Beautiful adventures

It seems even iconic hotelling isn’t safe from convergence. Flagship Parisian hotels are now finding themselves challenged by major Asian hotel groups keen to make their mark on the Continent. For the European establishment, it seems, the Far East just got a whole lot closer to home.

The effect, according to Time, will be a 40% increase in the number of luxury rooms in the city, and a classic competitive tug-of-war between iconic Gallic chic and a lighter, more cosmopolitan stay that still emphasises luxury.

Two particular ideas in this story really caught my eye – one as an idea, the other as a strategy.

The first – the idea – was Philippe Leboeuf’s description of the new Mandarin as a “beautiful adventure”. What a fabulous term. Now that’s an idea I can see being applied far beyond the refined world of the Parisian avenues. A beautiful adventure, at least in my head, is both elegant and exciting, it has grace and adrenalin, aesthetic and wildness … It is an idea with the potential to fire the imaginations of everyone from car designers to retailers because it combines such starkly contradicting factors as reassurance with curiosity.

Architects and urban planners – take note. Imagine rebuilding my home town of Christchurch along those lines. Yum. Bilbao on a stick …

The second thought – the strategy – was how the big French hotels intended to respond to the threat of newcomers – because I think it’s an important reminder for all market leaders, particularly long standing market players – facing faster moving, younger predators.

Reshape and remind.

Make the changes necessary to project your business forward, at the same time as you remind everyone of why your jewel should remain a treasure. And the way you do that of course, if you’re a Parisian landmark, is to weave extraordinary and unique stories directly from your history into your reshaped narrative – stories filled with romance and history and torment and triumph. Stories like these:

“the Crillon emphasizes that Marie Antoinette took piano lessons in its drawing rooms, and the Ritz honors Coco Chanel’s 30-year residency there. At the Bristol, managers recount how during World War II, their predecessors erased a suite from the floor plan and harbored a Jewish architect, who later thanked them by building the hotel’s elegant wrought-iron elevator at its center.”

Yet another reminder in itself that even in a business that emphasises staying, nothing stands still for long.

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