The client experience should be comprehensive and appeal to all the senses
Olivier Leroy has been the general manager of the Hôtel Christopher Saint-Barthélemy since December 2014. After training at prestigious hotel schools in Papeete and Paris, Olivier Leroy began his career with the Hilton hotel group in Paris, specifically at the Hilton Paris Défense and Arc de Triomphe. He then held the post of food services director at two leading hotels in the French capital: the Montalembert and Le Relais de la Malmaison.
Interested in exploring new horizons, he decided to pack his bags once again and became, in 2011, food services director for the Hilton Bora Bora Nui, before joining the staff at the Hôtel Christopher in Saint Barthélémy as deputy director. Since December 2014, he has held the post of general manager at this renowned, excellent 5-star property on the northern coast of the island, where the hotel enjoys a unique idyllic setting, with incredible views of the Caribbean Sea and nearby islands.
Nestled in the heart of a tropical garden, the 42 spacious and luminous rooms and suites all have exceptional views of the ocean. Three luxury villas complete the property, allow guests to enjoy a more private experience.
Since 2021, in its two outstanding restaurants, the Christopher has taken its clients on a special culinary voyage, from morning to night, with menus created by Arnaud Faye, a multiple Michelin star chef, who heads the restaurant RIVYERA.
With a strong desire to protect the quality of its environment, and limit its impact from touristic activities, the Hotel Christopher, since 2019, has been engaged in tourism that respects nature, humans, and the island itself. In 2021, this commitment was recognized by Green Globe, an environmental and societal certification program dedicated to the tourism and hotel sectors.
All of these values — excellence, hospitality, environmental respect — are shared by Bureau d’Image and the Hotel Christopher. In 2019, these two entities joined forces to create a partnership to train the staff at the hotel in the best possible service though hands-on programs. This kind of training helps to reinforce the ease of building relationships and personalizing the client experience, to go beyond their expectations, find the right words, and better transverse interculturality… by way of practical “how-to” ateliers comprising role playing, imagining various scenarios and situations, and advanced field training.
Bureau d’Image: How do you define luxury?
Olivier Leroy: Luxury is the refinement of an instant, a place, a delicacy, or an extraordinary comfort that one can appreciate with simplicity and elegance.
BI: Does French luxury exist and what would be its characteristics?
OL: All cultures were born with a sense of luxury, including the French. Even today, French luxury flourishes. It is characterized by a very high-level of service and an exceptional attention to detail.
BI: Who do you see as embodying the best of luxury today?
OL: Olivier Rousteing, a young French stylist known throughout the world as the artistic director of Balmain. He is dynamic, well-liked, and at the same time, discrete and accessible.
BI: What have been the biggest changes in luxury over the past decades? What will define the luxury hotels of tomorrow?
OL: The image of luxury has changed quite a bit. Several years ago, marble, gilding, or artifice was enough to evoke luxury. Today, the client experience should be comprehensive and appeal to all the senses. The luxury hotel of tomorrow will be obliged to be more sensitive to its environment and its integration into its setting.
BI: How do luxury properties distinguish themselves?
OL: Luxury properties distinguish themselves by the absolute confidence of their clients. Their expectations are very high and it is inconceivable to disappoint. You can surprise a client, maybe unsettle them, but always be there to comfort them.
BI: How would you describe a successful client experience in a shop, a hotel, or on a trip? What are the key factors to enchant clients or gain their loyalty?
OL: A successful client experience rests on the fluidity of every instant of service or or an activity. The client should never feel the least bit of complexity in the systems put into place to satisfy them. That’s the most difficult, and represents a major, meticulous uphill battle. One of the key factors to enchant clients is to have a sincere desire to please them. Natural kindness.
BI: What do you remember from your first stay in a luxury hotel?
OL: I remember being ill at ease, not knowing or understanding the codes of luxury. Now I understand (smile): when you are the client, there is not the slightest code.
BI: What is your best memory of a luxury hotel?
OL: My arrival by taxi at the Four Seasons Tokyo: when I got out of the vehicle, the doorman of the hotel greeted me with a "bonjour" in perfect French. How did they know? At no time had I been announced or presented.
BI: What is your biggest regret, your worst experience?
OL: Sometimes you can be disappointed when arriving at a place that has been overly idealized. One of the hardest things in our profession is to maintain a constant level of excellence at all times.
BI: What is the most luxurious gift you have offered?
OL: A very beautiful ring.
BI: What is the most beautiful gift you have received?
OL: A very beautiful watch.
BI: What is considered a luxury that you cannot do without?
OL: Time. We never have enough.
BI: What kind of leader are you? What principles guide your professional life and what demands come with managing a luxury hotel?
OL: I strive to be fair and constant. It’s primordial because making decisions is my daily routine. Being exemplary is essential because one cannot demand the maximum of others if you do not demand it of yourself. As director of the hotel, my role is to keep things on track and reassure my staff. We give a lot of importance to the wellbeing of our employees. Our priority is that they feel comfortable so that they can easily evolve and be able to communicate correctly with our clients, and serve them with kindness and graciousness.
BI: What is the first quality you require of a staff member?
BI: What fault do you treat with the most indulgence?
OL: Having dared and been mistaken.
BI: Why is it essential to train your staff in excellent client service?
OL: 100% of a luxury experience in a hotel emanates from the staff. That is why training is absolutely indispensable.
BI: Do you give particular importance to the position and know-how of employees in the luxury industry?
OL: The employees are, on the hotel stage, the principal characters. And, like every actor or actress, they are expected to play their role in keeping with the scenario, in order to meet the expectations on the clients.
BI: Even as a director, do you continue to learn every day a little more about luxury, its codes, and multiple ways to embody it?
OL: One evolves and questions oneself continually. Following and interpreting the codes of luxury are part of our daily experience. Every day, we learn from our staff, our clients, and our partners.
BI: What advice would you give to young professionals?
OL: Be patient. You have to avoid going too fast, and not getting ahead of yourself. You learn from every experience, the good ones just like the most disappointing.
BI: What do you require of men: a well-trimmed beard or a clean shave?
OL: Twenty years ago, I would have said a clean shave. But today either one is fine.
BI: For women: for or against red nail polish?
OL: That depends on the identity of the hotel.
BI: For or against tattoos? Piercings?
OL: Same thing, it depends on the DNA of the hotel where one is working.
BI: If luxury were a color, what would it be?
OL: White. For its purity, its elegance, the sense of wellbeing it evokes.
BI: An animal?
OL: A swan.
BI: An adjective?
BI: An emotion?
OL: A dream.
BI: An Object?
OL: A metronome.
BI: A slogan?
OL: "Liberty, serenity, modernity."
BI: A virtue?
OL: A luxury cell phone, no?
BI: A historic character?
OL: Louis XIV.