Luxury – The Driving Force of the Hospitality Market

Exclusive Interview – Marc Aeberhard – President & Managing Director, Luxury Hotel & Spa Management

IT’S ALL ABOUT WHAT MONEY CANNOT BUY

Luxury travel and hospitality was more than ever under the spotlight at ITB Berlin 2018. At this year’s ITB Berlin Convention, the session entitled, “Luxury Hotels: Secrets of the Hidden Luxury Phenomenon” underlined the fact that “bling bling is out”. We met with session moderator, Marc Aeberhard – President & Managing Director, Luxury Hotel & Spa Management, at the new “Loop” zone in Hall 9, and asked him firstly to tell us more about his company, based in Zurich.

We open hotels, we manage hotels and we turn hotels around when they were in some kind of trouble. We restrict our new activity to small and tiny hotels but to the very highend and the top end; beyond starratings. We understand that the philosophy of luxury runs through a life cycle, just like a product, so you have an infancy stage, a growth stage, the maturation stage etc. Luxury today in the western world has moved beyond what one might call bling-bling. It’s not the tangibles. Today, everybody can afford crystal glasses and everybody can afford a golden bath tub if they want so you do not distinguish yourselves by these things… It’s beyond this. All the tangibles are the new standards, so what is new? It’s about Aphrodite… It’s about eternal youth… it’s about living forever… and safety, in the sense of not being just shot on the road but also have a paparazzi free zone, living incognito, living without a mask, having the possibility of drinking water from the tap, fresh air. It’s all about what money cannot buy. This is where the new definition of luxury starts, so this is where we are putting our company, and what we are focusing on. Our hotel projects very much take this as a basis, as a common ground, as a common denominator. It’s a question of triple bottom-line – it has to be economically profitable, socially responsible, and it’s ecologically sustainable.

Your presentation was one of the most successful ones at the show. Why so, do you think?
Luxury in general is something that attracts a lot of people, simply because we noticed there is a bit of confusion in the market, because we are changing the paradigm.

We attempted to give a broader understanding of what this new luxury is all about. Within these different new dimensions of luxury, we picked out the element of safety, and within safety, we spoke about “hidden” luxury. Hidden luxury is some kind of parallel universe, in which the rich and superrich want to move around. Take the Obamas and the Royal highnesses and so on, who would just like to be treated like normal people. They would like to have some fine time off, some quality time with their families and not be chased by Paparazzi and bodyguards and so on. This has become an enormous privilege for these kinds of people – to find these kinds of settings.

This year at ITB, you have based yourself at the “Loop”, a new zone at the show which seems to have been very successful. Can you tell me a little bit more about this and how you are leveraging the loop towards your success?
The question is who moves the markets, and by experience, it is the top. If you want to move something, you have to start at the top. And what the Loop does is exactly that. We are trying to create a tool where the top of the trade meets in an environment that is comfortable for them. This is what Loop managed to do. It’s a bit like a speed dating module. You have a central wheel with 10 booths where you have your slot every 15 minutes with a new contact. Outside that you have a more informal communication area with little tables and stools and so on so there is a very open kind of communication. However, the common ground is that people that come here all speak the same language!


Photo: Marc Aeberhard – President & Managing Director, Luxury Hotel & Spa Management