BY JENNIFER SCHREIER PELCZARSKI
In the last hundred years, there have been few brands that can emphatically state that their logo is recognized the world over. A distinction reserved for an elite handful, the ‘lion and the crown’ of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company represents that status for one such organization. The brand embodies affluent sophistication, grace, style, and a ‘spirit of excellence’. These qualities are seen and felt in every facet of Ritz-Carlton operations, throughout each of its 76 unique properties. Around the globe, this ‘Gold Standard’ is personified in all ‘ladies and gentlemen’ of the company.
Mr. Victor Clavell, Area Vice President, Asia-Pacific, has had the pleasure of calling the Ritz-Carlton home for almost twenty years. His distinguished career with the company began with his first role as a pre-opening trainer in Food & Beverage and Rooms. He has never looked back. Ever the consummate professional, Clavell has been unwavering in his commitment to the luxury hospitality leader. From his modest position in 1992, this seasoned hotelier is now responsible for the management and direction of The Ritz-Carlton Edition, and Bulgari hotel operations in the Asia-Pacific region.
When offered the opportunity in 2009 to oversee operations in this region, he did not hesitate. “Asia is growing at a much faster rate than any other region in the world,” says Clavell. “This is proving to be a great challenge in discovering a whole new world. For me this is extremely exciting both professionally and personally.”
Strategically, the company has always been focused on being where customers are located. The opportunities in Asia will increase Ritz-Carlton’s market share. Today, the company has a presence in most of the major cities in China. However, Clavell also emphasizes that there are “many cities where we are going to open hotels in large populations, but are not tier one cities.” Ritz-Carlton is eager to branch into newly emerging target markets with enormous populations and burgeoning affluence.
A primary market of significance will be Japan with its potent, continuing growth. The company currently operates two 5-star luxury hotels in that country: one in Tokyo and the other in Osaka. Other premiere properties are slated for completion in the resort town of Okinawa next year and in Kyoto in 2014.
Enhancing the global portfolio for outbound markets is also a key goal. This will be accomplished through expansion tactics into Thailand, Vietnam, Bali, China and India, which comprise only a handful of the locations being targeted. “We’ve been extremely well received by our customers in these emerging markets,” observed Clavell. “There are plans to build full properties in the Chinese cities of Chengdu and Qingdao and in Okinawa in Japan. These are only some of the destinations, where we’ve seen the incredible potential for sustained strategic growth.”
The organization intimately understands that its customer base is becoming younger based on the research and study of evolving trends. Take into account that of the 1.3 billion people in China, 40% of whom are under the age of 30. Companies worldwide need to “adapt their products and services by catering to a younger generation according to needs.” However, Clavell was quick to point out that “what is still very, very important to our Chinese customers is to have ‘the best.” Highlighted by the fact that, of the eight properties currently in China, Ritz-Carlton has the top-rated restaurant at each one.
At the end of the day, what is familiar at every hotel is how they operate—the culture and philosophy. All of these directly contribute to the genuine care and comfort of guests to create a memorable experience. From the design aspect, up to and including groundbreaking, each property has a unique ‘sense of place’ that is both contemporary and timeless. All markets are different and the due diligence on specifics for each new location is crucial to the success of the new properties being opened.
In addition, the growth and development of future leaders remains a high priority. “What I really enjoy is to see young, talented individuals grow throughout the organization and achieve positions of great responsibility,” emphasized Clavell. “From the past to the present there is always someone to give you an opportunity, as they mentor and coach you, which goes back to our core philosophy of the genuine care and comfort of individuals.” Emphasizing the need to work in tandem achieves goals.
It’s a philosophy that sets Ritz-Carlton apart from its competition and makes it a truly remarkable organization. The competitive advantage does not reside in being the biggest, but in remaining steadfast to being the best in delivering an unforgettable luxury experience to guests. This speaks volumes about its ongoing success.
As testament to this, Mr. Clavell is a “firm believer in treating others the way you want to be treated, which will always take you much farther.” Is this an extremely simple principle? Yes, absolutely. It’s not something that you learn. It’s a way a life.