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Q&A Duncan O'Rourke,
COO Kempinski Hotels

One of the industry's youngest COOs when he was appointed to the position at Kempinski five years ago, Duncan O'Rourke is the 'innovator to President & CEO Reto Wittwer's 'inspiration'. Since he took the role O'Rourke has been intent on consolidating Kempinski's expansion and ensuring brand excellence. O'Rourke has some impressive credentials. He was educated at the prestigious Cesar Ritz hotel school in Switzerland and also holds a European Executive MBA from Reims Management School. He has worked for a number of premium brands including Rosewood and Marco Polo in Washington, Moscow and Saudi Arabia and Mövenpick in Switzerland. He worked his way through the ranks at Kempinski, so he knows his brand inside out. He once said that he believes in Savoir Vivre - a life lived with style and that Kempinski should appeals to those who like beauty and European flair. Sounds like our kind of hotel brand.
The Luxury Travel Bible recently caught up with Duncan in London and was excited to hear what the next twelve months hold for the oldest European luxury hotel brand.

What inspired you to get involved in the hotel industry in the first place?
I was born in South Africa and experienced a childhood where I moved about every three years, I was used to and grew up to enjoy travelling. Working in the luxury hospitality was then a natural choice to make and definitely the right choice for me. I never had any regrets !

What is the single best/defining thing about Kempinski Hotels?
Allow me to mention two points: Firstly, Kempinski as the oldest European luxury hotel brand understands that luxury has to be limited (in order to remain luxury) hence we have capped our growth to become no larger than the age of the company - which would be 117 hotels in 2014. Hand in hand with that is the idea of exclusivity and having hotels that are very individual (no two are alike and I like to refer to our brand as a collection of individuals).
Secondly, our entrepreneurial approach. Kempinski is known as a pioneer, entering emerging destinations where no other hospitality group has gone before.

Luxury Hotels group Kempinski Hotels, Duncan O'Rourke
What will the next 12 months bring for Kempinski Hotels?
Beside the ongoing growth of our portfolio with nearly fifteen hotels to open over the next twelve months, Kempinski's main objective is to become an undisputed leader in the hotel and restaurant business and to make our Food & Beverage a key differentiating factor for the brand in the luxury hospitality segment.

What is the next major luxury travel trend?
Customization. Guests have become travel experts and having higher expectations than ever. Ensuring a consistent brand experience for our guests will of course remain but won't be sufficient to retain customer's loyalty anymore. Offering them personalised services based on their individual tastes and preferences will be the next biggest trend and the key factor to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. Keeping this in mind, the quality of our customer database will become even more crucial to take up this challenge and retain guest's loyalty.

What is your own personal litmus test for whether a hotel is worthy of the 'luxury' tag?
Personalized care to each guest, not only offering a full array of the finest facilities but tending to each guest individually. A guest requests extra cream for his coffee at breakfast? Well in a luxury hotel, the next morning, the extra cream will served to him without him even asking. It is details like these which set a luxury hotel apart.

Luxury Hotel, Kempinski Geneva
Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva
London Kempinski Hotel, The Stafford
Wine Cellar at The Stafford London by Kempinski

Apart from your own, what are your favourite retreats/hotels/resorts, and why?
On a sail boat in the sea.

What is your favourite city to visit?
I love London - I love the elegance and sophistication of the city.  I lived there as a child and I really have a weakness for the city.

What is your best overseas restaurant experience?
L'Ami Jean in Paris

What is on your 'where to next' wishlist?
Oyala, in Equatorial Guinea. This city is currently being built from nothing and will become the new capital of the country. It is the new Brasilia.

Luxury Hotel kempinski hotel corvinus budapest
Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest

What is your favourite airline for business or first class? Why?
Swiss and Lufthansa have fantastic flat beds, so I tend to favour those airlines.

Who would you most like to sit next to on a plane?
Nelson Mandela.  Remember, I was born in South Africa myself.

What are the three things you never travel without?
My cell phone and iPad to keep in touch with my family and a good book

What is the one luxury travel experience you will never forget?
Let me tell you a story which may not sound as a true luxury travel experience in the first place but it turned out to be one:
I was meeting some business partners in a fine dining restaurant at a hotel for important contract discussions. The waiter accidentally spilled some wine on my jacket and before I could do more than dab at it the Maitre d' came over, took my jacket to have it dry cleaned on the spot. He even offered me his own jacket for the interim. Even before dessert my own jacket was back - good as new.
What impressed me most was the speed with which the Maitre d' not only acknowledged but also corrected a service error. What could potentially turn into a complaint instead now ends up being an episode for exemplary service.  Anticipating guests' needs and offering them before being asked is the ultimate luxury experience.

What is the most important thing (travelwise) that money CAN buy?
Time

What is the most important thing it can't?
A feeling of wonder. I remember visiting the Taj Mahal for the first time and how I was just blown away by its magnificence.

Luxury Links: www.kempinski.com
Posted 14/8 /13
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