Your association with Oetker Collection began at Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa and you might well have set up your own hotel group if not for Oetker, what appealed to you about hospitality?
I have been lucky enough to work in some of the finest European hotels, in London and Paris, before joining the Brenners Park in Baden Baden as hotel manager in 1997. Since day one, being a hotelier, I enjoyed the human experience with both our clients and hotel staff, combined with the discovery and understanding of different ways of life, history, art and civilisations.
What is the single best/defining thing about Oetker hotels?
I believe that 'master piece hotels' defines quite well what we are, places where luxury does not shout at you, it whispers at you. They are special because of the people, who give a place soul.
When you were appointed CEO of Oetker Collection there were four hotels, your vision has seen careful and consistent expansion. Would you tell us a little about future expansion plans?
We are hoteliers since 1923 and started the Collection in 2008 with the objective to add 10 hotels in the 10 following years. We are pretty much on line with this objective.
However our careful growth strategy is aimed at protecting a portfolio of “Masterpiece Hotels,” all unique and irreplaceable. Having eleven unique hotels - including the recent opening of The Lanesborough in London plus our future projects in Sao Paulo and New York - is akin to having eleven children, each requiring different attention. In fact, the brand mantra is “Individuality Together,” and it continues to invest in that individuality. Our future expansion will be linked to major cities around the world.
What is the next big luxury travel trend?
The 'next big trend' has not changed from day one of luxury travel : besides excellent facilities and professional service it is about PEOPLE who make a difference, create lifetime memories, unforgettable experience and this will hardly change.
What is your own personal litmus test for whether a hotel is worthy of the ‘luxury’ tag?
To me, it should be a very specific hotel aesthetic which refers to the “four elements of luxury of Oetker Collection”. They include heritage, craftsmanship, focus and rarity. Heritage means we come from somewhere, we are a European hotel company. Craftsmanship is the ability to constantly provide the most skilled and attentive service. Focus means you cannot be everybody’s darling, you must be true to who you are. And then rarity which means iconic hotels which cannot be duplicated.
Apart from your own, what are your favourite hotels/resorts (and why?)
I feel very much at home and admire the Baur au Lac, Zurich/Switzerland, owned by the same family over 6 generations, with a service second-to-none.
What is your favourite city to visit?
Although there are lots of cities and destinations that I like, I have a little tenderness for Paris where I lived a few years and where I have many friends and colleagues
What is your best overseas restaurant experience?
Jean-Georges, New York
What is your favourite airline for business or first class? Why?
Forgive me, but it is Lufthansa, as I feel at home the moment I am embarking
What three things do you never travel without?
My iPad, and my moleskin notebook
What is the one luxury travel experience you will never forget?
A trip together with my wife to the heart of Venezuela – very adventurous
What is the most important thing (travel wise) that money CAN buy?
Quality time to reflect
What is the most important thing it can’t?
The smile and motivation of Oetker Collection staff