In an exclusive interview to CPP-LUXURY.COM, Nicolas Béliard, General Manager of Peninsula Paris speaks about the ambitions of the Asian chain and the strategic approach to position the hotel in the top ranking of luxury Parisian hotels.
Paris is one of the world’s most competitive luxury hotel markets. What are the key competitive assets of the Peninsula Paris?
The Peninsula Paris will open on 1 August this year, and our aim is to make it an integral part of Parisian life. It’s a building that has a wonderful history and spirit, and so we want to make it a true Parisian palace for today by taking the very best of the old and discreetly modernising it to become a thoroughly contemporary hotel, yet steeped in heritage, glamour and Parisian style
First and foremost is our location, which is ideal – just steps away from the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées in the heart of the elegant 16th arrondissement, and within walking distance to some of the world’s most famous monuments, museums and luxury shopping districts
The hotel itself is a magnificent heritage building, dating from 1908 when it opened as the Hotel Majestic – one of Paris’ most iconic “grands hotels”- and it has large rooftop and street-level terraces, together with expansive public areas and dimensions, which are architecturally authentic and match those of some of France’s most revered public buildings from the same era.
It has a wonderful history too, with just a couple of highlights including George Gershwin composing “An American in Paris” while staying at the hotel in 1928, while the Paris Peace Accords, negotiated by Henry Kissinger and bringing the Vietnam War to a close, were signed in 1973 in the salon which is today Le Bar Kléber.
The building has been meticulously restored by some of France’s leading master craftsmen utilising traditional techniques in use for hundreds of years, with the aim of preserving its heritage, authenticity and spirit. These include several small family companies dating back generations and who specialise in just one aspect of restoration, while others are individual experts, such as an art restorer who works on Leonard da Vinci paintings at the Louvre.
Meanwhile other elements of the process have included excavating three basement levels, which house a stunning swimming pool and fitness centre, spa, a car park for over 50 cars and other facilities
Guests will arrive in style with two grand Lobby entrances – the Avenue Kléber pedestrian entrance leads to the traditional Peninsula Lobby with its meticulously restored soaring curved ceilings, magnificent drapery, marble floors and contemporary furnishings, and which offers all-day dining and the celebrated Peninsula Afternoon Tea. Meanwhile the hotel’s main entrance on Avenue des Portugais is designed for arrival by car, with direct access to our own underground car park. A bespoke hand-blown Lasvit chandelier featuring a cascade of crystal “leaves” – a modern take on the plane trees lining Avenue Kléber – and a massive stone installation from Bhutan will create a luxurious sense of arrival in this second lobby area
Our 200 rooms and suites will be among the largest in Paris, and they’re also the most bespoke and personalised in the world – first introduced at The Peninsula Hong Kong as part of its renovation, The Peninsula Hotels’ own revolutionary in-room tablet technology sets new standards of guest personalisation in that rooms can be changed into any one of 11 languages, with every aspect of the in-room experience – from room service menus to Nespresso machine instructions, restaurant and spa details, hotel and city information and so on – all displayed in the language of the guest’s choice.
We’ll also have 34 sumptuous suites, with five featuring their own private rooftop gardens with spectacular views over Paris.
Our six F&B venues will offer the very best of France and The Peninsula – The Lobby, LiLi Chinese restaurant, the Kléber Terrace, the Kléber Bar, the cigar lounge and L’Oiseau Blanc rooftop restaurant, bar and terrace with 360° views over Paris
Meanwhile we’ll also have a unique collection of specially curated contemporary artworks, including major installations by internationally celebrated artists Ben Jakober and Xavier Corberó – widely acclaimed as Spain’s foremost living sculptor
Last – but of course by no means least – we’ll be continuing The Peninsula Hotels’ long-standing partnership with Rolls-Royce with a signature Peninsula-green Rolls-Royce, a magnificent vintage 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II and two MINI Clubman vehicles.
Considering the positioning you target, which are the direct competitors of Peninsula Paris?
We consider all Paris’ five-star hotels as our competitors. However as we are new to the market – both in Paris and Europetoo – we look forward to working together with the other premier Parisian hotels to deliver a great experience to all visitors to the City of Light
How important do you regard the Palace distinction in Paris? Will Peninsula Paris apply for the Palace distinction?
It is for our guests to consider us as a palace, as they do elsewhere at other Peninsula hotels. However, in terms of the official French classification of Parisian palace hotels, we will indeed be applying after the qualifying two-year period, as it is an enormous distinction both for our owners and for our staff to be working at a “Palace Hotel”
Which are the novelties in terms of product which Peninsula Paris will deliver? Tell us more about fine dining and Spa.
As I mentioned earlier, we will have six unique venues.
As with every Peninsula hotel around the world, The Lobby is the very heart of the hotel, and Paris is no different – offering international dining in a stunningly restored space, The Lobby also opens out onto the al fresco streetside La Terrasse Kléber, Paris’ largest enclosed outdoor terrace. “Café society” at its best, diners can see and be seen at the La Terrasse Kléber for all-day drinks, international dining and Cantonese fare, protected from the elements by a futuristic glass and stainless steel canopy.
Our Chinese restaurant LiLi will offer a new dimension in Cantonese dining in a spectacular Chinese-meets-Western-opera setting. Le Bar Kléber, with its immaculately restored wooden panelling, offers cocktails, drinks and snacks, while the Cigar Lounge enables cigar connoisseurs to relax with a wide collection of cigars. Meanwhile L’Oiseau Blanc rooftop restaurant will feature French cuisine, plus a bar and terrace with stunning panoramic vistas over the rooftops of Paris to the city’s landmarks.
The extensive Spa will offer spa treatments by ESPA, together with a Fitness Centre and swimming pool.
What is your estimated consumer target – leisure versus corporate guests?
While we anticipate a good mixture of both business and leisure guests, we anticipate that the hotel will be a more leisure-driven property.
To what extent Peninsula Paris will be aiming to attract local patrons?
As at all our Peninsula hotels, we aim to become, an integral part of the local community, and Paris is no exception. We want to become the hotel of choice for Parisians, for everything from a cup of coffee to milestone family occasions and celebrations such as weddings, christenings and special anniversaries, plus everything in between.
Peninsula Hotels have built a reputation for exceptional service. What has been your approach towards human resources at Peninsula Paris?
We’re aiming to create a culture of warmth and true simplicity in Paris, dedicated to both our guests and our employees. We always look for talented, highly motivated and genuine people, which is why we at The Peninsula Hotels have the third generation of employees serving the third generation of guests in our flagship hotel in Hong Kong, and this is what we want to recreate here in Paris.
As at all Peninsula hotels, we are looking for staff members with a great attitude and exceptional curiosity. They need not necessarily have worked in hotels before – the job tasks can always be taught later – but must have that essential “je ne sais quoi” in terms of Peninsula spirit. It’s very hard to define or put on paper, but you know instantly when you meet someone who has it.
There is enormous interest in working for The Peninsula Paris – our HR team are currently receiving around 100 CVs per day, with another 3,500 already on file
We’ll shortly be rolling out our Peninsula Ambassadors programme, whereby a group of carefully selected staff members travel to Hong Kong and work at our flagship property for a period of time, in order to really absorb the Peninsula spirit and learn what it means to work with Peninsula and become part of the Peninsula family. They’ll then return to Paris to impart their learnings to their colleagues. This is the third time we have operated this programme, following our openings in Tokyo in 2007 and Shanghai in 2009, and it has been extremely successful.
We also have an extensive programme of ongoing cross-training in our various hotels, together with a strong opening team drawn from our various hotels around the world and our Head Office, to ensure that the hotel gets off to a great start, Peninsula-style
Which are the key international markets you are targeting for Peninsula Paris?
Europe, North America and Asia
After working at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami, the Four Seasons hotels in the Caribbean, Switzerland and Paris, the Waldorf Astoria and The Pierre in New York, Nicolas Béliard joined the Peninsula Hotels Group in April 2009 as a Manager at the Peninsula Hong Kong. He then held the position of General Manager of Peninsula Bangkok since May 2010.
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