|John McMahon with Paolo Lorenzoni|
It’s amazing when things come together. Just last month I was on my way to Italy for the reopening of the Luxury Collection’s Gritti Palace. On my flight I was able to catch up on my reading of the May issue. I hadn’t had a chance until then to read Ruthanne Terrero’s cover story on Frits van Paasschen, president and CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
In the article Frits talked about the “new golden age of luxury.” His vision was current and forward-thinking at the same time. I began to wonder whether The Gritti would deliver on Frits’ vision. Then I arrived, and I was able to experience it firsthand.
Since the building was crafted in 1585, I was curious to see how “the new golden age” would fit into such a historic, Old World hotel. I met Paolo Lorenzoni, the general manager (pictured at left). Paolo’s passion and understanding of today’s traveler is visible throughout the hotel. I would say the lobby is his office and every time I wandered through, he was meeting and greeting, saying good-bye to guests, taking pictures, carrying bags; he did it all. It was his house. His staff followed his lead and anticipated guests’ needs.
One night, we were out on the patio and a cool wind came by and within seconds the staff was handing out shawls to warm the guests up. The service was friendly, prompt and on key. It wasn’t stuffy or stiff. It was what Frits had promised luxury hospitality to be. The days of upper-lip service are behind us and engagement is the end result that makes the affluent experience different. No one at The Gritti was working; they were communicating, serving, assisting, finding ways to make our stay flawless. And it was.
As travel advisors, we have to make our clients feel the same way. Your energy level and enthusiasm should be the same as if you were planning your best friend’s honeymoon. And if you feel like you’re not working and the energy level and excitement is just bouncing back and forth between you and your client, pinch yourself. You have reached that level of service that the new golden age traveler wants. Congratulations.