The charming and affable Horst Schulze is a legend in the hotel industry; a hotelier who has helped to shape the luxury landscape as few others have. No wonder he was recognized as "corporate hotelier of the world" by HOTELS magazine back in 1991. One of the charter members of the Ritz Carlton Group (after stints with Hyatt and Hilton) spearheading the development of Ritz Carlton into a worldwide chain and becoming its president and COO,. Along the way he coined the motto "We are Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen,". The ultimate gentleman himself Schulze created Capella Hotel Group in 2002 because he wanted to explore new ways to offer guests “ultra-luxury” for the 21st century. The Luxury Travel Bible caught up with him at ILTM Asia in Shanghai, where his latest project, Capella Jian Ye Li, is taking shape.
|What inspired you to get into the hospitality business in the first place?|
I was very young. At the age of 11 I already knew I wanted to work in a hotel. At 14, I left school and moved more than 100 km from my home village of Winningen, Germany, to become a hotel busboy.
You founded Capella Hotel Group in 2002. Why leave a global brand to start again with Capella?
I like the process of creating something. With Ritz Carlton you might say the painting was complete. I wanted to start again with new brush strokes. Creating a new kind of luxury for a new kind of guest. Years ago when we first started Ritz Carlton we wanted to be a cut above what else was out there and we succeeded. With Capella I wanted to look at a new kind of ultra-luxury. To again be a cut above.
I was dreaming about a hotel where every guest gets exactly the service that he or she wants, and where every employee enjoys his part of the company. He doesn’t work for the company but is part of the dream and the objective and the purpose.
What is your definition of luxury?
Well, luxury is a difficult word. At the time we started Ritz Carlton it was chandeliers and marble and a new level of service. But that was then. Now people are looking for a different kind of luxury. Now for the guest luxury is really, “Do things my way”.
What is the single most defining thing about The Capella Hotels & resorts as a brand?
Our ability to “Do things their way”. We did focus groups with potential guest and listened. A simple example is that we have flexible check-ins and check outs. This was what people wanted most, nobody wants to have to sit on the beach with a suitcase waiting to go to the airport to catch a plane. We have looked at many things like that.
What part of the process of creating a new hotel do you enjoy most?
Mentoring people. Service has always been all important to me and it is very clear that if you want to give the guests what the guest wants you have to pay attention to your employees as well as to the hotel surroundings. We don’t only train, we empower. We encourage our employees to make their own work decisions when it comes to guest satisfaction. Our most important rule is “Keep the customer”, make them want to come back.
What is the “little thing” that all good hotels should pay attention to?
All the little things because in the sum total of the guests experience they become the big things.
Describe your ideal hotel room.
I love a place that has simplicity but elegance and space at the same time. I think Capella Ixtapa in Mexico is a place that has ‘real heart’ and that is what I look for.
Tell us about the upcoming Capella Shanghai
Capella Jian Ye Li, Shanghai is very exciting as it is an all-villa urban resort in the last remaining cluster of historical “shikumen” (stone warehouse gate) in a heritage precinct. We’ll have 55 ultra-luxury villas, 40 residences, The Capella Library, a French brasserie, Auriga spa and a retail gallery. It will have the feel of a village, like the one I come from back home in Germany. A destination within a hotel precinct.
We are also developing Capella Bangkok (2017) and Capella Bahia Maroma on the Riviera Maya in Mexico (due 2018. Ed )
Apart from your own, what are your favourite hotels/resorts?
Beau Rivage, Lausanne and the Plaza Athenee, Paris
What is your favourite city to visit?
It is hard to choose between Berlin, Paris and Munich
What is your best overseas restaurant experience?
Brunch (Sunday) at Doyles on the water in Sydney
What is your favourite airline for business or first class? Why?
Singapore Airlines – space, service, food
What three things do you never travel without?
Sweatsuit, running shoes, book, antacid
What is the one travel experience you will never forget?
I was stranded in New York Kennedy airport during a snowstorm for 2 days
What is the most important thing (travel-wise) that money CAN buy?
Business class seats for long overnight flights so you can sleep. I usually go to
a meeting as soon as I arrive after an all-night flight!
What is the most important thing it can’t?
On-time departures / arrivals
No noise on an overnight flight