Luxury Hotels

INDEPENDENCE COUNTS

At 2p.m. yesterday Girlahead was WhatsApping Alex Furrer, boss of The Setai, Miami’s most  famous independent hotel. He had just heard that for the tenth consecutive year The Setai had got five stars from Forbes Travel Guide.  How would he celebrate? The thoughtful Swiss immediately explained how he was hosting a reception for his entire team, Champagne and a slap-up buffet. This coming weekend there will be Lunar New Year festivities, three days of lion dances and the like (Swiss can be, by nature, a little dour but the Furrer face did break into a little smile when it was suggested that he might be the lion’s head). The owners of The Setai, the Nakash family, must be really pleased.

Independent hotels, of which The Setai is one, do tend to have owners, real people rather than pension funds or private equity. These hotels must be celebrated, and well done to Tom Robbins, Travel Editor of The Financial Times, for doing just that. On 27th January he published Your Top City Stays, readers’ choices of independents. The list includes The Hay-Adams in Washington DC, owned by the Saul family, and Delhi’s Imperial, owned by the Akoi family (‘Not just a hotel but a living, pulsating museum… breakfast on the garden veranda overlooks strutting peacocks’ said Jon Randolph, an economist from London).

Also applauded is the Heineken family’s De L’Europe Amsterdam. Chris van Steenbergen, an Antwerp-based director, cites ‘great focus on detail, as well as pleasant, attentive staff’, and a very present GM’. Kudos to that larger-than-life hotelier, Robert-Jan   Woltering, who is indeed ‘everywhere’.

That’s another thing that cognocenti expect from an independent. Managers who are visible rather than hidden away reading spreadsheets or talking to owners – who might be inhumanly on AI anyway. Those who know that know that just as Alex Furrer’s always around at The Setai, so is Nicolas Béliard at The Hay-Adams and so is Louis Sailer at The Imperial. They are key pieces in the chess game that makes independent hotels so worthwhile.