Sylvain Ercoli, the luxury hotelier with an impressive career managing iconic properties
In an exclusive interview with CPP-LUXURY.COM, Sylvain Ercoli, currently the General Manager of the Bvlgari Hotel & Residences in London, shares his views on today’s luxury hospitality and the key to success for a career in luxury hospitality management. His management tenures included the Ritz in Paris, George V in Paris, The Saint Gerain in Mauritius, Hotel Martinez in Cannes, Le Crillon in Paris and Le Royal Monceau in Paris.
Your career in hospitality spans almost 3 decades, having managed several of the world’s most prestigious hotels, including, presently, the Bulgari Hotel & Residences, London. Where do you source your continued motivation and which are your favourite aspects about running a hotel?
Having only been associated with the very best hotels throughout my career remains a huge source of motivation, along with my drive to make every hotel I run a success. A hotel is the only place I know where you can create lasting memories as a result of interaction with both your team and guests, and where you can witness a guest’s satisfaction immediately.
What are the key attributes for a successful hotelier in today’s extremely competitive market, especially in cities like London? How has the role of a hotel manager changed since your position at The Ritz Hotel in Paris in the early 80’?
Actually nothing has changed about the role of a hotel manager in the top luxury hotels since I was Manager at the Ritz. You have to have a passion for people, whether they are your clients or the colleagues that you manage, the ability to think big and an extraordinary eye for detail. The luxury hotel is like haute couture and requires not only the know-how but a sense of savoir vivre. It is not enough to understand what your client wants today but more important to understand what they will want tomorrow.
The Bulgari Hotel & Residences, London is the first newly built luxury hotel in central London in over 40 years – some would consider such a project as a dream, not having the constraints of an existing building. Which are the defining elements that you were thus able to incorporate in the hotel and you are most proud of?
As a result of being a newly built hotel, we have some of the largest rooms and suites in the market and seven Bulgari Suites (presidential suites). Generosity of space is something that every hotelier dreams of, along with being able to fill the space of course. The size of our public areas is also generous. We offer a 2000sqm spa, a Cinema and a Ballroom that sits across an entire floor. Another element to be proud of has to be the fact that I was personally able to choose every single member of my team.
How does luxury relate to lifestyle in hospitality? How much of the Bulgari Hotels & Resorts concept is about lifestyle?
Luxury relates to lifestyle in hospitality by offering all the possible services that our clients expect from a luxury hotel at any time of the day or night. For example, a business man would expect to find a fully serviced business centre with boardrooms and round-the-clock secretarial services. Bulgari exudes luxury and the intention is not to impose a lifestyle, rather to evoke the lifestyle associated with the brand.
Bulgari was among the first luxury brands from a different sector to develop a hotel and other fashion houses followed suit. What are the key elements which have contributed to the success of the Bulgari Hotels & Resorts and which are the key differentiating factors?
The key element that has contributed to the success of the Bulgari Hotels & Resorts and therefore to the Bulgari Hotel & Residences, London specifically is the craftsmanship. Every single component of the hotel, designed by Antonio Citterio, is of the absolute highest quality. Guests will find that the DNA of the brand has been communicated through this quality of craftsmanship rather than through excessive ‘branding’ and that is key.
How important is the heritage of the House of Bulgari brand for the Bulgari Hotel brand and how is that reflected in a Bulgari hotel?
The Bulgari heritage is hugely important and the hotel itself is a perfect expression of the Bulgari aesthetic of timeless glamour. The design, quality of service and the exceptional facilities all contribute to the uncompromising sense of excellence that Bulgari has built its reputation on.
Many of the exterior and interior design features of the hotel in London instil a residential feel. Tell us more about your target and positioning.
The understated luxury and residential feel of the hotel is entirely intentional and inspired by the local area of Knightsbridge. We deliberately broke away from the tradition of ‘the revolving door’ in order to offer guests the sense of walking into their own homes. This residential feel continues throughout the hotel. Bulgari Suites feature their own kitchens, dining rooms, fireplaces so that a guest may really treat it as a home away from home.
The Bulgari Hotel & Residences, London has a wealth of innovative features such as a cigar shop and sampling lounge and a cinema. What was the inspiration behind these features?
The inspiration was simply to offer the most exceptional facilities to our guests. Our Cinema may be a fairly unique offering at the moment but I believe that all hotels will follow suit and incorporate screening rooms sooner or later. It is as the spa concept was throughout the late 80s and 90s and now there is hardly a hotel in London without a spa offering. It is incredibly important to stay ahead of the game at this high level of luxury. We are welcoming guests who are used to such exceptional facilities even in their own homes so we have to ensure that their needs are catered to when they visit.
The Bulgari Spa features the largest swimming pool of any luxury hotel in central London. Why was a large swimming pool and SPA so important?
These days people define luxury as space. We only have 85 rooms and suites but we offer a 25m swimming pool and a 2000sqm spa. Again, we are welcoming the kind of international clientele who are likely to have large swimming pools at home so it is important to meet expectations.
Technology has been overtaking luxury hospitality too, with many hotels aiming for a competitive edge by introducing all the latest technological features. What is your view on this?
I am a big believer in the latest technology as long as it is hidden yet accessible. Technology should enhance the guest experience and not complicated it. So often you visit a hotel where you need a degree just to figure out how to use the shower. Here at the Bulgari Hotel & Residences, London it is simple and works well. We also offer complimentary Wi-Fi.
How important is it for the Bulgari Hotel & Residences, London to be part of London’s local community and attract locals, either to its F&B or SPA?
It is of extreme importance and we are very pleased with how the last six months since opening has gone. We have been well received by London and can see the interest continue to grow.