Luxury Hospitality Daily News

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“I think that in the hospitality industry, we are often a little locked into our own little worlds, our own little circles, and it's important to open up and understand how the luxury world as a whole is evolving, how we can draw inspiration from LVMH, Chanel, Hermès…” says Nathalie Seiler-Hayez


“I think that in the hospitality industry, we are often a little locked into our own little worlds, our own little circles, and it's important to open up and understand how the luxury world as a whole is evolving, how we can draw inspiration from LVMH, Chanel, Hermès…” says Nathalie Seiler-Hayez

Category: Europe - Switzerland -
Article written by Vanessa Guerrier-Buisine on 2023-06-23

After a flawless career in the luxury hospitality industry, Nathalie Seiler-Hayez is taking over the reins of the Swiss Deluxe Hotels association, which brings together the 39 most prestigious five-star hotels in Switzerland. She will succeed Jan Brucker, who will run the association until 26 June 2023, the date of the General Meeting to be held in Interlaken, Switzerland.

NathalieSeiler-Hayezfell in love with the world of hotels at a very young age, growing up with a father who was a traveller and the creator of “L’Hotel & Travel Index”, “a benchmark”, recalls Nathalie, a quarterly guide to the world's hotels that predates the Internet.

The young Swiss woman grew up in a hotel environment, visiting palaces and living a “little girl's dream”, without knowing what went on behind the scenes. “I've always loved the hotel atmosphere. When you've been there as a child, you walk into a lobby, hear that piano and so on. There are certain symbols like that, that I knew when I was young, and that I've always loved”, she recalls.

Thanks to her caring, people-oriented personality, she was soon drawn to the hotel business. A 1995 graduate of the EHL Hospitality Business School,she left Switzerland right from the beginning of her career to join the sales and marketing department of the Hôtel Lutetia in Paris. Fascinated by “American efficiency”, she flew to New York to join Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. The shock of 11 September 2001 prompted her to return to the warmth of Europe. When Xavier Le Ru, then General Manager of the Hôtel du Louvre in Paris, offered her a position as second in command, she seized the opportunity to fully immerse herself in the challenges and operational realities of hotel management.

It was in Paris that she had her first experience of general management, at the Radisson Blu Hotel Champs-Élysées, Paris. It was an excellent learning experience for her, as she now manages around fifty rooms and a restaurant. Each expense has a tangible, visible impact. Belonging to a group gave her a vision of the figures, with key indicators that she handled brilliantly. Driven by her desire to eventually manage a luxury hotel, she took the gamble of moving to Bordeaux to open the Regent Grand Hôtel in Bordeaux (now InterContinental Bordeaux). It was a fulfilling three years, but her dream of a grand palace in a major capital led her to London, where she took over the reins of the newly refurbished Connaught. While the cosmopolitan atmosphere and unique vibrancy of London life delighted her, family life and the need to get back to nature and sport prompted her to return to the Swiss landscapes. She fulfilled a childhood dream by taking over the management of a hotel she holds dear, the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne. It was the start of a Swiss adventure that would take her all the way to the top of the Swiss Deluxe Hotels association, where she would officially take over the helm on 26 June 2023.

Luxury hotels, a theatre world

The hotel business is like a theatre. You have this back office with all these different trades and enthusiasts. You meet craftsmen, […] chefs, sommeliers, etc., a whole group of passionate people who like to pass on their knowledge. When you understand the role of each person, and how all these different trades manage to communicate and work together to create this experience, it's fabulous”, she enthuses, still thinking about the magic of her profession.

The blending of all these personalities, in a perpetual quest for excellence, seduces and stimulates her.
The world of luxury hotels is full of emotion for her, who sees a luxury hotel as “an exceptional place, full of history, inspiring where you feel good, a bubble out of time that will give you real experiences with an authentic service that is tailor-made, discreet, caring, where excellence reigns. A place that will always hold a place in your heart”.

The Beau-Rivage Palace adventure

Discovering what goes on behind the scenes was all the more poignant for the woman who “loves people and loves to please”, as her latest assignment marks a return to her roots, at the Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne. At the hotel that so inspired her when she was young, she is experiencing a major renovation. Having already opened in Bordeaux, this new adventure is all the more rewarding for her.

“Once again, working with different trades, drawing up financial plans and making projections that will deliver a return on investment is a massive undertaking, and one that also brings the teams together. These are powerful moments in a career”. The Beau-Rivage renovation came at the height of Covid-19, and “I was extremely lucky to have a board of directors that completely supported me”, she recalls.

It's a trust that honours Nathalie. “When you decide to invest in the hospitality industry, you can't afford to make any mistakes because the sums involved are always large and the projects long-term,” she recalls.

She will be spending seven years at Le Beau Rivage, “it's a cycle” she thinks. There is a need to take a step back and be less operational. “My deputy, Benjamin Chemoul, was extraordinary, and he took over the reins. It was extremely important for me to come full circle,” she adds.

New challenges for Swiss Deluxe Hotels

She will now devote all her experience and expertise to Swiss Deluxe Hotels, an association for which she has real ambitions. “This Swiss luxury organisation, which was founded in 1936, is here to defend the codes of luxury in the Swiss hospitality industry. 39 of our finest palaces are members of the association,” she explains.

While the primary objective of the association, and of Nathalie, is to “raise the profile of the hospitality industry on an international scale”, attention is also paid to the individuality of each property. “This is a time when we need each other. If you don't belong to a group like Four Seasons, Mandarin or others, it's critical to be able to exchange ideas”, she points out.

The Swisswoman, obviously an expert in the specific cultural characteristics of her country, aims to offer Swiss hoteliers personalised support. “Switzerland is not part of the European Community, which can make it difficult to bring in trainees and employees. In addition, Switzerland has problems with accommodation and the high value of the Swiss franc. These are all very specific issues,” she explains.

She has already set the course for this new mission, which will focus on the well-being and wellness of staff and guests, on integrating and adapting Swiss Deluxe member hotels to the current and future wave of technology, and finally, on raising the profile of the Swiss luxury hospitality industry internationally, notably through prestigious co-branding.

Enhancing the appeal of the profession

Aware that there is a lack of interest in the profession, she believes that it is vital to make the hotel and restaurant professions more desirable. In her view, the hospitality industry has always been a little rigid, and we need to make it more agile and flexible. “Luxury doesn't mean uptightness, and codes of conduct have changed considerably, as have the expectations of both guests and staff,” she insists.

Nathalie Seiler-Hayez is unquestionably passionate about her job, and wants to make the sirens of the hospitality industry sing. In her eyes, it's still a dream world: “Who can claim to organise Phil Collins' wedding or welcome Xi Jinping? We live moments in sublime settings, without routine, extraordinary. We are happiness merchants. Likewise, we give our guests moments they will remember, sometimes for the rest of their lives”, she enthuses.

Attracting guests seeking holistic well-being

While the profession needs to challenge itself and find new ways of attracting and retaining talent, it also needs to rethink its vision of well-being.

“The wellness dimension seems to me to be extremely important. UHNWI don't want to grow old, they want to be in shape. We've been lulled into the world of spas and massages for 30 years, and now guests are looking for a transformation,” she says.
With guests looking for physical and psychological well-being, hotels must rethink their role.The hotel is a setting that can accommodate a myriad of body and mind experts.

While it's true that guests are looking for luxury, according to Nathalie Seiler-Hayez, it can also be intangible:“to have time, space, to take care of ourselves both mentally and physically, to share real moments with people we care about. Rediscovering authenticity in our relationships and in the products we consume. Live a unique, exclusive experience that you'll remember for the rest of your life”.

Adapting to technological advances

Another major challenge for the Swiss luxury hospitality industry, according to Nathalie, is digital technology and innovation. While she does not wish to speculate on future behaviour, she does wonder about the impact that artificial intelligence in particular will have on practices. Will guests want to book with ChatGPT? How can technology be harnessed without losing the quintessential human element of the luxury hospitality business? These are just some of the questions that Swiss Deluxe Hotels aims to answer through its dedicated platform.

Spicing up luxury hotels with cobranding

Nathalie doesn't stop at these three key points. She believes that working together with other luxury players is key to the harmonious development of the luxury hospitality industry.

As soon as she started working at the Connaught in London, Nathalie formed partnerships with other luxury brands. She draws her inspiration from these luxury brands and the contacts she makes. “I think that in the hospitality industry, we are often a little locked into our own little boxes, our own little circles, and it's very important to be able to open up and understand how the world of luxury as a whole is evolving, how we can draw inspiration from LVMH, Chanel, Hermès, etc.”

Having observedthat luxury brands come to recruit talent from the hospitality industry for their know-how, it seems legitimate to break down the barriers between professions and to draw inspiration from the innovations of these luxury brands.

That's why it has entered into a partnership with Burberry, a brand that is already very committed to the digital shift. The British tailor, who wanted to get back to basics, has made its famous mackintoshes available to guests in the Connaught suites. “Occasionally, on rainy days, we'd find ourselves at reception with guests all wearing their Burberry raincoats. It was a way for the brand to touch their customers differently. And it was an extremely beneficial partnership for both parties,” she recalls.

It's a model that she hopes to apply to Swiss Deluxe Hotels. The association has already launched a partnership with Audi. Partnerships that it hopes to develop further, both locally and internationally.

As we prepare to say goodbye to Nathalie Seiler-Hayez, who is ready to embrace the new challenges presented to her by Swiss hoteliers, the next director of the Swiss Deluxe Hotels association shares her advice to a young person wishing to enter the world of luxury hotels. For her, there is no doubt: “You have to work hard, believe in yourself and not be afraid to dare. Finally, choose who you work for – it's not just the company. You need people whose mission is to develop you and not, above all, to use you to make themselves shine. Choose a good leader”, she stresses. It's advice she has applied to herself throughout a career rich in the experiences and encounters she loves so much.

More about...
Swiss Deluxe Hotels
Seestrasse 18
CH-8702 Zurich


About the author

As a journalist and luxury hotel expert inspired by the men and women who embody it, Vanessa aspires to enhance and sublimate the beauty and elegance of palaces through her writing. "In a palace, simplicity serves the quest for excellence" she admires.

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