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INTERVIEW – GEORGE C. GAITANOS, CHIEF OPERATING & SCIENTIFIC OFFICER, CHENOT: “WHAT LUXURY IS ALL ABOUT, IS PRIORITIZING ON YOURSELF” (Switzerland)

Renowned for its programmes combining health and well-being, Chenot delivers experiences where it is necessary to strike a balance between guests who are stepping out of their comfort zone and who need attention and hospitality more than ever

INTERVIEW – GEORGE C. GAITANOS, CHIEF OPERATING & SCIENTIFIC OFFICER, CHENOT: “WHAT LUXURY IS ALL ABOUT, IS PRIORITIZING ON YOURSELF” (Switzerland)

Renowned for its programmes combining health and well-being, Chenot delivers experiences where it is necessary to strike a balance between guests who are stepping out of their comfort zone and who need attention and hospitality more than ever

Category: Europe - Switzerland - - Interviews
Interview made by Vanessa Guerrier-Buisine on 2023-09-08


George C. Gaitanos, Chenot's Chief Operating & Scientific Officer

George C. Gaitanos, Chenot's Chief Operating & Scientific Officer
Photo credit © Chenot

Chenot is recognized the world over for its unique offering that connects health and well-being, for travellers searching for prolonged youthfulness. To live up to this promise, Chenot has set up its treatments in a setting that encourages guests to disconnect and feel good.

At Chenot Palace Weggis, travellers are welcomed as if they were staying in a luxury hotel, with a few exceptions. Here, gastronomy is necessarily combined with the programmes chosen by guests. For example, menus are low-calorie, and guests are not allowed to consume alcohol with their meals. In the bedrooms, the same principle applies: the space and equipment are designed exclusively to promote the effectiveness of the programmes.

On the other hand, even more than in a luxury hotel, Chenot Palace has to rely on caring, patient staff to support its guests, whose bodies are put to the test.

Following the passing of its emblematic founder Henri Chenot, the group now benefits from the expertise of a scientist at its head. George C. Gaitanos, who holds a doctorate in muscular metabolism, is well versed in helping top-level athletes get back into shape.

To understand the Chenot method and the secrets of its success, the Journal des Palaces spoke to George C. Gaitanos, Chenot's Chief Operating & Scientific Officer.

Journal des Palaces: How would you describe the Chenot Palace Weggis, and what is the Chenot DNA?

George C. Gaitanos Chenot Palace Weggis is a destination, a health & wellness retreat. People are coming with a purpose. So first they need to book their programme, we need to accept them because there are sometimes some contraindications to doing the programme. Then they can book their room. It's a complete reverse process to what happens in other places, where you book your room, and then you find the spa and everything.

We call it a health wellness retreat, but it can also be called a health wellness clinic, as we are talking about promoting our health, improving our functionality and becoming more resilient.
People want to do things for themselves, so they need a nice environment. Here, we have the hotel, the services, all the people who are all around them, with warmth. We have created environments where our guests can actually experience the method or the treatments that we do, in a pleasant environment and this is the design, the architecture that needs to speak to their senses.

It must make our clients feel good. Whether they are hoteliers or health professionals, our teams work together in synergy very well. Delivering this is delivering the promise.

What is your vision of luxury?

What luxury is all about, is prioritizing on yourself, spending time with meaning, whether this is called experiences or creating memories. At the end of the day, you just want to be functional.

In Weggis, younger people are coming, and I'm very happy to see this because they start prioritizing on themselves. They become even more selfish in a good way, taking care of themselves because they do understand that they can be more productive, they can give more meaning to their life. They understand that, as they age, they age better and well.

I think this is what luxury is all about. Prioritizing yourself, finding the time to get things done. I think time is actually what is all about.

After a career with athletes mostly, why did you join Chenot?

I was also doing other things, I was managing health clubs, like the Nike's Health Club in Athens. I created a small health club of my own, and I provided services to people. There were people who were prioritizing on their work, they had a lot of stress. But they did understand that they're exhausting their battery of life, and therefore, needed to make a turn, prioritize on themselves.

Coming to Chenot, it was the same kind of environment and clientele. The DNA was very important. We're sharing the same direction. I think both what Mr Chenot created, and I, we were on the same kind of line and power.

Here, we can try to make people make the most out of life. It was an opportunity for me to come over.

Today, you have a Chenot Palace in Switzerland, the Weggis, and one in Azerbaijan, the Gabala. How do you choose your destinations, and do you have development projects, if so, in which destinations?

When I first joined, Chenot was based in Lugano, it was just an office. When the opportunity came to have a palace in Switzerland, here in Lake Lucerne, then obviously we moved the offices. This is a great opportunity for our international company because we are managing better the facility here. We have a great showroom to show our work to potential investors. Here, we do all our research and innovation, we're trying new things that we apply, and then we export them to other places.

The Azerbaijan Project was aimed to attracting the Russian market, those who cannot enter the EU and Switzerland.

We have certain locations planned that I cannot reveal. We are also in a planning phase in Spain, in Marbella.

Why refer to a Palace rather than a clinic?

I think “clinic”, in people's mind, is all needs to deal with diseases. Here, it's only about promoting your health. So, the fewer words you use from the past, and try to find new wording, like the health Wellness concept, the better it is.

It’s care, at the very highest level. We are dealing with the individual, this is very important. The body is a system, not individual parts. When you go to a clinic, there's the specific. But here, we're dealing with Wellness and Wellness is a system, is the whole body. You cannot disconnect the mind and body. It's all one thing, when you're creating emotions, you make an impact on the body, and you can create a trauma. When you are doing something on the body, you are affecting the mind.

Does it mean that luxury hospitality in its wide sense is good for people, as luxury hospitality creates emotions and nice experiences?

I think creating experiences, yes. But, if you drink two bottles of champagne, and you eat a fat meal, this is not a good experience. You might be feeling good, but what this translates into the body is a different story.

Do your customers have any requirements in terms of in-room comfort? What attention do you pay to the hotel experience as a complement to the Chenot programs?

The hospitality offer is great, luxurious accommodation, at different levels, from single rooms to suites. The design is minimalistic, our architect Davide Macullo works a lot on the perception of space. Our clients want a space where they are really promoting their good hormones, to experience Wellness and also deliver with the treatments in the best possible way. When you go out of your comfort zone, emotionally, you can become aggressive, in the first few days. You really need to have the right people to deal with the situation, and you want to be within a space where you can actually manage your situation.

Food is also part of our method. Imagine reducing your daily intake to 850 calories. So we create an emotional experience. This is very important. Our service is comparable to a Michelin-starred restaurant. Our chef, Ettore Michele Moliteo, and his team create fantastic vegan menus to encourage this emotional experience. The way the dishes are prepared and the care taken with the art of the table also mean that our customers are well looked after.

What are your customer profiles? What percentage of your customers are repeaters?

We have many repeaters, around 60% of people. They're coming, sometimes twice a year.
They are people who want to do something good for themselves, who understand the benefit of putting their body out of their everyday life, out of their comfort zone.

How do you compose your teams? What are the most sought-after profiles? Are there any personality traits you expect from your teams?

Because we are within the luxury hospitality sector, the challenge is, how do you make a medical doctor or health professional to understand what luxury hospitality is and how do you make a hotelier understand what medicine is.

When we employ people, we're looking for personalities, not necessarily just the skills, not just the expertise. You need the expertise to be there, particularly for a medical doctor, who needs the credentials. But primarily, we're searching for the right people to be communicative, to be able to get in touch with the clients, to understand them. This approach needs to be holistic, it needs to be authentic. These are very important things that we look at when we interview people.

Do you find these profiles easily?

No. We have a strong brand, so it could be different for us, but it's maybe more difficult for us because we're in a special environment, with the health issues. Many people from hospitality know us.

It is a big challenge nowadays. People are willing to work less, spend more time for themselves, they want to travel. I find that in young people, when I can be present in some interviews. Although it makes our job more difficult, I think it's very nice. It is a real change.


The Chenot Palace Weggis offers its guests a soothing setting on the shores of Lake Lucerne.

The Chenot Palace Weggis offers its guests a soothing setting on the shores of Lake Lucerne.
Photo credit © Roberto Pellegrini / Chenot Palace Wegiss




The Chenot Palace Weggis combines ultra-modern facilities with authentic surroundings
Photo credit © Roberto Pellegrini / Chenot Palace Wegiss



The rooms and suites at the Chenot Palace Weggis offer guests space and a refined decor.
Photo credit © Chenot Palace Wegiss



The rooms are also equipped with technology dedicated to optimising sleep.
Photo credit © Chenot Palace Wegiss



The bathrooms have also been designed to enhance guests' well-being
Photo credit © Chenot Palace Wegiss



Here, low-calorie menus are delivered in a gastronomic and experiential setting
Photo credit © Chenot Palace Wegiss



More about...
Chenot Palace Wegiss
Hertensteinstrasse 34
6353 Weggis
Suisse
Groupe : Chenot
Number of rooms and suites: 97
Website



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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