Kempinski Hotels: Exclusivity Creates Luxury

The Kingdom Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Kingdom Tower Riyadh Saudi Arabia // Photo by swisshippo/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

We recently joined the general managers of several Kempinski hotels for an all-too-brief luncheon to learn about the latest updates from the luxury company.

President and CEO Reto Wittwer announced that last year was the best ever for the brand, and this year was projected to be even better. (While numbers were not bandied about at the luncheon, a recent Bloomberg article reported that Kempinski’s profit climbed 18 percent in 2012.) 

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Kempinski saw several notable openings in the first half of this year, with the debut of the brand's largest property in New Dehli and a new hotel in Shanghai. Perhaps the most notable opening was that of the Palais Hansen in Vienna, which had been closed to the public since the 1870s

Several key openings are planned in the coming months and years: In addition to its soon-to-debut hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Kempinski is looking to expand in Africa, with an upcoming hotel in Nairobi (to complement the new property in the Masai Mara) and another planned for Ghana. “Africa is a rising star, and we want to be there,” he said. 

(Bloomberg also reported that Kempinski is in talks to manage or buy properties in Barcelona, Paris and Nice, France, but David Sparrow, Vice President of Sales, said that opportunities in cities like Paris and Rome are “very infrequent.”)

Wittwer said that the brand relies on three key components: Innovation and reinvention; acquiring and developing talent (managers should find and nurture talented team members themselves rather than leaving the task to the HR department); and constantly improving food and beverage options. 

But in spite of these steps and the general sense of optimism, Wittwer does not expect the brand to expand much further. “Luxury is numerically limited,” he declared, adding that the company would never have more hotels than its own age. “The luxury agenda is written in uniqueness,” he added. “A luxury hotel is collectively owned by its people who reflect the local community.” 

David Sparrow agreed with Wittwer that the brand could not grow beyond a certain number of properties: “Bigger means less exclusive,” he said, “and luxury is a feeling for a limited experience.” He also echoed the sentiment on food and beverage and echoing the local community, noting that every hotel should have a signature dish that reflects its environment. In Geneva, he said, the top meal is perch caught from the local lake. “It doesn’t need to be complex,” he added, “just top-quality.” 

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