Talk to the new president and COO of Ritz-Carlton, Herve Humler, and you get a sense as to why the hotel company took the prize this year for Best Resort/Hotel Chain for Luxury in Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Awards—it’s all about the passion for the brand and delivering the brand offerings in a way that stays true to the essence of the brand while incorporating customer wants and needs.
“Delivery is key,” says Humler. “We support the notion of needing to achieve consumer relevance while not walking away from a core brand truth. That is, if all you ever do is chase a consumer truth, you will never—in the end—be entirely true to yourself as a brand.” At the same time, though, Humler insists that, “We have never stopped listening to what our customers and travel agents have been asking for. Per their request, continued global growth remained at the forefront of our development as an organization. There was a great hunger for luxury in markets such as Russia and China and we are now filling that need.”
One of the most pertinent elements that Ritz-Carlton added to its trove of offerings this past year was The Ritz-Carlton Rewards program, which goes far beyond providing complimentary stays and airline flights, and recognizes its members with a broad selection of unique travel experiences. “No other luxury hotel company comes close to providing such a full range of opportunities to earn and redeem points and experience some truly exceptional and exotic adventures,” says Humler. Those “unique travel experiences” include Abercrombie & Kent tours in locations such as China, Turkey and Egypt; special customer events and a half-day personal shopping experience with fashion experts at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman; 4-day photography workshops with National Geographic’s photographers, as well as the opportunity to redeem points on luxury cruise lines, including Crystal Cruises, The Yachts of Seabourn and Silversea.
In terms of growth, in 2010 the company opened a few hotels here in North America, including The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe in Northern California and The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain in Arizona, as well as The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles, but the company is certainly not resting on its laurels, with even more hotel openings planned for 2011. “We have much activity planned in Asia-Pacific, not the least the opening of the tallest hotel in the world in March 2011, The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong,” says Humler. “New hotels are also under construction in gateway cities including Toronto (opening February 2011).”
And in terms of product, The Ritz-Carlton has wholeheartedly embraced voluntourism. “We have had much success in this arena and are aware of the growing interest on the part of travelers to participate in community development, environmental and wildlife conservation projects,” says Humler, adding that, “We know that a voluntourism offering gives us the opportunity to extend our traditional service experience beyond the hotel.”
But one thing that Humler emphasizes when asked what makes The Ritz-Carlton brand stand out in the crowded luxury market is the hotel company’s “palette of experiences,” in which, “Our hotels are encouraged to modify and improve the guest experience by offering something greater than the physical deliverable of their facilities.” The same applies to the design of the hotels. “We do not work to one design mold,” he says, “but rather allow the process to be destination and costumer focused.”