Jennifer Fox is sitting in a suite at Fairmont Monte Carlo, Monaco looking ever inch the sophisticated world traveller. As well she might because the elegant and engaging Fox has come a long way since she grew up helping out on the front desk of the hotel her father ran in South Australia. Fox is one of the most powerful women in the hotel industry with a track record that includes stints with Ridges,Sheraton and InterContinental before moving to her current post with FRHI. She is a visionary and inspiring hotelier who is just as capable of noticing the small things (in this case the speed of the hairdryer in her suite) as she is masterminding forward-thinking international strategy. It is a rare combination which has seen Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, especially the luxurious Raffles brand, enter a golden age of expansion and success under her watchful and perfectly made-up eye. On her way to the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) in Cannes Fox made time in her hectic schedule to talk to TLTB.
What inspired you to get involved in the hotel industry in the first place?
A lifelong love of travel and growing up in a family of hoteliers - there was no other career for me.
You have some famous names under your wing such as The Savoy London, and the Fairmont Peace Hotel Shanghai: Given the famous nature of many of your hotels, what is the single best/defining thing about Fairmont Hotels & Resorts?
Besides our hotels, which are iconic and in many cases instantly recognizable, I would have to say it’s our hotel colleagues around the world. Each and every day they exceed the expectations of our guests, going above and beyond the call of duty to make each visit meaningful and memorable. Being in the people business, Fairmont is very fortunate to have a strong service culture with one of the most loyal and passionate colleague bases I’ve ever seen.
What is the next major luxury travel trend?
There are a number of trends which I think will have significant influence on luxury travel in 2015. A sustained focus on personalization, a growing focus on health and wellness, and the continued emergence of developing markets like China and India are a few of the top themes that I think will make headlines next year.
What is your own personal litmus test for whether a hotel is worthy of the 'luxury' tag?
I expect traditional luxury services: engaging and attentive service, a great bed, remarkable design, great restaurants, spa and fitness center. In the luxury hotel sector, these offerings get you into the category. What truly sets a hotel apart for me is personalization; we all have different requirements and a hotel that can consistently deliver on this will win.
What does the future hold for Fairmont?
We've just opened new hotels in Barcelona and Bali, and next up, very early next year a new Fairmont hotel in Jakarta. Taking a longer view, global expansion in key city and resort destinations globally combined with a continued focus on product innovation and delivering a tailored and personalized stay.
Apart from your own, what are your favourite retreats/hotels/resorts, and why?
I love to ski in Courchevel, so Cheval Blanc is my winter getaway. In the summer, I typically get to Santa Caterina in Amalfi, Italy - family owned and run and a divine spot on the Med.
What is your favourite city to visit?
London, New York, Toronto and Hong Kong - I am a big city girl!
What is your favourite airline for business or first class? Why?
Fairmont is very fortunate to have a strong service culture with one of the most loyal and passionate colleague bases I’ve ever seen.
Qantas First Class - because I am on route home to see my family. I also love the Neil Perry’s soups they serve on board. British Airways has a great First-Class and Emirates for Business Class.
Who would you most like to sit next to on a plane?
What are the three things you never travel without?
I-Pad mini, a lot of water, and great products to use on board.
What is the one luxury travel experience you will never forget?
I recently went to Kenya and stayed in our Fairmont hotels there. Fairmont Mara Safari Club and Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club are one-of-a-kind hotels. It truly is a magical experience.
What is the most important thing (travelwise) that money CAN buy?
First-class airline seats.
What is the most important thing it can't?
Memorable experiences; time spent with family and friends.