Jean-Pierre Soutric was recently appointed the role of senior v.p. sales & marketing for The Oetker Collection, a position he hopes to use as a vehicle to strengthen and grow the organization. Before his new appointment, Soutric held sales and marketing positions with InterContinental, Hilton International, Exclusive Hotels by Forte and, most recently, the Four Seasons. After years of watching the trends in the hospitality industry, Soutric is now seeing guests’ preference shift towards a more customizable and authentic hotel experience. The Oetker Collection’s selection of nine properties—L’Apogee Courchevel, Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Le Bristol Paris, and Chateau Saint-Martin & Spa in France, Eden Rock in St. Barth’s, Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in Germany, Fregate Island Private in Seychelles, The Lanesborough in England, and the Palais Namaskar in Morocco—are represented by the pearl, which symbolizes the hotels’ singularity, beauty and quality. In an interview with Recommend, Soutric discussed the unique qualities that make the Oetker Collection’s properties “masterpiece hotels.”
Melissa Bryant (MB): What makes the Oetker Collection’s properties ‘masterpiece hotels’? What does that designation entail?
Jean-Pierre Soutric (JPS): The fact they all bear a unique ensemble of qualities. A very specific soul, personality—often invisible until…you experience it for yourself. Many new hotels were recently created to meet the most common standards generating rather similar architectures and ambiances, or service style. Oetker has, in fact, magnified each of its hotels where heritage and craftsmanship have been carefully preserved and genuine service, encouraged.
MB: How have your sales and marketing strategies evolved over the years to keep pace with the company’s ever-evolving traveler?
JPS: Of course. New (booking) avenues have emerged. We have embraced the one which would respect our company ethic and business integrity. When these new platforms were not close enough to our model we would decline them. Any hotel experience starts with either a press article, a picture on Instagram, a travel agent’s recommendation, a cool telephone exchange with the property directly—all sorts of platforms where traditional communication and modern convenience meet. We must make the most of those.
MB: Which demographic do your customers fall into today?
JPS: He/she is younger, not so keen on being perceived as a brand follower, therefore those customers are indeed very curious and not loyal I’m afraid. But that’s okay. It provides challenges and motivation to carry-on and stay ahead. They are families, couples, singles, groups of friends—usually enjoying a leisure trip or mixing business and leisure; avid travelers (repeaters); quality driven and very sensitive to human engagement. Not to forget people with a solid environmental ethic.
MB: How many visitors to your hotels are from the U.S.?
JPS: It depends of the destination but they always account for the majority of our guests. Thirty-five percent stay in Paris, 65 percent in St. Barths, 15 percent in Marrakech, 20 percent in Baden Baden.
MB: Tell me about the Oetker Collection’s newest acquisition, The Lanesborough, London.
JPS: This iconic hotel in London is a natural fit for the Collection. We were very proud to be awarded the management contract. The renovation has been executed very much in line with our company’s criteria. Our clients visit Paris and other major gateway cities. London had become a mandate for us and the opening of Lanesborough in July was very strategic. The hotel is in true resonance with Oetker and the destination. Our service style brings a wonderful complement to this exceptional architecture.
MB: What criteria must a property meet in order to be considered by the Oetker Collection?
JPS: It’s a combination: prime-location remains key, strong heritage is ,too, very important, size matters (we won’t be looking at large establishments) and coherence with the destination and the Collection.
MB: In what ways are the Oetker Collection’s hotels one-of-a-kind? How do they reflect European heritage?
JPS: I would say they do blend with their city, the country’s history or their natural environment. Their European heritage is set in service, customer engagement, and tradition, of course, but always in coherence with customers’ core needs and preferences. Today it is not relevant to impose anything to clients, especially a service that would make them uncomfortable. To listen and serve in sheer simplicity remains of utmost importance.
MB: How do you plan to use your newly acquired position to bring the Oetker Collection to new heights?
JPS: Oetker is a very different model. Smaller and very much focused on excellence in service and product, it is also closer to everything—clients’ needs, owners, local environment, etc. This model is not for everyone, and we realize it is quite different from what larger groups propose. We believe it brings a very new fresh air to an industry where customization is becoming the preferred path. We are confident it is the right model for very high-end properties across top international cities or exceptional vacation spots.
MB: In what ways does the Oetker Collection work with travel agents?
JPS: Retail and wholesale travel is at the very heart of our strategy. We work with the best and most quality-driven consortia in the Americas, Europe and APAC. We collaborate and support their marketing efforts. We also show generosity in hosting the professionals. We believe in the travel industry and have trust in its capacity to face all sorts of (digital) challenges.
For more information, visit oetkercollection.com.