For International Women’s Day, ten women from the Relais & Châteaux family reveal their vision of hospitality—and how they are meeting the challenges facing the industry following the pandemic.
Relais & Châteaux first came about when eight independent properties joined forces to share their vision of the art of living and to build friendly, lasting relationships based on the passion of their mutual profession. Their shared values continue to shine today: equal opportunities are central to their relationships, both between employees and with guests.
At an establishment where an exceptional setting, quality accommodation, and the excellence of every detail is of utmost importance, the key difference in guests’ eyes is hospitality. What sets the hospitality profession apart from others might be said to be the concept of encountering people and learning from each and every one of them.
Hospitality is a value to express to guests, but also to employees. Following the ‘Great Resignation’, which radically impacted the hotel and restaurant sector, employees are intent on bringing meaning back into their professional lives, and that is radically affecting business recruitment dynamics. To better meet their expectations and foster long-term loyalty as employees, various initiatives are underway as establishments reposition themselves as responsible tourism destinations.
Relais & Châteaux is proud to celebrate the women behind the association: their skills, their strengths and their vision.
“I love making people happy”
Trisha Pérez Kennealy,
Owner of The Inn at Hastings Park in Massachusetts (USA)
“I grew up in Puerto Rico. We have a very friendly, open, welcoming culture there. It isn’t uncommon to encounter people in the street and have them say, ‘Hey, come eat dinner with us.’ That is the spirit that I try to express here. It is precisely to share my passion for fine cuisine with visitors from all over the world that I have changed my career towards the hotel-restaurant business: I love making people happy. One of the things I love most about cooking is that it is an incredibly tangible way of showing people that you care about them.”
“Cherishing those who work with us”
Lodge Manager at Matakauri Lodge in Queenstown (New-Zealand)
“It’s not the quality of the sheets or the exceptional sunsets that make people come back to our lodge, even though those things are important. It’s the people they meet who make them want to come back. Hence the importance of cherishing those who work for us. To compensate for the frequent use of screens in professional interactions, I take the time each day to speak with the members of the Matakauri Lodge, whether to have an informal conversation, assist them in their work, or perhaps just suggest how to improve on a detail. It is essential to uphold the human aspect of our business.”
“My personal approach is through humor”
Director of Grand Hôtel de Cala Rossa & Spa Nucca in Porto-Vecchio (France), “Woman of the Year Trophy 2022” from Relais & Châteaux
“Organizations must get better at managing working hours and ensuring employees’ personal lives are respected. As a manager, it is extremely important to know how to listen, without requiring an appointment, and to do everything we can to make the hard labor and stress more bearable. But my personal approach is through humor. Even though you can’t always laugh about everything or with everyone, humor remains a very powerful way to connect with people, and it makes it much easier to manage everything.”
“Diversity is the best resource we have”
Owner of Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in Milan (Italy)
“The pandemic has accelerated what was already underway. We have all observed a clear evolution in our employees’ professional aspirations and expectations. Our sector is going through a complete metamorphosis. To better meet their expectations and foster long-term loyalty as employees, we have completely reorganized our restaurants, changed the days and times that our service is available and also invested in training to improve our employees’ skills. Gender equality requires a cultural evolution. I am trying to demonstrate that diversity is the best resource we have. That means accepting new points of view and adapting the methods according to the people, not the other way around.”
“Meaningful tourism models attract the best talent”
Co-founder of SUJÁN Life (three properties in India)
“Since the lock-down provided people with the time to reflect, many have decided to seek out more meaningful jobs at properties with a positive impact on the community. The DNA of our approach is now becoming a trend throughout the hospitality industry. The socially responsible, ecologically aware, locally meaningful tourism model that we have developed is what is attracting the best talent. In order to recruit female workers and build their loyalty, it is necessary to provide them with a secure, positive, ethical work setting. We are personally committed to promoting diversity and inclusion. We are sure that the trend is surely moving in the right direction.”
“We support the local community”
Lodge manager of Royal Chundu in Livingstone (Zambia)
“Being with our guests or our employees (three-quarters of whom are women) is the best training. When guests travel to Royal Chundu, they support the local community, and much of the lodge’s income is given back, in salaries, purchases, services and so on. We support the development of those around us: from village gardeners to seamstresses, traditional painters, weavers and fishermen, not to mention schoolchildren, who are the adults of tomorrow. By witnessing the changes in the neighboring communities that we have been able to generate, we have seen how beneficial our impact is.”
“Humanity and community spirit”
Founder of Sol y Luna in Urubamba (Peru)
“Hospitality is a subtle combination of time and attentiveness, which makes it possible to provide each guest with a personalized experience. The concept of Sol y Luna is based on humanity and a community spirit which is encapsulated by the Sol y Luna Foundation (a school for 200 local children and a foster home). The purpose of our hotel has always been to provide beautiful accommodation, gastronomy and experiences for our guests in a way that supports and improves the lives of the local community. In my experience the moments that touch guests the most are when a team member takes time to speak to them and tell them our story.”
“Welcoming new employees has a positive effect”
Owner of Taubenkobel in Schützen (Austria)
“Upheaval and change are often perceived as negative. One of the great strengths of the hospitality business is that young people travel the world to work at distinguished restaurants and hotels. That’s a wonderful way to cultivate yourself, both personally and professionally. We have had our core team for several years and most members of staff grow with us. Welcoming new employees has a positive effect that benefits the whole team.”
“A desire to pamper people”
Margaret et Laura Bowe,
Owners of Marlfield House (Ireland)
“Hospitality is deeply ingrained in our family, and an integral part of our daily lives. It is a sincere love of meeting people and the desire to pamper them. This also implies a particular care for the careers of our employees. People are being more straightforward about what they expect from work and from their employer, such as having weekends and evenings off, getting social benefits and the opportunity for promotion. Such human elements constitute the lion’s share of negotiations when we hire new staff. Money is still an important factor, but a balance between people’s professional and private lives is clearly their main priority.”