Le Meurice has recently undergone a major renovation. Tell us more about the motivation.
Le Meurice, located in the beating heart of the city, directly across from the famous Tuileries Garden and just a few steps from The Louvre, has been the first Palace in Paris in 1835. With its rich historical background inspired by artists and thinkers, our aim was to stay true to the spirit of 18th-century French design. We wanted an elegant look with the right touch of modernity to appeal to today’s travellers. The project was to be guided by the idea of luxurious comfort and a sense of wellbeing, paired with intuitive technology, authentic art and a play of light with shimmering fabrics. We invite guests to enjoy all these exceptional details and take a fresh look at nearly 200 years of history.
Beyond an impeccable product, luxury hospitality is about consistently high standards of customer service. In today’s extremely competitive and challenging luxury market in Paris, what has been your approach to recruiting and nurturing talent?
We want to be able to attract the younger generation of employees in order to modernize our service and adapt ourselves to constantly changing customer expectations. So we are seeking dynamic people ready to take up exciting challenges in our company. Dorchester Collection strongly values people and cultural diversity and has created tailor-made training programs to grow employees and encourage unique personalities. This is probably the best way to attract, motivate, retain and develop people. We also participate regularly in workshops and visit hotel schools and universities to make sure we don’t miss any opportunity. Of course, our credo is « managing by example ».
In the current economic context, what is your view on the Palace ranking of top luxury hotels in France?
France actually counts 25 palace hotels and the label had been created to distinguish us from 5 star hotels, based on some very specific criteria. Eleven of them are located in Paris which means that guests have the choice now. It encourages us to never rest on our laurels ! Consistency and innovation are key to stay in the race.
Several luxury hotels, including several Palace ranked ones have been constantly lowering rates. What is your view?
I don’t think we can generalise, it depends on the period you are talking about, on the segment and on your yield analysis. It’s always a question of strategy.
What are the competitive advantages of Le Meurice?
We have probably the best location in Paris, where everything is within walking distance: the museums, the opera, as well as the most prestigious shopping areas. If you are motivated, you can go for a jogging in the Tuileries Garden or get your children play in the park. Our seventh-floor penthouse is simply spectacular with its 300m2 terrace offering a 360° view to admire the city’s most iconic landmarks. At Le Meurice, Paris is definitely yours!
Last but not least, I have a brilliant team who provides bespoke service and tries to deliver the guest experiences that build real and lasting emotional connections. People are our greatest asset.
To what extent Airbnb and other similar companies still pose challenges to the traditional luxury hotel segment?
I don’t have the impression that many of our guests would switch to Airbnb – maybe the new generation – they generally appreciate to be in a palace for the quality of service and the wide range of culinary offers. They also enjoy immediate facilities thanks to the relations they built with the concierge and guest relations team, dedicated people to organize their stay or create a tailor-made program. They all appreciate recognition and the fact that we connect them to our way of life. The human aspect and caring are missing when you just rent an apartment, even with a concierge service.
With the growing power of booking websites, many luxury hotel reservation are made more and more last minute, and with hotels being notified minimal information on the guest profile. What is your take?
We are currently creating a new system to always make sure we get the relevant information about our guests. We have a special team dedicated to anticipate their needs whenever they book, and adapt ourselves promptly to the new pace. We have to be inventive to do the job despite some obstacles and improve our internal communication which guarantees our guests a seamless stay. There is a golden rule for everyone: Observation, active listening and attention to detail.
What is the profile of the returning / loyal guest of Le Meurice?
There are some renowned families coming from one generation to the other, some very loyal businessmen and some regular upscale groups. We have a very good balance in terms of nationality, age, professional activity … Some of our clients are attending the fashion week, others the FIAC, political conferences, the airshow or the Biennale de Paris but we have as well a huge number of young parents taking their kids to Paris during their summer vacation. It is probably our strength: we welcome a very eclectic crowd to Le Meurice rather than a stereotype clientele.
Competition has also been tightening on F&B concepts and Michelin starred franchises / partnerships. Tell us more about your partnership with Alain Ducasse?
It is my second experience with Alain Ducasse and I would consider him as a pioneer and visionary. His culture and curiosity allow him to be always ahead of the curve. As a skilled and decisive leader he federates his teams and takes them constantly up to the next level proposing new challenges. His focus is on the product and those who provide it, he always would prefer seasonal culinary experiences to exotic creations and is an adept of authentic taste while offering a global experience where every detail counts. Alain Ducasse aims to defend the culinary French heritage which is similar to the identity of Le Meurice where we strive to combine tradition and modernity.
Of course, competition in this field is growing constantly in Paris, but I believe we have solid assets to be competitive. Our offers between the fine dining restaurant, the Dalí restaurant, the Bar and the events reflect a great variety allowing every guest to meet with his expectations. The Michelin Guide obviously plays an important role at Le Meurice, as we have always stood out among the best.
Le Meurice has always been associated with the arts. What shall we expect for the rest of the year?
Le Meurice, built by famous architect Henri Nénot (Grand Prix de Rome) and renovated by Philippe Starck, has always been anchored in art and culture. It has long been the chosen place for great artists and thinkers from Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso to Woody Allen and many other artists whose inspiration is still tangible. We support young artists, whenever the opportunity arises, such as for example Carole Benzaken by acquiring one of her paintings from Galerie Nathalie Obadia to decorate the newly renovated Belle Etoile Suite.
We also cultivate partnerships with major museums in Paris and are proud to welcome many personalities of the international art world to Le Meurice. As we want to share this culture with our employees we organize regular visits of museums and exhibitions for them. It reinforces their taste of arts, give them self- confidence and makes them feel more at ease with our clients. The activities within the international art world connects us with other hotels of Dorchester Collection and strengthens thus our relationship and cultural spirit.
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