Launched in early 2021, The Set Collection brings together several carefully selected luxury hotels, comprising unique establishments, but driven by a common spirit.
To steer this ambitious group, Jean-Luc Naret was appointed general manager of the brand on October 1st. A seasoned hotelier, Jean-Luc Naret has unparalleled experience in the luxury sector: successively at the helm of very high-class resorts such as One&Only Le St Geran in Mauritius, One&Only Reethi Rah in the Maldives, The Residence Mauritius and Sandy Lane Barbados, he then served as general manager of the Michelin Guides worldwide, and then as CEO of La Réserve Hotels & Spas, where he was responsible for a collection of six hotels and five private residences with a team of 600 people.
Under his leadership, and in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis, which still strongly impacts the tourism and hotel industry in general, The Set Collection intends to establish itself as one of the key players in the luxury hotel industry.
In an exclusive interview with the Journal des Palaces, Jean-Luc Naret talks about his new challenges and the high goals he has set himself at the head of The Set Collection.
Le Journal des Palaces : You have just been appointed Executive Director of The Set Group. How do you think it differs from other prestigious groups you have worked with? Jean-Luc Naret : The Set Collection was founded by the four hotels in the group that are the founding members of this new collection of hotels. We are going to bring together in this new collection hotels that are similar to us and whose owners share the same passion for this profession. To offer our clients exceptional hotels in exceptional locations with exceptional service.
You like to say that you work more for people and not for groups. How did the management of The Set Group convince you?
I had the pleasure of meeting the owners of this group many years ago. I was fascinated by their vision and the colossal investments they made in their hotels to restore the lustre and splendour of establishments that had lost their lustre over the years. The renovation of the Lutetia by Jean-Michel Wilmotte lasted more than five years. 300 million euros were invested so that this Left Bank palace could regain all its splendor. For example, it took 17,000 hours of work for the restorers to bring out the original frescoes in our magnificent Bar Joséphine, which has become the place to be in St-Germain-des-Prés. With such a vision and passion, we were destined to work together when the right time came. And that time came last September.
What are the priority missions that you have been entrusted with within this group?
My first mission was to put in place a General Manager at the head of the Lutetia. This was done quickly, as Jean-Pierre Trévisan joined us on October 1st. Jean-Pierre has a solid experience of Parisian palaces, after his last years at the Rosewood Le Crillon and the previous ten years as Director of Operations at the Ritz. He is the perfect conductor to animate the different artists of our hotels and play our score with harmony and professionalism. My second mission is to put our hotels back at the top of the list for our travel agent partners and ensure that these independently known establishments can reflect our know-how and our future collection.
Can you describe the passion that drives you in this new challenge?
My passion has always been to develop new hotels and work with owners directly to help them realize their dreams in the hotel business. Today, I have the chance to help Mr. Georgi Akirov develop his hotel brand, but more importantly to create a new affiliate brand that will become, in a few years, one of the very beautiful affiliate brands, such as Leading, SLH or Relais et Châteaux.
Is this new challenge the biggest you've ever faced?
The challenges are all different and all equally exciting. Creating a resort on a sandbank in the Maldives, opening it two years later and being named one of the ten most beautiful hotels in the world, developing a collection of famous gastronomic guides (Michelin), developing it in the US and Asia and becoming a world reference in a short time, is as stimulating as creating a new world affiliation in the luxury hotel industry. You have to be a little crazy to dare to take on such challenges!
With the health crisis, do you think that the codes of luxury have evolved?
It is undeniable that during the health crisis, we missed the French art of living terribly. The closure of our meeting places, cafés, bars and restaurants as well as hotels due to lack of customers, had an impact on our morale and on this French art of living. The reopening of the hotels and restaurants undeniably gave a sign of hope that we could live again (almost normally) and our customers were very happy to see us again. This absence of several months created an important void for all and the reunion was sometimes festive. It is up to us hoteliers and restaurant owners to make sure that we always protect our teams and our customers from this virus that continues to circulate. With the mask, we all lose a part of our hospitality, but the smile is also seen through the eyes!
How do you view the current recruitment issues in the luxury hotel sector?
It's obvious that the health crisis has had a considerable impact on the hotel and restaurant industry, driving a large number of employees - between 20 and 30% according to estimates - away from the sector.
It is up to us to find new vocations, by going to schools to look for new graduates, and to offer them an attractive career path in this profession which is purely exciting and offers so many possibilities for young graduates. In addition, the environment of working in exceptional places, with a demanding but so rewarding clientele, gives this profession a sense of accomplishment that few other professions can offer. In each of the luxury hotel professions, each employee, whom we call "artist", has a score to play. The role of the general manager is to ensure that the artists play this beautiful symphony in harmony. Today, more and more of our artists come from the luxury industry. They come to us with their own experience and it is our responsibility to train them in the beauty of the luxury hotel business.
What is your definition of luxury?
Luxury is often defined by dictionaries as an expensive good or place, with a superfluous side. I prefer Coco Chanel's definition, which describes luxury as a lifestyle, not ostentation. She liked to say that luxury is not the opposite of poverty but the opposite of vulgarity.
My definition of luxury, for the hotel industry, is simply the description of a place where one feels good. We all have different expectations, and fortunately! Today luxury is that choice.
The luxury industry is today in full mutation and evolution, both in products and in the consumption of goods and services. You just have to look at the results of the big groups, such as LVMH, Kearing and Chanel to understand this incredible evolution of turnover. In our hotel business, luxury brands continue to grow and some will double or triple their number of hotels in the next three years. Private equity investments have never been so important in the luxury hotel industry. New hotel brands are being created on a regular basis, some of them directly from associations with well-known fashion brands. After Bvlgari, Armani, Baccarat, Versace and Missoni, perhaps we will soon see a Chanel hotel ?
A journalist for 20 years, Guillaume is a fan of exclusive places where comfort, quality of service and gastronomy are combined. All this, tinged with a simplicity and a smile that are the prerogative of the ultimate luxury.