Luxury hospitality, Made in Italy – an exclusive interview with Baglioni Hotels CEO

Guido Polito, CEO of Italian luxury hotel chain Baglioni Hotels speaks to CPP-LUXURY.COM, exclusively, about the legacy to run his family owned business and about the Italian Art of Welcoming.

How has luxury hospitality changed since 1973 when your father created the Baglioni Hotels? Which are the most important changes in terms of what defines luxury service, facilities as well as the way luxury hotels are sold and promoted? Have your core target markets changed?

In 1973 the concept of luxury hospitality was more related to the opulence and  magnificence of the ambience as well to the wealth of services provided. Staying in a five star luxury hotel, for leisure or for business, was like a status symbol.  Now people have a different concept of luxury in mind. Guests require standards of ambience and service which are appropriate for a five-star hotel and something more.  They wish to live a 360° degree experience  during their stay. This is way  it’s important to offer parallel services inside the hotel like high level restaurants with Chefs that propose signature dishes  or barmen that create unique cocktails, to let guests embrace a sense of uniqueness.  I think that understanding  and exceeding customer expectations is the key factor to respect the new concept luxury.

In the past luxury hotels were sold mostly through traditional channels. Luxury travelers preferred to rely on  travel agents  and Tour Operators that arranged for them all the aspect of the travel. Now, even if there is still a huge part of people that  ask for the advice of experts travel agents, travelers are more independent. Therefore it  is crucial to create a balanced mix between on line channels, travel agencies and Tour Operators  for sale and promotion.

In terms of communication, we have tried to differentiate and innovate, for example supporting, a blog for Italian lovers, edited by an independent editorial staff. After realizing the difficulty to collect quality information and suggestions, at the same time useful, efficient and continuously updated for a person organizing a trip to Italy or looking for good quality news about Italian beauty,  we have decided to sponsor the creation of a real bonding with international travelers and Italy passionate and offer selected suggestions for a unique Italian experience.

Our target markets have changed mostly  after the crisis that is affecting USA and Europe in the last few years.  In terms of nationality we are seeing a rise of clients coming from Russia and UAE,  as well as from the BRIC countries.

What is your predominant business model for the existing properties? (owning and/or operating) What about future openings?

During the last few years we have been changing the company from owner/operator model to operator only and now we manage our hotels predominantly through lease agreements and management agreements

Which international luxury hotel chains would you consider your 3 competitive set?

It is difficult to identify 3 competitive set as they vary depending on the destination.

In cities like Rome, Florence or Milan where you are present, international hotel operators such as Jumeirah,  Melia or St Regis have recently opened new properties. What are your company’s competitive advantages in terms of providing an authentic Italian experience?

We are recognized ambassador of Italian Art of Welcoming  since the beginning of our history. After many years of experience in the hotellerie world we found that the authentic Italian experience could be resumed in the warm Italian welcome.  An authentic and friendly but never invasive approach to our guests, a deep respect to local traditions,  a real passion for all the  expressions of the Made in Italy , from the food, to the wine, to hand crafted furniture and details: all these elements are part of our philosophy and we do our best to maintain them alive.

For your first hotel outside Europe, you opted for Marrakech, a destination which is currently over-supplied in luxury hospitality. Please share your view.

We know that Marrakech now is a trendy destination  and many luxury hotel chains are opening a property there. Anyway, we will differentiate bringing our vision and authentic Italian style  in the Middle East: an interaction of art, design, architecture, culture and history, distinguished by the fusion of the highest quality brand partners, each visionary leaders in their own specialist field: Ajensa (property development) ,  Six Senses Spa  (spa management), Patrick Genard (architect of the project) , Rebosio + Spagnulo  (interior design), CEPM (landscape architecture).  Welcomed into this most private and exclusive of destinations, hotel guests and residents will enjoy beautiful contemporary design and sensitive yet modern architecture.

Have you ever considered launching a second brand, with a lower positioning? – many international chains are using this as a leverage in signing third party management agreements.

For the moment we have never thought to launch a second brand with a lower positioning.

Our efforts are geared towards a constant improvement of our offer in the luxury segment.

To what extent is your brand related to luxury lifestyle?

We are closely related to luxury lifestyle. From fashion, to eno-gastronomy and well-being, we offer lifestyle experiences in house and not only, also thanks to partnership with selected brands that share our vision, always  respecting each destination peculiarity. Inside the Carlton Hotel Baglioni,  Milan, for example,  we have  Amaranto Boutique, a concept store of true handcraft and high quality Made in Italy creations. We like to open our properties to the cities where they are located: an aperitif, a vernissage, a book presentation become opportunities to meet people that share our passion and values.

Regina Junior Suite at Regina Baglioni Hotel, Rome – Italy