The luxury Interview of...

Area General Manager Lyon – Marseille – Bordeaux & General Manager at InterContinental Lyon – Hôtel Dieu

Luxury hotels are invented and told on a daily basis

Madelijn Vervoord is the Regional General Manager of InterContinental Hotels & Resorts (IHR) for Marseille, Bordeaux and Lyon. Since 2018, she has also been General Manager of InterContinental Lyon - Hôtel Dieu. Before its opening in June 2019 she has overseen the transformation of some parts of the historic building into a 5-star establishment offering 144 rooms and suites, a restaurant, a bar and a congress center.

After starting her career in New York, Madelijn Vervoord moved to Paris in 1992 to work and promote the development of various hotels, such as the Golden Tulip Saint-Honoré and the Castille Demeure Hôtel, before joining the InterContinental - Paris Le Grand as the Managing Director for 4 years.

Concerned about the smallest details that make the difference in the luxury hotel industry, and in order to offer an optimal quality of service, Madelijn Vervoord requested the expertise of Bureau d'Image to carry out grooming training for its teams, prior to the opening of the InterContinental Lyon - Hôtel Dieu. Every year, Bureau d'Image also builds innovative and tailor-made training courses for the teams of the InterContinental Paris Le Grand and the Carlton in Cannes.

Bureau d’Image: How would you define luxury?
Madelijn Vervoord: Luxury is both plural and personal. It is the search for excellence, the quest of refinement associated with rarity. Luxury is not blingbling or expensive, it is the feeling of experiencing something exceptional.

BI: Does French luxury exist and what would its characteristics be?
MV: The French luxury hotel industry is associated with the notion of heritage. The clientele is looking for sites with a soul, an history, in cities that are dynamic from a cultural and gastronomic point of view. It is all about proposing this art of living which makes the reputation of France by keeping it up with the latest trends so it doesn't get dusty. We are looking for impeccable quality of service and luxury furnitures: quality catering, exceptional cocktails, signed suites and decorations... French luxury hotels must offer a moment "out of time", a haven of peace in a hectic world, reflecting all the attributes of France between tradition and elegance.

BI: What have been the major developments in luxury hotels in recent decades?
MV: What is striking, first of all, is the exponential growth in the number of people who can afford to travel. This is reflected in the growth of new markets and millions of new potential customers with ever-increasing demands. In response to this trend, we are seeing a sharp acceleration in the hotel industry, with establishments opening all over the world, every day. The range of hotel offers is thus becoming increasingly broad, with, in particular, the creation of boutique hotel chains within the largest groups.
Digitalisation has also changed the perception of luxury hotels. With a younger clientele, connected and instantly informed of the full range of services on offer, opinions and feedback on social networks have become crucial to the reputation of hotels and essential factors in the final choice of a destination.
Finally, the tourism industry is committed to reducing its environmental impact with programs to combat food waste, reduce carbon emissions, shorten circuits, and eliminate plastic.

BI: How do luxury hotels stand out?
MV: They stand out by a personalized service including premium attentions in every moment, a constant anticipation of the customer needs, and creation of surprise. The luxury hotel business is a world apart, which has to satisfy the needs of customers with a wide range of profiles every day, while ensuring that the service and the location are always perfect in every aspect.

BI: Which leader are you? What principles guide your professional life?
MV: I am the open-minded one. For me it is essential to listen to my peers and collaborator. I push them to be always more ambitious and innovative with kindness and humanity. I place great trust in those around me and assume that everyone has the best intentions for our clients and our company. I am happy and proud of the teams' successes.

BI: What requirements does the management of a luxury hotel require?
MV: The gift of ubiquity, empathy, rigour, positive energy and humility.

BI: What quality do we require from teams?
MV: The sense of the customer and the sincere desire to please.

BI: What fault inspires you the most leniency?
MV: The one you have tried with honesty and sincerity. You learn from every mistake.

BI: How important is it to train your teams to service excellence?
MV: As the luxury hotel business is distinguished above all by the quality of service, it is essential that everyone has the codes. And this requires a fine and attentive training.

BI: Even as CEO, do we continue to learn a little more about luxury, its codes and its many ways to embody it?
MV: Yes, and that's one of the best points of this job! The luxury hotel business knows neither boredom nor routine. Every day is a new challenge and brings us a new client to satisfy, teams to accompany and guide, assets to reinvent. Clients, teams, and ways of communicating and working are constantly evolving.

BI: What advice would you give to young professionals?
MV: To have passion for our business and for our customers. To be curious, to take advantage of every experience, good or not, to have experiences abroad and to have resilience and perseverance. With these attitudes, the luxury hotel business is a universe in which one can evolve very quickly.

BI: What do you recommend for men: neat beard or close shave?
MV: Close shave.

BI: For women: for or against red polish?
MV: Against.

BI: If luxury hotels were a color, what would it be?
MV: White, because the luxury hotel business is invented, told and experienced on a daily basis. Like a blank page, every day, history must be reinvented, without respite.

BI: An animal?
MV: The horse, the companion of the first travelers’.

BI: An adjective?
MV: Personnalized.

BI: An emotion?
MV: Wonder and passion.

BI: An object? / A work of art?
MV: I would rather choose for music, which can energize, soothe or inspire.

BI: A motto?
MV: From word to action.

BI: A virtue?
MV: Requirement

BI: A historical figure?
MV: Juan Trippe, founder of the Pan Am and InterContinental.

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