With the reopening as the pandemic eases, which do you see as challenges to remain? What about opportunities?
Surely travel falls into the imagination of many, more so following the obligations to stay home or local. As the situation continues to ease so does the desire to explore once again, yet alongside this desire there will also be fear and the rise of new needs: the search for security and seamlessness will be one of the first characteristics that a destination must satisfy. During the different phases of this pandemic we set up a Technical Committee consisting of not only experienced hotel staff, but also external technicians, doctors and biologists in order to guarantee an efficient response and best possible measures.
For us at Lungarno Collection, we are not used to creating ‘sterile’ environments, so our goal was to create the safest one but staying true to the warmth our spaces exude, and when having to distance with our guests we counted on technology and virtual ways to stay connected.
This pandemic provided the opportunity to communicate in a new way with our public, it created a global community which we never stopped cultivating the dream of returning to our cities and where our motto became “we are ready when you are”.
As well we developed a series of packages that promoted ‘private’ situations in which the guests were able to avoid queues and unsuitable places or simply enjoy a picnic in the pristine countryside, cycling tours through the Chianti vineyards, golfing in of the oldest golf courses in Europe. We were also able to leverage our large suites at the Portrait Firenze where guests were able to arrange lunch or dinner in the privacy of their suite.
Never before have we had the possibility to offer our guests such a beautiful and intimate Rome and Florence, without mass tourism, without museum queues, full of private experiences to be lived in complete safety … A real privilege that we hope will no longer repeat itself in history, but which for the moment represents a unique opportunity in life.
What are the competitive advantages of Lungarno Collection Hotels?
We are fortunate to be able to count on two very special destinations – Florence and Rome – and the relationships with our partners here.
Portrait Roma and Portrait Firenze were the first two properties that the Lungarno Collection group decided to reopen. The choice to focus on the Portrait brand stems from the fact that its properties have always counted on a concept of hospitality that goes beyond the traditional hotel, and offers its guests suites and large rooms that are real apartments, all with equipped kitchenettes (fridge, dishwasher, microwave), furnished with everything one needs to prepare lunches, aperitifs or private dinners, including a list of available ingredients to choose from, purchased daily from your butler. For those who intend to be pampered, the chef will prepare a guest’s favorite dish, or may have one of the restaurants in the historical district deliver lunch or dinner directly “at home”, to be consumed in the suite, perhaps on one of the terraces with breathtaking view of the Ponte Vecchio.
Opening for us not only meant resuming the activity of our hotels but also supporting our teams, collaborators and suppliers, whose existence is connected to us, as well as helping to restart Florentine tourism and its realities: from the trattorias / restaurants in the historic center (whose menu will be made available to our guests with delivery service), to the artisans (whom we will support by promoting them as a quality choice for shopping), as well as nature and the cultural panorama that only cities like these can offer (with out of town trips or skip-the-line ticket purchases and private tours). We have also thought of introducing ad-hoc services for the moment such as hairdresser and aesthetic services in the room, so that – in complete safety and privacy – we can “beautify”.
Your hotels cover a wider range of guests, from upscale to luxury. How has your consumer profile changed?
In terms of the pandemic I would have to say that we are still experiencing a hybrid phase where our consumer profile is determined by who is able to access our destination, and of course those who are privileged to travel in autonomy, whether by private jet, train our automobile.
What we have cultivated and noticed are markets responding to the opportunity to experience Florence and Rome like never before.
Are you now targeting a different consumer base? To what extent the domestic market remains a priority for you?
While we realized how we had to communicate changed considering the consequences the world was experiencing, our communication never stopped. Our customers continue to receive updates through our newsletters, and many of them continue to follow our profile which today more than ever would consider highly inspirational.
On the trade communication front, our sales team is in daily contact with travel agencies around the world and participating in the many webinars made available, constantly informed on travel trends and expectations. Maintaining our current consumer base has been a priority but of course during the pandemic our domestic market was critical for us, in fact we promoted and created special ‘staycation’ and ‘workcation’ packages. This is true for our bars and restaurants as well, and we were able to adapt our offerings and satisfy our local clientele.
Many indicate that wealthy travellers fear a decline in service standards because of the pandemic. What is your view?
To contrast any fears our website, bookings and intermediaries were informed and accompanied by our safety & hygiene protocols and implementations.
We pinpointed all the areas of the hotel and guest contacts, providing solutions as well to the areas where information became virtual instead of tactual.
Travel trends indicate that wealthy travellers may spend more and ‘upgrade’ their travel plans to larger suites, longer stays.
In many global major tourism destinations reopening, recovering to pre-pandemic rates and human resources seem to rank highest among major concerns – some staff would not be recovered, or they would be in different industry sectors. What is your take?
To cope with the situation and numerous cancellations we received, I assumed the role of a “family man” and had the heavy responsibility of the wellbeing of our staff. We immediately tried to ‘freeze’ expenses and able to count on excellent commercial partners who have proven to be very collaborative even in this situation of serious difficulty. The actions implemented with our staff were based on a healthy balance of matured vacation time, followed by the activation of Italian State sponsored Salary Integration Fund and the possibility to support smart working.
Conserving our staff members has been top priority, of course with the re-opening of our hotels they faced stressful situations and safety measures which needed to be implemented but did so gracefully. The part of our organics that we lost were in light of opportunities that some of our staff members were able to pursue, some found courage to change industry, to follow their own projects and used the time at home to re-think their life and simply change.
Are luxury travellers still concerned about pandemic safety and hygiene measures?
A part of this depends on demographics and with whom, how and from where one is travelling. Travellers don’t want to let their guard down but also need a new sense of freedom and important to maintain the smoothness in terms of safety and hygiene measures. Also, travellers face having to differentiate the large amount of information processed daily from around the world, each countries rules and implementations. A part of luxury travellers are looking for normality, and in the immediate future this will determine the destination they choose.
What novelties are you launching across your hotels?
I believe that conviviality represents one of those areas through which to entertain one’s guests, it’s not just about eating well. I believe that today we must create the basis for customers to bring home a 360-degree experience and so we will continue to promote and create events that bring together our hotel guests, locals and visitors.
In Milan we will have even more opportunities to intercept local communities, also being able to count on truly large retail, fashion and event spaces.
Could you share an update on your property coming up in Milan?
Portrait Milano will be a new destination within a neighbourhood, and we will certainly contribute to making this corner of the city even more dynamic and lively, enriching its offer and livability.
In Milan, our contact with the city will be exponentially wider and will be able to express that inclusive attitude that the Portrait project has always had in its anatomy. The entire ground floor of the former Archiepiscopal Seminary of Porta Venezia 11 will therefore see boutiques, restaurants, bars, a splendid garden, Spa and rooftop Terrace, as well as a central square of over 2800sqm, the largest in the entire quadrilateral, as well as being a new pedestrian street of the city, natural collector between Corso Venezia and Via S. Andrea, which is opened for the first time to the city and its international guests.
All this without impacting on the privacy and tranquility of the hotel dimension, which will develop from the first floor upwards, also being able to count on a large loggia overlooking the square, a privileged point of view on a new corner of the city that will be appreciated by many.
We also foresee a program of events that will take place inside the square and which will be aimed at all local dwellers and those who wish to have a different experience within the city.
Lungarno Collection hotels is fully owned by the Ferragamo family
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