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Find My Hotelier Friends: Part I

With the official start of summer coinciding with the reopening of so many of our beloved destinations around the world, we took the opportunity to check in with a handful of hotel owners to learn what’s on deck.

In a typical year, our SmartFlyer team would be meeting with hotelier partners in our offices, on their properties, and at various travel industry events around the world; with these frequent gatherings, working relationships develop into lifelong friendships–many spanning decades. So, when say we can’t wait to get back out there and revisit old favorites, it’s because the pull extends beyond just the hotels themselves to the people who have poured their heart and soul into making them so special. In this edition of Find My Hotelier Friends, we check in with the owners of Le Sirenuse, Hotel Esencia, Palazzo Avino, Jade Mountain Resort, Anse Chastanet, and Grand Hotel Tremezzo.

  1. Antonio Serasale, Owner, Le Sirenuse
  2. Kevin Wendle, Owner + CEO, Hotel Esencia
  3. Mariella Avino, Managing Director, Palazzo Avino
  4. Karolin Troubetzkoy, Owner, Jade Mountain Resort + Anse Chastanet
  5. Valentina De Santis, CEO, Grand Hotel Tremezzo

Antonio Serasale, Owner, Le Sirenuse

What has you most excited about the summer season in your hotel?

AS: “I am very excited for this summer season at Le Sirenuse as my two boys, Aldo and Francesco, have joined the company after having trained for a few years in America. Aldo will now take care of all the food and beverage operations; we have lots of exciting news happening both in our Franco’s Bar with our new cocktail list, as well as a new chef for our Aldo’s Cocktail Bar and Seafood Grill.”

How will you be engaging with guests in new and exciting ways as travel picks up?

AS: “We are also focusing on our calendar of activities ensuring that our guests have a unique experience while at Le Sirenuse. In addition to the ever-popular boat trip to Nerano–where guest can enjoy lunch at perennial favorites such as Lo Scoglio and Conca del Sogno–we have added more personal guided walks for guests to discover the many scenic and ancient footpaths connecting the neighborhoods of Positano to one another, and to other mountain villages. To better manage all those steps takes core strength, and Le Sirenuse has become the first Italian outpost of the Megaformer, a workout system developed by Lagree Fitness in Los Angeles that has been dubbed ‘Pilates on steroids.’ Of course, we also offer more leisurely pursuits, too (hint: Aldo’s Cocktail Bar).”

If you’re managing to do some travel of your own this season, where are you headed?

AS: “I recently went to Madrid for a few days and loved it! I am hoping to come and visit our SmartFlyer friends in New York as soon as Europeans are permitted.”

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Kevin Wendle, Owner + CEO, Hotel Esencia

What has you most excited about the summer season in your hotel?

KW: “I’m most excited about seeing the return of so many familiar faces, our loyal repeat guests who make up nearly half of our clientele now, many of whom come to visit us three or more times per year. And now, to meet so many new friends who didn’t know about us until this year. While the rest of the world has been shut down, Mexico has been mostly open and easily accessible so we’ve been able to expose Hotel Esencia to so many wonderful new clients who tell me they didn’t realize that they didn’t have to fly halfway around the world to find a quiet isolated beach! As most Smarties already know, it really feels like you’re on a desert island here at Hotel Esencia and yet it’s barely an hour from mainland US with so many non-stop flights to Cancun from seemingly almost everywhere in the Americas and Europe.”

Image Credit: Korena Bolding Sinnett + Tanveer Badal, Hotel Esencia

How will you be engaging with guests in new and exciting ways as travel picks up?

When the world shut down, we knew that our guests would be more focused than ever on wellness and privacy…it’s all about wellness this year and certainly into the future for us!

KW: “When the world shut down, we knew that our guests would be more focused than ever on wellness and privacy. Last March, we had this idea to build new Rooftop Wellness Suites, each with a private ensuite fitness studio including Technogym weights, The Mirror virtual fitness trainer, yoga mats, TRX, steam showers, and even optional Peloton bikes. Thanks to our dedicated crew working almost 24/7, we were able to have these new suites completed in January–which was really a small miracle–and they are already frequently sold out weeks, or even months, in advance. These suites each also have large private rooftop pools and sunbeds with a separate covered rooftop terrace and champagne mini-bar. We are quite proud that these wellness suites even won Forbes Travel Guide’s “Wellness Star” award of 2021. Hotel Esencia was the only hotel to win this award within the entire Forbes membership–we were extremely flattered. So yes, it’s all about wellness this year and certainly into the future for us! In fact, the popularity of these super private Wellness Suites has led us to begin adding private fitness studios to some of our new master suites to be ready by this summer.”

If you’re managing to do some travel of your own this season, where are you headed?

KW: “I’m heading to France in two weeks! Last year we bought a magnificent 18th-century chateau called “Chateau de Curzay” located about an hour and a half on the TGV south of Paris. It was a Relais & Châteaux property for many years but was closed in 2018.  We are working hard to reopen by 2023. So no real vacation for me, but that’s OK because I love developing hotels!”

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Mariella Avino, Managing Director, Palazzo Avino

What has you most excited about the summer season in your hotel?

MA: “I cannot wait to welcome the world back and see the Pink Palace full of light and motion! The project I have been super busy with and I am very excited about too is the creation of The Pink Coset LAB with many collaborations with young designers and the launch of e-commerce. The e-commerce will go live on June 27th!”

How will you be engaging with guests in new and exciting ways as travel picks up?

MA: “Sharing the lifestyle of Ravello and the Amalfi Coast in many different ways from online to offline! At Palazzo Avino, we’re focused on inspiring guests to feel connected through authenticity; it’s not about retouched pictures but instead local histories and flavors. We are all very keen to breathe, discover the inner soul of what surrounds us, and places like Ravello and the Pink Palace have so many stories to tell.”

If you’re managing to do some travel of your own this season, where are you headed?

MA: “I hope I will be so busy creating magic at the hotel that there will be no time for personal travel! However, during the closing months, I would love to go to Colombia!”

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Image Credit: Andrea Gallucci

Karolin Troubetzkoy, Owner, Jade Mountain Resort + Anse Chastanet

What has you most excited about the summer season in your hotel?

KT: “It is uplifting to see travel coming back so strongly this summer and there is a new positive energy in the air, both by our team members and incoming guests!”

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How will you be engaging with guests in new and exciting ways as travel picks up?

KT: “Ever since we reopened in July 2020, we have come back with strong protocols, keeping staff and guests safe at all times. We created an exciting new, private excursion program. With our resorts’ strong commitment to operating sustainably, we have introduced a tree planting activity guests can participate in by making a small donation towards our Bon Lavi Charity account. We then use the charitable donations, matched of course by our own, to seek out worthy projects in Saint Lucia and surrounding islands.”

If you’re managing to do some travel of your own this season, where are you headed?

KT: “Good question! My personal bucket list includes all the faraway places I had always wanted to go to but haven’t yet had an opportunity. But I also have a Caribbean bucket list: each and every island has something special to offer and I am yearning to visit some of our neighbors and also catch up with my hotelier friends all over the region. But realistically, the first trip will take me to Miami and possibly Las Vegas for Virtuoso Travel Week to catch up with our much-loved travel advisor family.”

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Valentina De Santis, CEO, Grand Hotel Tremezzo

What has you most excited for the summer season in your hotel?

VS: “We were tremendously happy to start the 2021 season with delicious news: our new beachside locale Giacomo al Lago is the perfect marriage between the fabled fish dishes of Giacomo Milano and the views of the lake’s ever-changing scenes from our super cool beach. Two tales of family and excellence, destined to cross paths. The who’s who and who’s new of Milan have flocked to Giacomo for iconic seafood and fish dishes for more than sixty years. The legend now continues at Giacomo al Lago with its food that feels like family, simple, yet sophisticated dishes that honor Italian culinary tradition and avail of only the freshest of fishes. At Giacomo al Lago we want to make the extraordinary appear effortless, we want to share a sense of hospitality that becomes an experience that is impossible to forget, we want to be one step ahead while keeping everything just as it was, and just as it always will be.”

How will you be engaging with guests in new and exciting ways as travel picks up?

…the same sense of style of those heady days of one hundred years ago: to travel, to discover, to encounter new people and simply to be happy.

VS: “We are trying to stay connected with our past, present, and future guests in different and more intimate ways. We just launched our GHT Gazzette, our new journal with regular updates, stories, and glorious sunsets from Lake Como. Every article will be infused with the hospitality that defines Grand Hotel Tremezzo, with a love of all things beautiful and of this paradise we call home. Many dear friends will join me in this project to share one hundred years of the stories and the personalities that have shaped the rich history of Grand Hotel Tremezzo and made it what it is today. It is my wish that our Gazette might convey the same exuberance, the same sense of style of those heady days of one hundred years ago: to travel, to discover, to encounter new people and simply to be happy. Also, our very own e-commerce will be online soon–whether it is the first day of a trip or the last, deciding what to take with you is always on a traveler’s mind. The right answer is dreams, stories, memories…Sense of Lake promises just that, an everlasting journey that begins before you arrive at Grand Hotel Tremezzo and follows you home because beautiful objects are also magical ones: they keep our memories alive.”

If you’re managing to do some travel of your own this season, where are you headed?

VS: “This year more than ever, I want to pay homage to my fabulous country, Italy! Every day is an unforgettable day to discover the beauty of Italy for me.”

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Love this series? Check out “Find My Hotelier Friends: Part II

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