The Peninsula Paris, a lesson on why reputation must be earned and not ‘achieved’

Similarly to any other luxury sector, hospitality is defined by the quality of product and service, as well as the innovative edge which makes each brand stand apart in a fast growing competitive market. In theory, when setting out to enter a new market, any luxury brand should carefully consider all financial specifics in order to evaluate business feasibility. Maintaining exclusivity through desirability is also crucial. Another denominator of all luxury sectors is lifestyle and how consumer relate to lifestyle.

When stepping into an Hermes store or a Patek Philippe boutique, whether in Shanghai or Paris, consumers have very precise expectations in terms of service and product, which the brands are well aware of. Beyond replicating the interior design, offering the the same quality service in both cities is a must from the day the first customer steps into the store. And it is not only about the expertise of the products but also about personalization, which can only be achieved by understanding and recording each detail about the preferences and tastes of consumers.

Depending on the challenges of the respective market, especially those related to human resources, luxury brands often deploy staff from other established locations to new stores or, vice-versa, deploy staff of new stores to work temporarily at established stores. This exchange is aimed at understanding the DNA of the respective luxury brand.

Victoria Beckham who has been sensibly transforming its fashion icon status into a business venture by setting up her own fashion line has taken a few years to open her very first flagship store in her home city. She inaugurated her store in London’s prestigious Mayfair district, less than a month ago, with an understated interior design concept. And what surprised me was the fact that in all her interviews she stressed, very confidently, her emphasis on service, stating that, should a particular size or color not be available for a customer, it will be shipped in the shortest time, without any additional charges.

Whether it is a young brand or an established brand, luxury is also about passion – the passion to serve and the passion to fulfill dreams….

It was with great anticipation and with the highest expectations that I arrived, on a rainy and cold September morning at the brand new Peninsula in Paris. The renovation of the classic property, formerly the Majestic Hotel, is indeed impressive, with an abundance of luxurious materials and finishes. The L’Oiseau Blanc roof-top restaurant is probably the most romantic spot in Paris, with unparalleled views of the Eiffel Tower, impeccable food and flawless service. The Spa is beyond doubt the most luxurious among any other luxury hotels in Paris – it is also the largest, almost like a destination Spa within a resort hotel, which is unique in Paris. It boasts a lavish heated indoor pool, a state of the art gym and the finest treatment rooms.

From the staff uniforms, the beautiful white roses throughout the entire hotel, the state-of-the-art technology, the unlimited free international phone calls, the Spa feature of the bathrooms, the incredible sound-proofing, the nail polish dryer in the wardrobe of each room, to the timeless and understated elegance of the rooms and suites, it felt like Peninsula.

But something was missing. Could it be the DNA of the brand? or the legendary heartfelt passion to serve? or maybe the Peninsula spirit? Unfortunately, 95% of the Peninsula Paris team would not be able to answer the question, as they have never stayed at or, at least visited another Peninsula property.

The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Limited  did not open a Peninsula Hotel in yet another global metropolis, but in Paris, which has a much more powerful stance than Hong Kong, the present home of The Peninsula. Yet, I am certain that those at the helm of the company have realized the Peninsula Paris could have done without all the public relations hype and glossy magazine ads which achieved the status of the ”most anticipated opening in the world”, and, instead, earn its reputation, step by step, in a most humble manner.

A comprehensive photo and video gallery is available here.

Oliver Petcu in Paris

Majestic Hotel, Avenue Kleber – today, The Peninsula Paris