Ritz Carlton’s ambitions in Europe – exclusive interview with Sandeep Walia, VP Europe

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed Mr Sandeep Walia, Market Vice President EuropeThe Ritz Carlton Hotel Company LLC , Bulgari Hotels and Edition Hotels

Which is the performing Ritz Carlton hotel in Europe (past 3 years)? Tell us more about near future openings.

Within the European region Hotel Arts Barcelona and The Ritz-Carlton, Moscow are consistently high performers in average rate and occupancy .They have the largest number of rooms and are both located in gateway destinations.

Prior to the end of this year, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. will open the doors to six new luxury hotels in its growing global portfolio. Spectacular properties in Chengdu and Tianjin will bring the number of hotels in China to ten; the opulent Ritz-Carlton hotels in Almaty, Herzliya and Bangalore will mark the brand’s entry into Israel, Kazakhstan and India; and Aruba will also be added to the portfolio.

You opened last year in Vienna, a market which is seeing an oversupply in luxury hotels. What is your strategic approach to maintain rates and this profitability?

The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna is a hotel which complements the hotel supply in the city bringing together a traditional building and very central location combined with the excellent service levels characteristic of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company . Global travelers  loyal to the brand are now choosing the destination for their leisure and business needs.

In the case of your Vienna property, the interior design is very much typical for a JW Marriott, not the usual classic design of a Ritz Carlton property, even though you have a very classic / heritage location?

The interiors of The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna are consistent with preserving elements of the historic building and incorporating contemporary design elements to reflect a sense of place. The designer Peter Silling explored omnipresent  traditions and incorporated them into contemporary Vienna .The listed elements of the buildings required careful refurbishing whereas other areas allowed for a more radical redesign. The interaction of old and new creates a unique look and invites the guest to explore the hotel and its intricacies The Ring symbol is incorporated into the interiors together with natural elements of flowers and plants found in the nearby Stadtpark.

 Is there a specific interior design DNA which Ritz Carlton remains loyal too, or shall we expect to see properties with diverse type of interior design?

For the last decade, The Ritz-Carlton design team has produced specifications for one individually designed and curated hotel after the next. The Ritz-Carlton hotel in Philadelphia saw a new era of converted and preserved heritage spaces. The Hotel Arts in Barcelona is an example in Europe of a contemporary design reflecting the city’s artistic heritage .The design philosophy is defined as “consistently inconsistent.” Each new project gives us an opportunity to create the best hotel within its environment that provides a true sense of place.

In Europe, Ritz Carlton is not present in key market destinations such as Italy or France. Do you have plans for expansion in these countries?

We are constantly looking for opportunities to expand the brand presence in Europe. Both Italy and France are source markets for the brand and although we do not have any specific announcements at present we are studying  options throughout the region.

Increased competition has brought a demand from guests for renovations faster than before. Which European properties do you plan to renovate in the near future?

The Ritz-Carlton product is equally important as the excellent service delivered by The Ladies and Gentlemen of the individual properties and hotels within the portfolio are constantly undergoing improvements. In Europe The Ritz-Carlton , Wolfsburg is finalizing an extensive renovation program including the refurbishment  of rooms , the bar , the lobby and the three star Michelin restaurant Aqua  as well as the introduction of the Club concept.

In terms or development, when being approached by a developer/owner, which is your comp set?

The comp set is dependent on each individual property whether it is a city or resort location and determined individually , it would include international luxury brands if they are present in that market.