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Tapping Into Luxury Market: With Denis Morisset Ex MD of Ralph Lauren & Giorgio Armani

Professor Denis Morisset, an expert who work 25 years in the luxury industry said in an insightful interview with ID Hotelier " Luxury hotels cater to emotions, dreams and desires, not to needs "

Professor Denis Morisset - Director of Executive Luxury Marketing Program ESSEC Asia Pacific
Professor Denis Morisset - Director of Executive Luxury Marketing Program ESSEC Asia Pacific

Tell us a little more about yourself including industry experience and your exposure to Luxury Market

I am acting as luxury consultant and luxury marketing professor since 2004, sharing my time between France, China and SE Asia. Before 2004, I worked 25 years in the luxury industry and occupied MD/COO/CEO positions with Ralph Lauren, Pierre Balmain, Giorgio Armani, and was also the President of a large shoes company for 7 years and developed both in-house and licensed shoes brands (Kenzo, Givenchy, Disney, Elle). I was involved in the development of Armani hotels but I never worked directly in luxury hotels operations.

I was however fortunate to be “initiated” to the world of luxury hotels very young by my family and ever since I have spent a considerable amount of time in luxury hotels and resorts, for both business and leisure, sometimes up to 120 nights per year, mostly in Europe, China and SE Asia. I have delivered in the past 10 years several keynote speeches and training workshops to luxury hotel groups in Asia and in the Middle-East primarily, mostly around branding and luxury marketing.

What hotelier really need to pay attention to tap to the luxury market? And how the technology aspect has influence this specific segment

For hoteliers interested to tap into the luxury market, it is important to keep in mind a few key principles. Luxury hotels cater to emotions, dreams and desires, not to needs. Actually no one “needs” to stay in a luxury hotel! Therefore, the primary objective of luxury hotels should be to create & sell dreams by using a language which is not commercial but emotional. Luxury is a cultural phenomenon, so luxury hotels cannot simply sell rooms & food, they should act as travel gatekeepers and cultural tastemakers.

They should constantly push further the boundaries of the guest’s luxury experience. But at the same time, they should not forget that an essential part of what constitutes a great guest luxury experience is still the level and consistency of personalized and emotional luxury service delivered by the hotel staff. So, recruiting passionate staff, training and retaining them is also one of the most essential but most difficult task of luxury hoteliers.

Luxury is a matter of passion, where proximity and personal relationships play a key role. In luxury hotels, luxury service is often more an art than a science. However, technology can certainly help. I often observe that, although my favorite hotels know a lot about my habits and preferences, they often fail at fully leveraging on my data to engage with me in a deeper and more personalized way.

So, I believe AI in particular and digital tools should be used more in the future by luxury hotels to not only build client data but also facilitate the use of this client data to personalize further guest engagement.

Share with us tips on how the behavior of luxury market in hospitality industry so we can adjust the approach accordingly

One challenge many luxury hotels are facing is how to stay relevant to evolving consumer culture while staying true to their DNA. How to appeal to a new clientele which is more diverse in terms of psychographics and demographics, which is often “cash rich but time poor”, and also much younger and often more Chinese? A common mistake is to “try and appeal to everyone”.

In luxury, trying to be “everything to everyone” often ends up in being “nothing to no one”! Luxury brands do not follow all traditional marketing rules. For instance, they don’t think in terms of positioning or competitors. They aim at maintaining a true uniqueness, be above and beyond other hotels by staying true to their DNA, to their values and personality.

For Aman junkies, Aman in totally unique and for them, “No Aman, no thanks”, which means Aman is much more than a luxury resort brand, it is just Aman. But at the same time, luxury hotels can leverage on collaborations in many fields (fashion, art, music, lifestyle collaborations) and play with their codes to refresh their dream factors, combine tradition and modernity and also grow their business

If you could change two things how hotel should do the business, what would they be

I think “branding” is still a real weakness in the hotel industry, in particular for local and independent hoteliers, small hotel brands, etc. Branding is particularly essential for upscale and luxury hotels, as the choice of guests is not driven by prices and promotions but rather relies on image, values and reputation. It is important also to understand some important shifts in the evolution of hotel industry brand architecture, in particular the rise of “lifestyle hotel brands” and also “soft brands” sometimes called “hotel collections”.

While it can be a challenge for independent hotels, it is also an opportunity for them, as the combination of independent hotel associations like LHW, SLH, Relais & Chateaux, Preferred and soft brands controlled by big hotel groups such as Destination by Hyatt, Unbound collection by Hyatt, M Gallery and Emblems collection at Accor, LXR, Curio & Tapestry at Hilton, Vignette at IHG, Luxury Collection, Autograph and Tribute at Marriott, offer a growing number of alliance opportunities for independent upscale and luxury hotels to increase their popularity and brand power.

Describe major changes on the luxury segment in hospitality industry and what is your suggestion to the hotelier

Thinking about major changes that are happening in the luxury hotel industry, I think a striking one is how luxury hotel brands are crossing over new fields and activities, achieving real brand extensions, sometimes through relevant collaborations. In this way, their website changed significantly over the past 10 years as they do not focus anymore just on hotel rooms, F&B or MICE, but are growingly crossing over new activities around real estate, sports, travel, transportation, wellness and beauty, art and culture.

A good illustration is Four Seasons: their website now talks about real estate, private retreats, fitness, private jet and cruises, safaris and all kind of amazing travel experiences, they even sell products and bedding equipment. These “cross overs” also enable luxury hotels to improve and develop their story telling.

Describe major challenges in the hospitality industry which need to be addressed

Storytelling, like branding is also often a weakness that I perceive when I compare luxury hotel brands and luxury product brands. Independent luxury hotels in particular often have a long way to go to develop stronger story telling. It should become a mindset for luxury hoteliers; how to create inspiring and emotional stories about the founders, their values, their personal story but also stories about clients, about staff, stories that help guests understand how the hotel or resort relates to its neighborhood, its environment, stories that leverage on local influencers whenever relevant to bring more authenticity. And of course, inspiring pictures and short videos are a must to make these stories more inspiring.


More about Professor Denis Morisset

Develops and teaches Executive luxury marketing courses for Essec Asia Pacific on Singapore campus, in SE Asia and in China. Director of the Essec Asia Pacific AMP on Luxury Brand Management. In charge of short executive luxury marketing courses in Asia ( The art of launching and growing luxury brands, retail excellence , from luxury service to luxury experience, luxury distribution and retailing in Asia region. Also lecturer in luxury marketing programs for Essec Business School in Paris - LVMH chair, MBA in International luxury brand management. Also in charge of teaching luxury marketing for IMHI ( Essec MBA in Hospitality and Tourism) as well as IMHI partner in HK ( SHTM).



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