What motivated you to set up your business in the highly competitive hospitality & gastronomy industry?
The joy and passion of making myself and others happy. In addition, I’ve always thought the industry suffered from a lack of ‘the lightness of being’ and that luxury could and should be fun – a vodka and a smile don’t always help, but they don’t hurt and, above all, they don’t detract from the quality.
Most of your projects are not always clearly positioned: as luxury, upscale or affordable, but they all seem to share a similar costumer profile. What is your philosophy of branding?
The world has changed; today it’s less about financial or social class and more about similarities of mindset and lifestyle. High standards and quality obviously have their price, but that’s more a consequence than a cause.
Your hotels are unique in terms of their products and services, yet you have decided to join with an international chain often associated with a more ‘copy-paste’ approach. What are the pros and cons of doing so?
We are not a standard chain but a group of individual hotels all different in their design. It’s the heart, soul and high standards across the board that unite them.
The market is changing and we have to make sure that we use all available tools and technological innovations like booking systems and online portals but also affiliation with a global hotel group whose platform we can use, to become even more professional and international, without losing our DNA.
For the Roomers Hotel in Baden Baden, you opted for an interior designer and architect, Piero Lissoni, who is known for his luxury hotels. How important is collaboration with such people?
We’ve always worked closely with our architects. For us, it’s the quality that counts. For example, we collaborated with Oana Rosen at the Roomers in Frankfurt, who perfectly reflected and realised our designs.
Now that we’ve become better known and recognized internationally we have access to a larger pool of talented people, which is one reason we’ve been able to win our friend and partner Piero Lissoni for the Roomers in Baden Baden. Still ‘luxury’ for us is a certain perspective or attitude toward life, a spirit of lightness. But yes, we are very happy to be working with architects of the caliber of Piero Lissoni, who will, by the way, also design the entire interior in Roomers ParkView, which is expected to open in Frankfurt in 2020/2021.
To what extent do your projects tell a story?
We don’t have to tell a story; our hotels are places where stories are being made!
Aside from having exceptional design hotels, restaurants and events venues with a high standard of service, you also have to maintain these high standards. What are your views on recruiting and nurturing talent?
It makes me incredibly proud that so many of our employees have remained with us for so many years and that we have become a genuine Gekko Family. Long-time employees are now our partners and have become important pillars of the family. Others now run their own business but they will always be dear to us.
We can only grow together if we help our people to grow and develop; it’s a matter of give and take. Life is a constant movement and we inspire each other over and over again.
What are your expansion/development plans?
In the spring of 2020, we will open the first hotel of our new brand “Gekko House” in Frankfurt. It’s a combination of “meat-packing district” and “cozy hotel”. With our former employee and friend Nawid Samawat of Berlin and Chicago Williams, we are introducing an exciting new BBQ concept to Frankfurt, a hotel and restaurant with a roof terrace and 130 rooms. Later next year or early 2021, we are opening a second Roomers in Frankfurt! Like its namesake and predecessor, Roomers ParkView will be an iconic, stylistic hotel. Piero Lissoni, who has designed it, has set new standards for this building, with a beautiful interior design, a new signature restaurant and all over 19 floors in Frankfurt’s popular Westend district – it’s exciting!
Have you considered developing your Provocateur project? There are only a few rather similar projects which have succeeded (Les Bains Hotel, Costes, Buddha Bar Hotel – all in Paris).
Such an extraordinary brand always has to match the surroundings and the property itself: at Provocateur, Paris of the golden twenties meets urban, modern-day Berlin. This concept works for only a few real estate sites – in Berlin the circumstances were perfect: we have a house from the pre-war period, with stucco high ceilings and an original Art Nouveau elevator etc. . Investors who are interested in breathing life into a similar project and in an exciting metropolis are welcome to call me.
Are there any specific business segments into which you are seeking to expand? What competitive advantages do you enjoy for investors or developers?
We have developed into a lifestyle brand at a level that people trust and follow us. Everything is possible – with our partners we have intensive, very personal collaborations to develop innovative products. From the scented candles, yoga mats and power banks to our own Aqua Monaco tonic water we see our commitment as part and parcel of our products, which are inspired 100% by our concept. Our latest creation is a strictly limited Harley-Davidson motorcycle with a matching biker jacket, which we have custom designed in cooperation with Alpha Industries.
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