Phil Blizzard here speaks with Patina Hotels & Resorts chief executive Marc Dardenne ahead of the launch of the new luxury brand in Singapore later this year. Dardenne is a hospitality leader with over 30 years of international experience spanning three continents with a list of accolades includes ‘CEO of the Year’ and ‘Excellence in Hospitality Leadership’ in the Middle East.
Breaking Travel News: Let’s start and look at what Patina Hotels & Resorts are going to bring to the luxury segment in Singapore?
Marc Dardenne: Singapore is a very competitive market so really, when we looked at the offering, we wanted to be different.
We tried to position the hotel clearly in the luxury segment and to create a luxury lifestyle proposition.
I always feel that some of the traditional operators, like the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, St Ridges, are a little bit on the conservative side and the lifestyle hotels like the W is a little bit too much on the lifestyle side.
So really, we want to position ourselves in that wide space and we definitely feel there is a market for it.
BTN: Looking at hotel development in Singapore, a recent report from CBRE shows that room numbers like to increase by 20 per cent by 2016, so it looks like there is significant room for development there?
MD: I think so. Being on such a fantastic location, our flagship location is part of a mixed use development and has 157 keys; it is very manageable, walking distance from the business district and also from leisure attractions like the new art museum in Singapore which is called the new Louvre of the far east.
It is opening right at the same time when we are going to open.
BTN: What else do you think you would be able to add to the hotel scene in Singapore?
MD: We will introduce a new service concept called the 360 degree concierge, where every employee is a concierge.
So, every employee is a host and this is something new that has not been launched anywhere really and we are very proud of the concept.
Another will be the 24-hour state program that I had introduced with The Address in Dubai and here in Singapore it will be the first - in our lobby we do not have a front desk.
Everybody gets whisked to their room or out of the room.
And I think the food and beverage offering will be very interesting also.
We are bringing a Peruvian Japanese concept into Singapore which again is a first.
So, many firsts and our proposition is that every annual it will be something new, something interesting.
We want people to experience and really obviously come back and recommend the hotel.
BTN: What is the philosophy of the Patina Hotels?
MD: So, the philosophy is really number one from a product point of view.
I always say that architecturally and from an interior design point of view, we have to be significant, so meaning working with great consultants.
In the case of Singapore, it is a conservation building, over a hundred years old.
The second component is really the art aspect.
That is where the name comes from, Patina.
It is the beautiful shine that develops for a piece of furniture or an art piece overtime.
We really feel that we are building an artwork that will gradually become better and better overtime.
So, that art aspect is key for us also.
BTN: If I have got it right, I believe art is important to the family behind the hotel group because they are avid art collectors themselves?
MD: Yes. I mean when you look at the Ritz-Carlton which is one of the hotels that we own, over 4,000 originals in that hotel.
You know it is a museum and all the hotels have a strong art component in them and Patina will be the same thing.
BTN: You’ve got a huge heritage of hospitality behind you and are no stranger to opening up new hotel brands. You’ve mentioned Dubai and there you introduced the Address brand for Emaar and opened the very first Armani Hotel, located with-in Burj Khalifa. So, you are looking pretty relaxed considering you have got a major venture opening in a matter of nine, ten months I suppose.
MD: Anything is about planning.
Having it done before helps, planning and great people.
And we are putting together a team of outstanding individuals, some of them I have worked with, all with great backgrounds on - it’s all the question about getting the right team, putting the right strategy in place, the right vision.
We started working on our culture.
We have a backing of the Kwee Family who have been in the luxury business kind of all their lives, truly understand what the luxury hotel is all about, the importance of people, human capital.
It is kind of this perfect storm in my opinion and I’m relaxed maybe on the outside, very intense from the inside.
BTN: Moving from Singapore, how do you see the group evolving around the globe or are you going to be focusing purely on Asia?
MD: For the time being, we will look at south-east Asia and truly we have some interesting projects.
One is in Bangkok on the river.
It is 80 suites with a residential component and a signature restaurant and bar.
We have in Phuket a very interesting combination of tree houses on luxury tents, which again is something new.
We have an island in the Maldives that we are developing which has the two best surf waves in the Maldives.
We are looking at a development in Bali in the rice fields and one on the beach and something in Jakarta.
We are looking also at China, both Shanghai and Beijing which are our first targets and really we want to establish the group first in south-east Asia but obviously the Middle East would be clearly an area that would - it is close to my heart and I think would be perfect from Patina.
BTN: So, what you are saying is some very interesting locations to go with what’s going to be a luxury product from as you said, rice fields to surfing beaches.
MD: Yeah. It is sort of a lifestyle.
It’s what really makes unique experiences, lifestyle, that’s what we are looking at.
We are not the cookie cutter hotel or company.
So, every hotel will be special.
Every hotel will have a strong sense of place and clearly our motto is really distinct memories one guest at a time.
BTN: Okay. And the timeframe for your developments beyond Singapore, what is your aim? What is your target?
MD: Our target is basically in the next couple of years. Two or three years we will have five, six properties up and running.
Interview: Phil Blizzard