“The devil is in the details’” said Nietzsche! Katya Pellegrino, founder and publisher of Luxe-Magazine, participated in a Q&A session to talk about the new service she launched last year: Luxury Consulting by LM.
Katya Pellegrino, the world of luxury and the press know you as the founder of Luxe Magazine, the very first digital magazine, created in 2004, dedicated to luxury and lifestyle, in French, English and Chinese. What are you working on today?
I've recently launched "Luxury Consulting by LM". A service derived from the experience I’ve gained over the past 15 years, by testing more than 600 high-end hotels across 5 continents, allowing me to establish a benchmark of "best practices" from which already several establishments that trusted me have benefitted. And I’m grateful for their confidence.
What were their needs?
An improvement in their services, to achieve excellence. You know, luxury hotels are facing more and more competition. Not only do they have to renew, but they should also differentiate themselves to satisfy the more demanding clients. My mission is to provide them with simple but innovative suggestions. Their enthusiasm was the starting point for me to create this new tailor-made service.
How do you operate?
Firstly, I analyze and adopt the DNA of the hotel and I put myself in the place of the hotel’s target clientele. Then I point out all the elements to improve, from the customer transfer, reception, accommodation, room service, food, spa, fitness to excursions. Not overlooking what contributes to well-being such as lighting, home automation ... And of course, the communication, ‘live’ and digital, from their customer loyalty policy to the website, the total package. As Nietzsche said: "The Devil is in the details"
What is the ultimate excellence to achieve according to you? How would you define it?
Can we really achieve it? I would say that the first objective remains to meet the needs and expectations of customers, by surprising them and especially to innovate. Making their dreams come true. To achieve this, tailor-made is the keyword!
Is excellence in the luxury hotel industry the same for a 5-star hotel in Paris, Saint-Tropez, or even Singapore?
There is only one thing, whether it's a boutique hotel, a 5-star luxury hotel or a palace, wherever you are, the experience must create a, what I call, “wow” effect!
What, according to you, are the general expectations of a luxury hotel guest?
Did you know that there are 1.4 billion tourists in the world? We talk a lot about customization, but do we need to define this? The most important thing is to know the needs and preferences of the customer in advance. Which means to have a detailed questionnaire available to submit to the customer before his arrival, with questions like if this is his first stay in the hotel, if the trip is for business or pleasure, in couple or family, if he is interested in art, fashion, design, music, architecture, sports. With this information, the hotel can better advise the client about activities in- and around the hotel. Or even, in a more prosaic way, what’s his size, to ensure that the bathrobe and slippers in the room are the right sizes. "My wife loves apple juice, she practices Pilates” and I read The Guardian regularly. My son is allergic to goose feathers. " All these details help to truly personalize the welcome and stay in the hotel. In one word: anticipate!
For my part, it also often happens to me to find the slippers or bathrobe too small or too big and rough and scratchy towels too!
What do you think are services that should really be improved? In France for example ...
The welcome. The client should be welcomed in his room or suite and not at the reception desk. Thanks to the questionnaire I mentioned before, the reception in the room can be optimized. It is important to create a welcoming living space, not a lobby. To be able to serve the customer his favorite drink upon arrival in his room, while waiting for the luggage to be delivered and unpacked, seems to me the ABC’s of service. This also applies to the products in the room ... todays’ hotels should focus more on organic brands. To be eco-responsible, all establishments should, without exception, replace plastic bottles with biodegradable bottles.
In France, we are lucky to have a rich cultural heritage of craftsmen renowned for tailor-made solutions and incredible know-how. We should use this advantage with our international clientele. Like the Meurice hotel with its ‘Collectors Promenade’ or the ‘Dandy Salon’ at the Plaza Athénée, exhibiting brands specialized in tailor-made.
According to you, where in the world do luxury hotels qualify as excellent?
In Asia ... they have a spontaneous sense of warm hospitality, ultimate service and an eye for detail. In a natural and simple way.
You mentioned "simple but innovative solutions". What’s your advice for innovation?
Based on my experience, I suggest improvements and novelties adapted to the hotel’s DNA. It’s important to stay up to date with the developments in AI and home automation while in the meantime keeping it simple. Because who hasn’t experienced the nightmare of a hidden light switch or battled to open the tap in the shower? Thanks to Luxe Magazine I stay informed about the latest trends and I can match hotels to the right entrepreneurs because I meet them daily during my interviews. And ‘wow’ they are creative!
Do you have a concrete example to give us?
Recently I met a start-up, proposing a new concept of micro-mist spray, as well as the creation of an olfactory identity for any type of establishment. This is an excellent alternative to the scented candles which are supposed to have an impact on health, but, I must admit, I often use myself! Or the new software which makes it possible to have, in just two minutes, your full micronutrients report.
Does the world of luxury change as fast as a current society or are there unchangeable benchmarks? What are the most significant changes you witnessed in the last 20 years?
The change in luxury has been going on for more than 20 years. Previously, there was a need for social recognition, belonging to an elite, linked to social status and professional success. These values have changed. The focus is now more on the family, its roots and authenticity. We like to “feel at home” when staying in a hotel. The demand for villas marks this change, the desire to be at home while enjoying the services of a hotel. An example of this trend is CEO Patrice Binet Descamp, from the Constance Group. He was the first to build the villas of Belle Mare Plage in Mauritius more than 13 years ago! A pioneer in this field but clearly on the right track given its success!
For what kind of hotels do you work? Urban, mountain, resorts, in France, Europe or international?
For any type of upscale hotel, independent or belonging to a group, a neutral and objective outside view is important. Every director, of course, has his own experience. But thanks to my benchmark, I can add the extras and provide a wider range of solutions.
I help directors to identify the needs of their hotel and I then take the time - something directors often lack - to thoroughly examine each service or place. The idea is to be constructive and positive while working on three axes: decoration/equipment, service, and targeted clientele.
What’s the best compliment you received after one of your missions?
I don’t really like to talk about myself. What pleases me most is the enthusiasm and satisfaction of the hotel directors who implemented my proposals and see the results. But in other people’s view, I probably incarnate this feminine sensibility with a curiosity that is never satisfied, allowing me to offer the hotels the insights I’ve gained with my 15 years’ hotel testing experience with Luxe Magazine.
How do you see the future for luxury hotels?
In full evolution! Going far beyond the concept of hosting, with one keyword: innovation, but always in relation to human contact, the quintessence of luxury!
What palace or luxury hotel would you dream of auditing?
I just want to give my modest contribution to all these wonderful hotels or palaces to help them to fine-tune their services and the experiences. But of course, I prefer the ones I can help to become a reference in this luxury market (smile)!
And finally, for you the same question you ask all the people you interview ... What’s your definition of luxury?
For me, luxury is a state of mind, living and feeling life at its fullest! Total freedom of choice without any obstacle. A dream!
Sylvie Leroy, enthusiastic publisher since 1999 Her passion for luxury hospitality - a score performed by a fantastic Orchestra as she often says - led Sylvie Leroy to build in 2004 Journal des Palaces the sole online daily news dedicated to luxury hospitality with news, jobs, directories and resources. Get the news, communicate about your company, connect with professionals, and recruit with useful tools and services.