We recently sat down with Dominique Colliat, the Senior Vice President for Sofitel Hotels, to see what 2014 would hold for the luxury brand.
Most notably, Colliat said that Sofitel's "So" hotels would be expanding. After launching in the Mauritius and opening a sophomore property in Bangkok, the design-focused label will open in Singapore this coming March, and then make its American debut in the Ipanema district of Rio de Janeiro. Farther out, plans are in the works for So hotels in Mumbai, Auckland and Bali.
So hotels are designed by local artists, and sometimes several designers can show off their work on different floors of one hotel. In Bangkok, five floors were assigned five distinct elements (iron, water, earth, wood and fire), and each floor was assigned to a local designer. When the Singapore hotel opens, it will have design elements from Karl Lagerfeld, and the Ipanema hotel will include work from Jean Paul Gaultier.
The Sofitel Legend collection, meanwhile, includes hotels located in historic buildings—some of which have been Sofitels for a while, but will get new labels soon. (This collection will be more exclusive, Colliat said, with only about 15 or 20 properties expected to have the label within the next five years.) The next Legend hotel will be in Uruguay's capital city of Montevideo. It opened in March in a 100-year-old abandoned building (conveniently, a former grand hotel that had fallen into disrepair) that was renovated and brought back to its original elegance. (The cleaning crews uncovered gold gilt on the ceilings, which has been left there along with other historic elements.)
The three different labels, Colliat said, will help the overall Sofitel brand appeal to a wider range of travelers. Five years ago, the brand had 206 hotels, but after a repositioning, dropped nearly 80 of them and focused on repositioning and renovating the remainder. "We don't want to be everywhere," Colliat said, but noted that Sofitel needs more hotels in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas (especially Latin America). Strategic cities can have more than one Sofitel, and some cities with existing properties (Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, Sao Paulo, Lima, and Santiago de Chile) are already being scouted for future investment. (Cuba, she added, is a particularly attractive market as American companies will not be building there any time in the immediate future.)
For now, Sofitel is looking to add a So hotel in Los Angeles ("maybe San Diego," Colliat mused) or in San Francisco's downtown area.