Interview with Philippe Vaurs, founder of Elegancia Hotels
Philippe is an alchemist of the hotel industry. A well-respected influencer at the EQUIPHOTEL Salon, his modus operandi is to invest in hotels which he then transforms and even metamorphoses thanks to architects that he selects with the utmost care and originality. He has turned the Parisian hotel scene on its head through the creation of his boutique hotels (Seven, Hidden, One by Five…), which each flaunt very different styles but are shared in their touch of soul. A man of fundamental positivity, he manages his teams with respect and seeks to reveal in them the best of themselves.
I met him at the inauguration of Off Paris Seine, Paris’s only hotel & bar lounge on the Seine, in its mooring between Gare de Lyon and Gare d’Austerlitz. This hotel on a boat has just completed an offer from Elegancia Hotel. For me, it is without a doubt the hotel event of the year. No one before him had ever dared or even thought up of such a hotel. This hotel will surely help in cultivating Paris’s opulent image across the world. I invite you to discover it, but be careful…you may disconnect more quickly than you think! The waves may even carry you off into a total state of well-being…! And believe me, you will not be able to leave this establishment without a smile!! ;-)
I leave you to discover Philippe Vaurs’s positive vision of the hotel industry.
What is the art of welcoming at Elegancia? Is the French art of welcoming a supplementary distinction?
The art of welcoming is a smile. It’s about being happy. I am happy to welcome you, I am happy to live, I am happy to do my work. In one word, a smile. When you smile, you already know how to welcome.
There isn’t a French or non-French art of welcoming. There’s an art of welcoming in Palaces that have a certain dialectic that I don’t offer in my hotels. Here, at Bar Off, for instance, when we train our employees, we put a lot of importance on making them conscious of smiling, discussing with the client, developing a sense of closeness with him, creating a link, etc.
For me, the art of welcoming is about putting the client at ease, of doing everything so that the client feels at home. We are not in a hotel where we are going to enter into ancestral codes in hotels; this would not resemble us. It’s about a more modern welcome. Is it a French art? It’s an international welcome, where we feel at home, where you receive your friends at your place.
What is your new vision of welcoming?
It truly is something I reflect on. For instance, we hired a Polish woman who just started today; she’s as lovely as a flower, but she hardly knows how to smile or talk. I asked her, “Why?” She told me, “Well, because I’m not very good at French, and I don’t want to talk.” I told her, “Make mistakes. I don’t care. Set yourself at ease and smile; everything will go fine!”
So she started smiling, she started talking, and she made mistakes. When I came back, I saw her and I told her, “How wonderful. Even your mistakes bring me pleasure!” And well, the game’s won. So there you go, it’s just that people are themselves and that the technique unfolds naturally, and that you don’t freeze up over micro-problems that you create. This prevents you from having a natural connection with another person. And it’s constantly a work in progress. Earlier, I pulled her aside and told her, “Voilà, I can see you’ve changed, and she understood, and I hope that she will improve even more over time.
What will the hotel industry be for you in 10 years?
If you had asked me a few years ago how hotels would turn out today, with everything that’s happened, the new arrival that is Airbnb, I would not have been able to imagine the reality. What I am certain about today is that everything is changing and we have to be on the lookout. We have to be innovative and show the capacity to adapt. Everyone is talking about how hotels have to be lifestyle places, and yes, they are going to become lifestyle spots. And today, it’s taken as a given; it’s no more than that.
The human element will remain the common denominator across all our hotels and the key of differentiation. If you have happy people who work in something they like, well, it will work out. If you have unhappy people who work in places that are not as nice as they would have like, it won’t work out. So it will be important to continue developing the human element and help employees understand that we are not here just to work toward a pay-slip. I take pleasure in everything I work toward. The more I take pleasure, the more I will improve myself, and if I improve myself, I will come to evolve naturally. Don’t tell me the opposite: “If I don’t receive a certain income, I won’t do this work.” We have to change the mentality, explain to people that it is possible to find another way to approach work.
For me, this is the main evolution to work on in the years to come: giving meaning to one’s work and being defined by it. Each employee is a determining link. Even the way he responds over the phone will have an impact on the client. Each gesture, each attitude counts! Everyone should be more conscious of this.
From there, where the product is concerned, there is so much creativity here today that people say this is the latest trendy thing, but tomorrow, this here will be out front. And then tomorrow, it will be on the side. Places were made to change all the time.
About Hotel Off:
More than just your average hotel, OFF is a unique establishment encompassing 58 rooms including 4 suites, a bar offering light dining options, a pool, a marina, and temporary 400 m2 terrace facing the quay.
OFF’s architecture was designed by Gérard Ronzatti of Seine Design. His structure adopts a discrete line that preserves the view over the Seine. Elegant zinc ceilings inclined toward the ceiling open the facades toward the exterior while a central overhead glass roof allows natural light to filter through the heart of the building.
OFF features 4 suites. The two Horizon Suites, at the head of the boat, are ideal for discovering Paris under a new angle thanks to their double exposition overlooking the Seine. The two monochromatic Designer suites were decorated by Maurizio Galante and Tal Lancman in Sunset and Silver tones marking their personality.
Laurent Delporte, an editor and conference speaker, is a strategic expert in the sector of hotels. A visionary, he brings his unique look on hotels in service to the decision-makers in the industry, whether to enhance the development of new projects or strategic visions.
Laurent has visited and audited over 350 hotels across the world and also participates in mystery visits to provide quality control for the world’s finest hotels.