Luxury Hotels


What a difference it makes when a hotel is run by a ‘local’. Well, to be truthful Yngvar Stray is Norwegian but he and his Singaporean wife Julia – above – have owned the house in Singapore that they consider home for many years.  It’s so convenient, he says. The commute is 25 minutes, give or take traffic, to CAPELLA SINGAPORE.

Of course commutes can be less than that. At BURGENSTOCK, high above Lucerne, MD Christian Sack lives in a two-floor house only five minutes’ walk from his office. Fortunately the Official Residence Of The Boss has high walls around so there is plenty of privacy. Actually, having a house on the estate is a plausible compromise, privacy paired with proximity.  In Cape Town, the job of running Belmond’s famously-pink MOUNT NELSON comes with one of the adorable Cape terraces houses on adjacent streets that just pre-date the actual 1899-vintage main hotel: today, Sydenham Terrace and the other once-public streets are all private, and their houses, with cute front gardens and wrought iron railings, are,  with one exception, all villas in the hotel’s overall inventory. The odd-man-out is one terraced house that is the hotel’s gym.

And sometimes there is no commute at all. Think of island resorts. In the Maldives, Etienne Dalancon, boss of the phenomenally-successful WALDORF ASTORIA MALDIVES ITHAAFUSHI, obviously has to live on-property, but fortunately the hotel’s owner has linked three islands and management and the rest of the 750-strong team are on one, out of prying eyes of guests at what is invariably a full resort.  Another Etienne, Etienne Joquin, similarly lives on the island at THE BRANDO, in French Polynesia. Sumba, Indonesia, is a mega-island but the developer of NIHI SUMBA thoughtfully included a gorgeous villa for the GM, and another for Managing Partner James McBride.

To commute or not, that is the question. It undoubtedly affects work-life balance but not in an all-negative way. Gone are the days when Erhard Noreisch, then Sheraton’s man in Sweden, so stood out, in business suit and dark tie, but, he admitted, he could pop up and see his then-pre-school daughters whenever he had a minute.

At THE CARLYLE, A ROSEWOOD HOTEL in New York, MD Marlene Poynder’s home is an apartment in the 35-floor building. She is obviously up and down in elevators during a working day and she takes her pooch out for his evening constitutional – just as many of the other full-time residents do. When a hotel has integral, or close to hand, residences, it is much easier for the hotel boss to be anonymous, at times.

It does seem, however, that, commute or not, the fast-rising ‘best hotels’ stars are not office-bound automatons. They walk the floor, whenever they think it appropriate (at 8 a.m. a week ago, Lubosh Barta was on hand to meet a guest arriving at FOUR SEASONS BANGKOK ON CHAO PHRAYA RIVER – ‘I’ve been waiting an hour as the plane was late and we changed a welcome in-room breakfast to mid-morning snacks’, he joked).

Have you picked up the just-launched global newswire, Inner Circle

Now let’s listen again to Lubosh Barta’s boss, Rainer Stampfer: