What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19?
Everything that has happened because of COVID-19 has been very fast. As the Regional Vice President of Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Los Cabos; Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe; Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas and the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende and a GM in the hotel industry for more than 25 years, I can say that it’s very unusual for all hotels in a region to shut down in such a short amount of time. When the government forced everything to close, there is a moment when you realize that you have to protect your employees and the business. We are very lucky in Las Ventanas Al Paraiso that we have a fantastic owner [Ty Warner] who has been supporting our staff and keeping everyone on board so that our employees don’t lose their jobs.
Now that we know the scale of the crises, we know that even when we’re fully open—on July 1, 2020— we will not be operating at the same capacity as before to ensure our guests are safe. Even with a vaccine, it will still take people longer to come back and feel safe traveling than before. Keeping our staff has been helpful for the spirit of the team and will allow us to re-open with the same level of service our guests have always expected. Our property has been around since 1997 and has maintained its status over the years. About 45% of guests return to our property, and while we’ve always been known for our high level of service and attention to detail, we’re always reinventing ourselves and thinking of better ways to do things. For instance, up until a few years ago, we were adults-only. It was always a very romantic hotel, but now our guests are getting younger and wanting to travel with their children, so we’ve evolved to accommodate that.
Fortunately for us now, the way the hotel has been built grants so much space, that we don’t need to change a lot to accommodate social distancing. We have 84 accommodations spread out over 12 acres. Our villas each feature a kitchen, private pool, and expansive living and sleeping areas. It feels like you’re at a private home, and you never have to leave it to feel like you’re at a resort.
When it comes to dining, we won’t be giving out menus like before. We’ve switched everything printed or that you once touched to now be done with your phone through our app. Menus, door locks, engaging with the staff…we’ve invested in the technology to do everything with your phone, which we were able to implement quickly, since Rosewood understood the importance of this. They were dealing with all of this in Asia first and had a comprehensive playbook that allowed them to know what to change.
As far as reservations, we’ve had about 40% cancel and 60% of our guests postpone their travel. When they do return, they’ll be given the highest level of service.
What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation?
We’re re-opening the property in two phases. First, we’ll softly open with just our 17 villas and the Ty Warner Mansion, [the 28,000-square-foot beachfront suite with two master suites, a 40-foot infinity pool, and a 9,000-square-foot rooftop terrace with its own glass-bottom lap pool and putting green].
We’ve partnered with the private airport here so that our guests won’t have to interact with anyone. We’ll be anticipating their needs with protocols that will allow them to exit the plane and get into our private cars [which have been thoroughly cleaned and sterilized] immediately.
We’ll have a certain number of commercial flights, but most of our guests are coming private. We’ve partnered with the private airport here so that our guests won’t have to interact with anyone. We’ll be anticipating their needs with protocols that will allow them to exit the plane and get into our private cars [which have been thoroughly cleaned and sterilized] immediately. From the car, they’ll meet with customs officers with the right safety equipment and the whole process will be expedited to only 5-7 minutes, as all of their medical and immigration forms will be filled out ahead of time. Once on the property, they’ll be directed to their villas right away, and from there, they can determine how much interaction they want to have with their butler and hotel staff after that.
The second phase will see the entire hotel re-opening, on July 1, 2020. We purchased an automatic thermal camera to read people’s temperatures. That was a big investment, but we want our guests to feel safe. This way, each guest will be automatically screened without having to interact with anyone. If their temperature is high, we’ll be able to offer them assistance and follow protocols to keep everyone safe.
How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?
We all know a huge recession is coming, so that will of course affect people’s ability to travel. It will also take people a while to get the confidence to travel again, but I do think that hotels like ours are going to be appealing to people who were traveling to Asia or Europe more and now want to stay closer to home but still have a unique experience.
What have you learned from other difficult times in the past?
I was in Bali at Jimbaran Bay in October 2002 when there was an attack. We went from 80% occupancy on a Friday to 5% on the following Tuesday. Then, five and six years ago, here in Cabo, we had hurricanes that were catastrophic. Events like those change everything dramatically overnight, but unlike in this situation, people wanted to come back right away. However, these difficult experiences have taught me to be resilient and grateful, and it gives you the energy to be the best possible leader and has reminded me the importance of looking after your community.
Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime
I’m not really a morning person—I prefer my workouts at night. I typically start my day with work calls, which can be especially early when speaking with Hong Kong. I engage with my staff and managers over Facetime or Zoom. If this had happened 15 years ago, it would have been much more challenging.
Blacklist and Designated Survivor on Netflix.
It’s definitely been easier to read now. I just finished The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO by Robert Iger. I’d love for him to write a follow-up version that deals with the current crisis too. Also, I’m French, and I’m reading Jean D’Ormesson’s C’etait Bien. He passed away last year and was one of France’s most esteemed writers as well as the director of Le Figaro for several years.
What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
I’m cooking a lot. We launched a cooking challenge with our hotel managers, where everyone posts videos of what they’re cooking and shares the recipes. We also have a DJ at the hotel who is creating two playlists a week for us over Instagram. Our guests can vote on the songs they like and the DJ will include them in the next playlist.
What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?
I’ve been very busy with work still and managing the five hotels in my portfolio, but I walk my dog for an hour every day around the golf course where I live, about ten minutes from the resort.
Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
For personal traveling, I want to go back to Bali. We were there in October, and I want to go back as soon as I can. Then, to visit my family in Paris.