Omer Acar runs some of the most old-school luxury hotel brands in the world, in Raffles and Orient Express, but looking ahead, he's thinking about how to move with the times. The answer: Services over goods.
Skift Global Forum was held in New York City on September 26-28, 2023. Read coverage of the event at the link below.
The current generation of high-spending hotel guests don’t care about your thread counts, fruit baskets or pillow chocolates, says the CEO of one of Accor’s most ornate hotel brands. Raffles boss Omer Acar states that repeat business in luxury hospitality is achieved through intangible, romantic metrics such as personalization, respect and appreciation of ones’ time.
“I define luxury as time – the time that you don’t get to spend with your family or give yourself,” said Acar at the Skift Global Forum 2023. “You can’t recreate that. So when it comes to hospitality, the guests who come to our hotels, they are investing their time. So that’s very important.”
Before becoming CEO of Raffles and Orient Express (which is now moving into hotels and mega-yachts), Acar was a regional MD within Qatar’s Katara Hospitality company, which owns august hotels such as The Plaza in New York and the Peninsula in Paris. He has also been GM of the Ritz Paris.
While these are some of the most lavish hotels on the planet in terms of interiors and furnishings, Acar is now leveraging his experience to usher in a more software-driven approach at Raffles and Orient Express.
He said: “Time and desire to come back, that’s how I define luxury.”
“Luxury has real structure and substance in its delivery. It’s not just high-thread-count bedsheets or crystal glassware, otherwise you could just be a museum. I call it the ‘Mona Lisa Effect’: You’ve seen it, it’s great, but you’re not going to come back.”
“We need people to come back to our hotels. To do that, you need your team to engage with them. People don’t go back to hotels as much as they go back to see a particular staff member.”
Tapping Into His Harrods Days
When painting a picture of the future of hospitality, Acar said the industry should look to high-end retail for inspiration. Acar was previously director of food and beverage at the legendary Harrods department store in London, also owned by the Qataris.
Acar explained: “Luxury retailers are focusing more and more on experiences. I was shopping with my wife and kids, and I went to a very well-known shop: Dior. Immediately, a magician came and took our son, to make sure we had more time to look around and less time worrying about our son running around. Experience is important. Through my years at Harrods it was similar. Luxury retailers sell the dream, but we [as hoteliers] deliver the dream.”
“Luxury is going more in the direction of personalization. There are certain things hoteliers do, and we wonder why. Chocolate on the pillow, or the fruit basket in the room. We’re going back to the drawing board on those sorts of things, do they really make sense?”
“Experience, whether retail or hospitality, is where luxury is going.”
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Photo credit: Raffles CEO Omer Acar at Skift Global Forum 2023. Skift