxury hotel sector?
Two major disruptors that require the industry’s immediate attention; (1) mobile and the technological changes driving it and (2) Airbnb and other sharing-economy platforms.
Although we want to personalize everything which so much being driven speed, it’s important to be able to choose the right tools that will enhance the guest experience without removing the human element. Every hotel company has an App these days, it’s just how good that app is that will allow it to work for the guest. Airbnb has taken on the hospitality world and put a spin in everyone’s wheels but many with the similar models of sharing economies are doing the same hence it forces our hotel models to adapt change and even tap in on the same platform as Airbnb. Take Accor which has created Jo & Joe, which features an open-house concept and is described as a blend of hotel, hostel and private-rental formats. The company hopes to have the concept operating in 50 markets by 2020.
How important are millennials for luxury hotels?What is the best strategy to reach them?
Talk about a disruptor, the Millennial traveler. Millennials are very key to the success of the luxury hotels making up 30% of the world’s hotel guests. They have given the hotels a great deal to think about. We believe that the best way to reach them is to talk to them by using all the mediums that allow them to have as much information out there to allow them to study and evaluate it without inundating the with an overload of information. They tend to be self-sufficient and very resourceful so the rule of less is more is probably applicable but at the same time, it needs to be content and visually rich. They are an audience that gets moved by what they see and as seeing is believing they must feel that the messaging must be as close as possible to reality.
There has to be a higher degree of techy-ness to how they get things done through Apps and chatbots online so as to create the sensation of live engagement. There must be a sense of strong connection to the local community as they love to be in the midst of what is most local, through experiences, take a Barcelona based brand Yurbban having gone native with their audience, be it local or international, they have managed this very well, by living like a native and creating an environment where networking and socializing will allow travels to meet the locals. They too, love design and want to be associated with something contemporary and fresh but also practical yet techy, they love it smart and they want the whole kit and caboodle.
Which are the most effective marketing & communications tool for a luxury hotel nowadays?
As we know news are not just good enough if they are simply news, therefore news must contain a good story and as much as people are overloaded with newsletters, they are still sent out monthly by many for as many who unsubscribe from these, they are still worthy of being sent out. Facebook is a way to promote the stories that take place in hotels from comments to promotions, but we know these stories are not typically converting into bookings and the audience is a bit older that reads Facebook content. Ultimately, it’s all about Instagram and how well the feed looks like so there is a great need for the communication of the same to be as real-time as possible whilst being carefully managed through engagement of the response.
The web content must be relevant, fresh and content rich but most importantly is the visual content that’s more relevant and that’s only the beginning of the story to be told. Stories best told in the luxury market are those that can be shared live through in-person relationships such as during trade shows, fam trips, road shows where not only planned meetings take place but also networking moments take place during social events. All of these activities combined with the latest technology will continue to allow one to be ahead of the game. This may sound weird as our 12-year-old daughter uses snapchat and we find this one to be ridiculous, however, some hotel companies have also used this method to reach a certain age bracket and audience like the Millennials to ensure their attention is captured.
What are your future plans in the mid to long term?
Our midterm plans include a revamp of our current brand of HEUCHENNE BAUGE offering consultancy services from hotel projects to mystery shopping and training which have afforded us the launch of such projects like Almanac Hotels and worked on many boutique hotels locally but also getting our names to be known for tapping in on the basic fundamentals of training and service culture. The other part of our business is to differentiate our “Insider Mallorca” offer, which includes promotion of luxury villas and townhouse holiday rentals complemented by local experiences with a high degree of authenticity and exceptional access. We tend to be an extension of our international partners from an insider view and act as one’s local expert on the ground. Many of our requests come directly and also through our travel network who rely on us to provide this service on the ground.
Our long-term plans include us operating our own hotel(s) in Mallorca that allows us to use all that we have put in place in the last three years. We love the personalization of services, creating stories, engaging with guests and partners alike, collaborating with the locals who become an extension of ourselves and feel like Mallorca is the best place for us to realize this vision that we have had since first getting to know Mallorca back in 2005. The development of these hotels could be in the rural areas of the island just like in Palma de Mallorca or even the areas where there is richness in character, culture, a local level of engagement and above all a way for us to share the best that this island has to offer.
Olivier Heuchenne is the Owner and Managing Partner at HEUCHENNE BAUGE
More from LEADERS
In conversation with Philipp Weghmann, EVP of Europe for Preferred Hotels & Resorts (Exclusive interview)
1. How has your company performed in 2018 and what are your expectations for 2018? 2018 proved to be an excellent …
The Cheval Blanc Hotel Collection is defined as an “experiential luxury” under the dedicated LVMH Hotel Management division. Tell us …
How is Seabourn positioned in the crowded ‘five star’, some say ‘luxury’ cruise market, globally? Seabourn is positioned incredibly well in …