Interview with Mr. Vito Romeo, Managing Director of Rosewood Sanya
A native Italian, Mr. Romeo has more than 30 years’ hospitality experience and has held senior hotel manager positions all over the world, most recently as general manager at The Ritz-Carlton Chengdu and previously at Shangri-La Bosphorus Istanbul and Shangri-La Vancouver. Mr. Romeo has a degree in hospitality management from the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France, and is also a graduate of Cornell University’s general managers program. Aside from being a hospitality professional and well-travelled, Mr. Romeo loves architecture, golf, cooking and collecting cookbooks, and passionately follows Juventus Football Club. Recently Mr. Vito Romeo has been appointed managing director of Rosewood Sanya which opened in August 2017 as the first China resort for the ultra-luxury Rosewood Hotels & Resorts® brand. SpaChina talked with him about changes and development in the hospitality and wellness industry.
What are the significant changes and development in global high-end hospitality industry in recent years?
The hospitality industry has grown faster and faster. Customers pay more attention on a unique and personalized service experience. They are no longer satisfied with well-furnished facilities, they need to be impressed, touched and engaged. To build loyalty and trust for the brand has become an extremely important issue nowadays. Rosewood’s overall mission is to provide the most personal, original and authentic travel experience possible in today’s luxury space. Each property is a reflection of its location’s history, culture and geography. Thus, art and visual culture are essential components of a destination’s identity and are essential to our “A Sense of Place” philosophy and the Rosewood guest experience.
Compared with five or ten years ago, is luxury hotel management and operation today easier or more difficult?
Luxury hotel management has definitely become more difficult nowadays. Besides the traditional hotel brands, there are more and more derivative boutique hotels from fashion brands such as Bvlgari and Versace. China has quite different market compared with other nations and regions. We need to build an impressive brand image to our target market and establish a long-term relationship which is based on trust and loyalty.
What kind of Chinese consumers tend to select luxury hotels here and abroad?
Chinese consumers who tend to select luxury hotel brands are getting younger, which means mainly millennium. As time goes by and society advances, people tend to have higher standards of living and individual worth. These young customer groups generally have high education and frequent travel or overseas living/studying experiences. For attracting this market, the display of social marketing seems to be a key for success. Despite the facilities and environments of the hotel, more and more customers focus on culture discovery and the personal journey during their stay, which means a requirement for a more engaged and interactive service vibe and exquisite experiences of culture, nature and personal service. Our hotels and resorts are intuitive expressions of the souls of their respective destinations.
How do you value a spa’s role in a luxury hotel?
Spa has a vital role in luxury hotel chains nowadays, and most of them manage their spa as an independent outlet with its distinctive identities and characters. Unlike in the past, Spa is not only for relaxation of the body, but also a revitalization of the soul and a revealing of inner radiance. More and more guests come to a hotel for a spa experience rather than one stay for a room night. This change leads to a new chapter in how guests position spa in their mind.
What are the benefits and challenges brought by the rise of social media to luxury hotels?
Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and WeChat give opportunities for consumers to access to all types of information, generated not by commercial interests but by other consumers. Also, any consumers or potential consumers can express themselves with either positive or negative opinions, which is why social media is considered as a powerful tool. Social media platforms can simply reach consumers in a timely way and allow all promotions and advertisements to have a higher level of efficiency. However, social media is always a two-sided affair since it is difficult to control what happens in social networks. As the rapidly growth of social media, the Internet has changed the way that the public reacts with Internet celebrities. Popular Chinese social apps such as Wechat and Weibo can boast almost one billion active users. Hence, the impact of Internet celebrities is underestimated nowadays.
What are the forever unchanging things in hospitality and spa industry?
In my opinion, quality service and attention to detail are the soul of the hospitality industry.