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Find My Hotelier Friends: Leaders in Hospitality

A leader in the hospitality industry can take many forms. Our check-in with these GMs and hospitality executives – who we are lucky enough to call friends – reveals that running a world-renowned property takes creativity, tenacity, and ingenuity.

To keep up with some of our most beloved partners around the world, we launched our Find My Friends series with Part I and Part II in mid-2021. Then, we checked in with some of the industry’s most formidable General Managers…who just so happen to be women in our Find My Friends: Fierce [Female] General Managers Edition. We continue the trend here in our latest installment. So, whether your version of #smartflyertakemeto finds you anywhere from Laamu to London, rest assured that our relationships are extended to our clients–and we’ve got some pretty incredible friends around the world who will be sure to look after you.

  1. Carol Kohne, CEO, Ellerman House
  2. Maria Strati, General Manager, J.K. Place Roma
  3. Marteyne van Well, General Manager, Six Senses Laamu
  4. Sonja Vodusek, Managing Director, The Peninsula London
  5. Nancy White, Managing Director, Cliff House Maine

Carol Kohne, CEO, Ellerman House

What are you most excited about during the coming season in your hotel?

CK: We can’t wait to welcome our international guests back “home” after the last two years of travel restrictions and being able to spoil them again with the very best that South Africa has to offer right here at Ellerman House.

As a leader in the hospitality industry, are there any updates or activations that will enhance a guest’s stay with you?

CK: We teamed up with Be The Difference Foundation and contribute on a weekly basis to their feeding program, with our kitchen preparing food and sending it out to schools and the surrounding community. Guests are welcome to participate. Also, we offer a local street art walking tour on which guests can learn more about local artists.

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

CK: We have so many wonderful local places which have been highlighted during the travel restrictions, so I will be exploring some of the hidden gems along the East coast of South Africa.

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Maria Strati, General Manager, J.K. Place Roma

What are you most excited about during the coming season in your hotel?

MS: I am most excited to receive our guests back from all around the world after extended restrictions in travel. Welcoming people back who have not been traveling for some time and making sure they feel comfortable, safe, and taken care of is a big responsibility and a precious project for the team of J.K. Place Roma.

As a leader in the hospitality industry, are there any updates or activations that will enhance a guest’s stay with you?

MS: Our latest update is our “30 days in Rome” monthly newsletter, an ongoing project created in collaboration with a professional Roman journalist who is providing inside information and updates every month to all our J.K. fans. This affords our guests the privilege to be some of the first to receive the latest news about Roma! For example, one of our newest suggestions is a picnic in Villa Borghese Garden powered by our Fiat e-bikes! We have created three different menus that our guests can choose from to enjoy a fun outdoor experience designed by the J.K. Place Roma.

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

MS: This season I’m covering the industry circuit with DUCO in Florence, the European Roadshow with Leading Hotels of the World, LE Miami, and finally, Virtuoso Travel Week in Vegas. For my personal travels, I will always choose Greece!

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Marteyne van Well, General Manager, Six Senses Laamu

What are you most excited about during the coming season in your hotel?

MW: In the upcoming months, we are looking forward to welcoming surfers from around the world who travel to the Maldives for the peak of the surf season. During the summer months, the six breaks around Six Senses Laamu offer world-class waves. Guests of any ability have the chance to surf with the guides from our partners at Tropicsurf. However, the season that I am most excited for comes towards the end of the year. We welcome many repeat guests for the festive period over Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s. Festive is a time when the team comes together to create experiences crafted for guests of all ages; by night, the resort is transformed into a castaway wonderland complete with thousands of fairy lights and homemade upcycled decorations. The coconut husk Christmas tree is always a favorite. I can’t wait to see what my creative team has in store for our guests this year!

As a leader in the hospitality industry, are there any updates or activations that will enhance a guest’s stay with you?

MW: This really was an exciting year for us at Six Senses Laamu; in an effort to develop an even deeper guest connection with the beautiful Laamu atoll, we are investing in experiences. By the festive period, we will be welcoming guests into our largest villa yet- a Three Bedroom (with a possible fourth-room add-on) Beach Villa providing fantastic views from a private pool that reaches out over the water. During this period, we will also be opening a state-of-the-art Marine Discovery Center on Sunset Beach. The main feature is the Maldives Underwater Initiative  – a huge exhibition space where guests will be able to learn more about the marine life of Laamu through interactive displays utilizing a range of innovative technology and bespoke design.

Beyond this room, the center will also host a fully equipped laboratory. Here, our marine biology team will advance their research projects. There will also be an innovative presentation room to maximize our guest and community education programs. We are designing a specifically crafted kids room for the Junior Marine Biology program! Perched on the roof the center will be a panoramic viewing platform where guests will be able to enjoy bespoke dining experiences as the sun sets, and private stargazing with astrologists into the night.

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

MW: Anyone who is close to me knows that when I’m not working, I’m diving. Whilst I am incredibly lucky to be situated here in Laamu, where world-class diving is right at my doorstep and waiting for me on my days off, I am also very excited to travel again and explore more of the dive sites I have yet to visit around the world. The Solomon Islands are at the top of my list! The Solomon Islands offer an amazing diversity of marine life and dive site environments. There are wrecks, pristine reefs, lagoons, caverns, and a stunning variety of marine life. Additionally, diving here presents plentiful wide-angle and macro-photo and video opportunities.

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Sonja Vodusek, Managing Director, The Peninsula London

What are you most excited about during the coming season in your hotel?

SV: I am looking forward to bringing The Peninsula hotel to life along with my team. The Peninsula Hotels team has wanted to find the perfect site in London for over 30 years. Now we’re on the home stretch as our beautiful hotel on the iconic Hyde Park Corner is taking shape. I am beyond excited to welcome both local and international guests to the urban oasis that we are creating. Of course, there will be the emblematic Peninsula touches, but we have several surprises – so expect the unexpected!

Are there any activations that will enhance a guest’s stay with you?

SV: It is always very important to us that our hotels are part of the fabric of the community, and this will be no different here in London. The Peninsula London sits at the gateway to Belgravia, one of London’s most storied and gracious neighborhoods. In fact, we overlook Buckingham Palace, so we have many illustrious neighbors – past and present. More and more, travelers want to feel a deeper sense of connection with the destination they are visiting. In addition to signposting visitors to London’s many iconic museums, monuments, entertainment, and shopping close by, we’ll also be introducing them to the many wonderful craftspeople, cafes, florists, and boutiques on our doorstep through collaborations, urban trails, and our enriching Peninsula Academy program.

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

SV: Now that travel has re-started, my travel schedule is getting filled up with a mixture of business and pleasure. I’ve just come back from a whirlwind USA tour and managed to add a lovely and impromptu trip to Scotland. This summer, I’ll have the chance to explore even more of the UK; we’ll go to the English countryside with visits to the Cotswolds, Somerset, and coastal Cornwall. Many of our international visitors are likely to pair a stay in London with the quintessential British countryside. So this is essential, and enjoyable, ‘research’! I am also about to go to the Turks and Caicos for some Caribbean sun! The sea and the beach are my happy place. Finally, Australia is home, so I would love to pop back to see my family before the hotel opens in early 2023.

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Nancy White, Managing Director, Cliff House Maine

What are you most excited about during the coming season in your hotel?

NW: The Cliff House Maine is your perfect stop on the Ultimate New England Road Trip. Other than the obvious – which is to enjoy traveling again with families and friends in the great outdoors and all that Mother Nature has to offer on the coast of Maine – there are some new developments at Cliff House Maine. We are excited to debut our new outdoor dining venue. It overlooks the majestic Bald Head Cliff and the Atlantic Ocean with the freshest local ingredients inspired by the sea. Why not enjoy champagne and oysters dining alfresco to celebrate the art of vacationing again?

As a leader in the hospitality industry, are there any activations that will enhance a guest’s stay with you?

NW: Speaking of art, Cliff House has always embraced the artist colonies from decades ago spotlighting local talent, several galleries, the Artist in Residency, plein air art classes, and now the addition of two new programs. First, a photography school will offer guests the opportunity to hone in on their craft. Finally, to top the season, we are honored to extend a professional on-site theater program. It will be coordinated by the talented team and cast members at the Ogunquit Playhouse!

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

NW: This summer, I will enjoy our beautiful state of Maine, free to travel, dine, and laugh with family and friends. Once the season is over, I’ll return to Italy. I can never get enough of the culture, cuisine, and wine.

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Inspired by a leader in the hospitality industry featured here? Contact your SmartFlyer travel advisor to start planning your next stay.

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