by Jonathan Vatner | October 01, 2006

Capella Hotels & Resorts

After Horst Schulze left Ritz-Carlton, the landmark hotel company he founded, he launched the Atlanta-based West Paces Hotel Group, in an attempt to create a travel experience more luxurious than ever before. Out of that emerged Capella Hotels & Resorts, a class of small properties aiming to provide a consistently perfect experience. The first opens in Ireland in April 2007; the second in Velden, Austria, in May.

Of the Capella concept, Schulze has said, “With luxury hotels today, the property’s style and service determine the type of experience guests enjoy. It’s time for the customer to determine the experience.”

Kit PappasKit Pappas (right), vice president of sales for West Paces, elaborates on Schulze’s vision.

M&C: What does the modern luxury traveler demand?

Pappas: The ultra-luxury travelers are more and more looking for the element of exclusivity. They want to have a high degree of control over their environment. They want to have what they want, when they want it. It’s not about consumption; it’s more about the connection, what allows you to really connect with that locale you’re in.

M&C: How will Capella provide an experience as luxurious as it claims?

Pappas: They’re small hotels; they range from 60 to 100 rooms at the absolute maximum. What we’re able to do with 100 guests is to have much different movements of people. We’re not going to have a group of 250 people check in. During the reservations process, we’re able to determine their exact needs and what they’d like to experience. We’ll have their luggage picked up at their homes and brought to the resort or hotel, so they don’t have to worry about getting their bags through customs. We’re able to pick them up at the airport personally. It really individualizes the experience.

M&C: What defines a luxury meeting at Capella?

Pappas: Our group customers at Capella will be similar to our individual customers. Depending on what the group needs to accomplish, we’ll be able to zero in on that, to give them individual attention. They’re not going to be one of five or 10 groups in the house. They’ll be the only group in the hotel.

M&C: What types of luxury groups are you looking to attract?

Pappas: With Capella, it will be small board meetings. We’ll have boardrooms, but that will be the extent of it.

M&C: Does a particular hotel brand really matter to the luxury traveler or meeting?

Pappas: There are things that brands do. They can create an awareness, and they can build some loyalty. As you move into the luxury scale, site selection is more based on the experience and location. We feel strongly that there’s strength within a brand, one that offers consistent expectations in different locations.

LXR Luxury Resorts

John TolbertWhat do you get when you take 33 varied properties from all over the United States (and one in Jamaica), then spend more than $1 billion to redesign the interiors, bring in celebrity chefs and jack up the service levels to the very best? LXR Luxury Resorts. The brand, formed in 2005, promises to be a major draw for meetings. John Tolbert (right), president of sales and marketing, took a moment to talk about LXR’s concept of luxury.

M&C: What defines luxury nowadays?

Tolbert: No longer does a manufacturer, a retailer or, in our case, a service provider determine what luxury is. The consumer does. We look at luxury today as a verb. It’s not something that is, but rather something that does. Our goal is to create a personalized, tailored experience to meet the needs of planners. The only limit we have is our imagination and our ability to communicate that in a real and incredible way to our customer.

M&C: How is luxury changing?

Tolbert: Today, people don’t necessarily want the same experience that they can have in Atlanta for a city-center meeting as they can have in our South Seas Island Resort [on Captiva Island, Fla.]. It comes down to the ability of the service provider to produce a genuine sense of place. You have to focus on uniqueness, with service being the common thread of luxury. It’s no longer good enough to have a grill room. You have to have Gordon Ramsay and Morimoto.

M&C: Will these chefs be able to improve a banquet?

Tolbert: The ones we’re partnering with have great experience in this. Jeffrey Chodorow [who is bringing China Grill to the Fort Lauderdale Grande Hotel & Yacht Club] has been doing off-site catering for years. Gordon Ramsay is at Claridge’s [Hotel] in London. Angela Hartnett is at The Connaught in London. Our chefs won’t say, “These are our banquet menus.” We will customize every food experience for our customer.

M&C: Where are luxury meetings being held today?

Tolbert: I think the traditional destinations: Florida, California and Arizona, because of their accessibility and climate, will always provide great incentive and meeting destinations. A lot of it is product-driven. You’ll see markets go hot and cold, but the demand of what we call the “best beach” -- the best real estate in the market -- will always be strong. The luxury traveler is always willing to pay for those experiences.