08/04/2020

INTERVIEW: Olivier Raveyre, General Manager, Cheval Blanc Saint-Tropez

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Some venues mark a destination and even write their story, chapter by chapter. This is the case of former Résidence de la Pinède, included in the fabulous Cheval Blanc collection in 2016. Cheval Blanc Saint-Tropez, fourth venue in LVMH’s hospitality section, instilled in the popular Mediterranean city the wind of the timeless elegance specific to hotels of this brand, but also the smart audacity of chic interiors – reconfigured by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte – and of its legendary restaurant La Vague d'Or***. Olivier Raveyre, manager of Résidence de la Pinède and current general manager of Cheval Blanc Saint-Tropez, opens to vendom.jobs the doors of this unique luxury address, where the art de vivre is smoothly, warmly and convivially declined.

Vendom.jobs – During your career, who were your mentors/your models in terms of management?

Olivier Raveyre – I have always had mentors, and quite a number… The most impacting models were my parents. They shaped in me values that I use every day for work: humanity, kindness and determination. In the professional world, I met important managers with little leadership and the contrary – great leaders with little or bad management skills. (“A leader knows what’s best to do; a manager knows merely how best to do it.” Ken Adelman). I try to let both points of view inspire me, by using every means that can make me grow, by letting any positive situation enhance my attitude and by not reproducing any behaviour that is not consistent with my values. Luc Delafosse (general manager of Ritz London, Burj al-Arab, Crillon…) was my mentor at the beginning of my career and I still nourish my actions from all great professionals around me.

V.J. – Could you explain your leadership philosophy?

O. R. – A good leader is able to federate teams and accomplish his or her vision with them, based on common values. Humility is an essential value to me, which is also carried by Cheval Blanc collection. Humility is the necessary behaviour to adopt to continually improve and seek to learn.

This is what we primarily look for in our collaborators. During recruitment sessions, we do not only pay attention to competences, but mainly focus on personalities. We love bold men and women capable of challenging conventional thoughts and having the desire to create what does not yet exist. This is precisely what we encourage: the expression of individual talents. Beyond excellence and the perfect gesture, if a talent is not guided by sensitivity and sincerity, then it is not really accomplished.

V. J. – Every Cheval Blanc venue has a singular, completely unique spirit. How would you describe Cheval Blanc Saint-Tropez’ spirit?

O. R. – Through its history and people.

Cheval Blanc collection gathers authentic Maisons. Cheval Blanc Saint-Tropez has a strong history with roots deeply anchored in the soil of Saint-Tropez. Built in 1936, the Maison was a second holiday home for the owners who only very rarely visited the place. They successively left the place in the hands of a cook who would be the first to name it Résidence de la Pinède. In 1968, major works were undertaken, with the assistance of ceramist artist Roger Capron, whose works were re-emphasised by J.-M. Wilmotte in the architectural project for Cheval Blanc Saint-Tropez. In the end, the Maison Cheval Blanc Saint-Tropez has always been capable of reinventing itself without compromising on its holiday house roots and identity.

The men and women working with us within the Maison come together as one: we share a fraternal relationship assembling singular personalities that our customers like to come back to, year after year. Arnaud Donckele and Thierry Di Tullio are worthy representatives of the Maison. All together, we create a professional, family, warm atmosphere at Cheval Blanc Saint-Tropez between our hosts and our teams.

V. J. – How does one embody the specific DNA of a group such as LVMH?

O. R. – Cheval Blanc did us the honour of integrating our Maison to its collection in 2016. The amazing venue and our working methods were already very consistent with the group’s. Our fusion was very natural.

V. J. – What is your assessment after a year of existence?

O. R. – The hotel’s restoration ended in 2019 after three winters of substantial work. We lived this first year as a continuity in our quest for excellence. We included a Cheval Blanc touch of soul with exceptional signature services, added generosity and a specific attitude.

V. J. – What are, in your view, the main recruitment issues in luxury accommodation?

O. R. – We are evolving in a very competitive environment forcing us to continually enhance our social conditions. Hospitality and catering are one of the rare sectors to reach full employment. Paradigms changed, we are no more in a manager/employees paternalist relationship . Now, younger generations are not seeking to be hired to achieve a task anymore; they want meaning and come to collaborate in a project. Just like our customers, candidates expect a real experience as collaborators and do not want to waste time.

This situation helps to communicate our vision, as well as our commitment towards them, in a better way. Our employer brand keeps getting stronger and gaining credibility because words are combined with concrete actions for our Ambassadeurs.

If our current industry certainly requires sacrifices, it also acquired desirability and allows to quickly lead young talents on managerial positions by offering equal opportunities, whatever the background.

V. J. – How does one stand out in an area replete with so many important historical hotels?

O. R. – Our identity and the services we offer naturally make us different. However, I would not like to contextualise us as “competitors”. We all are complementary and must proactively develop a destination strategy. If all the hotels in a destination offered exceptional and innovating services, in well-held venues, it would benefit us all. What would be the use of possessing an exceptional Maison, if customers have a wasted experience when setting foot outside?

V. J. – Customization and experience are, among others, mainly cited to evoke the future of luxury. How do you keep surprising and thrilling customers?

O. R. – Through creativity. Creativity is a fundamental value of customer experience. We cultivate the emotion and each Ambassadeur takes part in this ultimate quest. This philosophy is based on the ultra-personalisation and generosity of the service provided by Ambassadeurs, who must instil their sensitivity with sincerity in every gesture and every word.

A service gesture has to be continuously right and highly personalized, with a specific attitude – kindness being the least – but it also has to be characterized by an astonishing personality and inherently tinged with an immutable value: a true desire to please.

V. J. – What is your personal definition of luxury?

O. R. – Luxury is the privilege of a rare experience. It can be found in a place, a skill, a property, even in a story, in art or in aesthetics. The more a product builds on exclusiveness and gathers exceptional and non-reproducible elements, the more it becomes highly attractive and “priceless”. Luxury is also a privilege as it imposes volume control to preserve the feeling of uniqueness, pride and belonging.

But luxury is also our most precious commodity: time, quality time. It is not a question of possessing anymore, but a question of being. If statutory luxury is always highly appreciated, so is experiential luxury. A customer can come out from a store with a product that can be appreciated on the long run, but the situation is very different in our industry. Ours is a long and constant process, which leaves a customer with a single element: a memory, and, at best, an emotion. If exceeding the expectations of customers is merely process, I believe that creating an emotion is a human competence, based on sensitivity and creativity.

V. J. – In your view, what will be its next challenges?

O. R. – The challenges will be to gather all the wonderful talents embracing our values and representing the heart of our Maisons.

Our role will be to release creative energies and strongly anchor our identity by letting these personalities and characters express themselves: this is what will generate the attachment of our hosts.