|New Leadership: In this issue’s cover story, we shine the spotlight on Hervé Humler, the new president and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company (pictured here with Luxury Travel Advisor VP/Editorial Director Ruthanne Terrero). An original founding member of the brand, he takes over from longtime president Simon Cooper. See what he has in store for the brand starting on page 38.|
I had the chance to dine with our cover subject, Hervé Humler, the president and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, at a soirée hosted by The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin during ITB. Humler was in his element; during most of his tenure with Ritz-Carlton, he’s headed up the company’s international division, expanding it globally to the point where there are more Ritz-Carltons outside of the U.S. than inside.
Several of Humler’s top executives were also on hand, including Edward Staros, vice president and managing director of The Ritz-Carltons of Naples, FL, who joyfully noted that Humler is the ideal guy to lead the company. “Hervé personifies product and service excellence,” Staros told me. “He has a great mind and knowledge for food and beverage operations and how to present products. He has a wonderful eye that consistently raises the bar.” Staros would know: he and Humler were two of the six men who came together in March of 1983 to form The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company later that year. They’ve been working together ever since.
That these two gentlemen go back that far in leading the company speaks volumes about Ritz-Carlton retaining its independence as a brand. Humler and Staros were around before Marriott International had even dreamed of buying Ritz, and they’re still here today, using their service instincts and knowledge garnered over the years to keep Ritz-Carlton’s principles pure. As Humler maintains, Ritz-Carlton is able to pull the best tools from Marriott International, which has a total of 3,000 hotels under its wings when you add up all of its brands. That allows Ritz-Carlton, which has 73 hotels in its portfolio, to have a sophisticated reservations system and a loyalty program with all the bells and whistles you would want.
What comes up most frequently about Humler is his concern for the employees of Ritz-Carlton. I heard that when he arrives at one of the company’s hotels, he’s more likely to be found in the kitchen, catching up with colleagues there or hunting down someone else who works behind the scenes.
Case in point: During our dinner, halfway through an update he was providing on the company’s pipeline, Humler’s eye caught a glimpse of the waitresses and chefs behind him, who were listening attentively to his presentation. “By the way,” he said, turning to them, “thank you for everything you have done tonight to make this such a beautiful evening.” His words were simple but his sentiment was the real deal. When he sat back down next to me he said he was so pleased that during the lifetime of the Berlin hotel he’d seen very little turnover of the “ladies and gentlemen” who worked there.
During that same dinner, sitting to my left, was Martin Kleinmann of The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul. Kleinmann said that when he and his colleagues heard that Humler had been named to lead Ritz-Carlton, they were ecstatic. “It’s as if everything had come full circle,” he said. “Hervé built all of our hotels!”
That’s what I love about the hotel business: one can find unique individuals whose DNA includes the makeup that allows them to build iconic properties on international shores and in emerging destinations, and at the same time gives them the compassion and common sense to realize that these iconic hotels would be nothing without the human touch that goes into running them. There aren’t many of them out there, but our industry, particularly on the luxury side, is gifted with several.
For more on Hervé Humler and his plans to grow Ritz-Carlton and its fledgling Reserve brand, see pages 38-42.