The luxury Interview of...

Leslie Kouhana
President of Maisons Pariente

The luxury hotel industry of tomorrow will above all be one of social and environmental responsibility

Luxury hotels have always fascinated Leslie Kouhana. After starting her career in asset management with a major international commercial real estate company, Unibail, it was with passion and determination that Leslie Kouhana took part in the creation of Maisons Pariente. A contemporary family-run collection of 5-star hotels, founded in 2019 with her father, Patrick Pariente (founder of Naf Naf), and her sister, Kimberley Cohen. 

The adventure began in 2013 when they built a hotel in Courchevel, named "L'Apogée", which they entrusted the management to a group recognized in the luxury hotel industry "Oetker Collection" (also owner of the palaces Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Cap d'Antibes and Le Bristol Paris).

Located in extraordinary locations, each hotel is designed as an elegant private home and reveals a singular and arty personality, in perfect symbiosis with its environment. The addresses in the collection invite you to experience simple, warm hotel luxury: the Maisons Pariente spirit.

To date, the Collection has four hotels: Lou Pinet in Saint-Tropez, Crillon le Brave in Provence, Le Coucou in Meribel and Le Grand Mazarin in Paris, scheduled to open in October 2022 in the heart of the Marais.

"Le Grand Mazarin is a hotel that is first and foremost for Parisians, a place where they can meet," Leslie explains. "We imagined Le Grand Mazarin as a place to live with multiple influences, a place to meet and share, a showcase of elegance where refinement sublimates the mix of styles and eras with fun."

At the end of 2021, Bureau d'Image and Maisons Pariente have entered a partnership that is intended to be long-lasting: training for Le Coucou's teams in Meribel prior to the establishment's reopening. Bureau d'Image is already working closely with Maisons Pariente to prepare customized training programs for the grand opening of the Grand Mazarin in Paris.

Bureau d'Image: How would you define luxury?
Leslie Kouhana:
Luxury is having the choice. The choice to be able to take time for oneself, to get away when you want, to choose what makes you feel good. The choice to please those we love too. The choice to concretize a project, to give it birth and then life, to choose to live one's life as one wishes in a society where we are constantly running after time. 

BI: Does French luxury exist and what would be its characteristics?
French luxury has always existed and continues to dazzle the world. It reveals itself through different facets, notably the arts, high-end jewellery, haute couture, gastronomy, and of course the hotel industry... And it shines internationally. Above all, it is the promise of a unique know-how, extraordinary professions and exceptional craftsmanship.

BI: Which personality best embodies luxury today?
Fashion goes out of fashion, style never does; Gabrielle Chanel.

BI: What have been the major developments in luxury over the past few decades? What will the luxury hotel industry of tomorrow look like?
Luxury has changed considerably over the years, particularly in terms of customer behaviour. The way luxury is consumed has evolved. 
In the 2000's, people were frantically consuming luxury, today and even more so after a pandemic as notorious as Covid, luxury has had to reinvent itself. It has a new look with new challenges, including seducing an even more demanding clientele that consumes differently and expects much more than a simple compulsive purchase, but also buys the experience that accompanies it, a conscious purchase.
The luxury hotel industry of tomorrow will be one of social and environmental responsibility above all. A hotel industry that cares about the well-being of its guests and hoteliers. We cannot talk about luxury hotels without a deep sense of commitment. In our hotels, the issue of commitment and values has been particularly important to us since the creation of Maisons Pariente in 2019. We have already put in place various actions to respect the environment, treat waste, support local commerce, and support a cause... Societal commitment is one of the fundamentals of our collection and is totally within our DNA. The evolution of luxury in the short term will be to be able to choose a brand for the culture it conveys.
Reassure, share and value the commitments we believe in.

BI: How do luxury hotels stand out?
More than standing out, we must believe in who we are and remain true to our convictions: to offer a unique experience to our clients, with simple and warm luxury, sincere and generous service of excellence, in extraordinary places. The sincerity of the promise we make to our clients is fundamental for me.

BI: How would you describe a successful customer experience in a store, in a hotel or while traveling? What are the key factors to delight and retain customers?
A thank you from customers with a smile on their face. Every day is a celebration for me and the bond you create with a client is precious. Taking pleasure in pleasing them is the best reward you can have. At Maisons Pariente, we offer a family hotel, a hotel with a heart, and this is materialized by personalized attention for each of our clients. 
It can be something very simple, an attention, a detail, like a book that we offer to a client because you know that he loves this author and that he will certainly not have read this new edition yet... or simply writing him a personalized note upon his arrival because he is returning to our hotels again this summer, with his family that we have been able to get to know over the years. Making connections is what touches me the most. 
We become part of our guests' lives and together we create wonderful memories.

BI: Are you noticing a sociological change in the luxury clientele?
Yes, modern-day travellers are looking for a more experiential hotel experience. We need to provide them with tailor-made services, ultra-personalization, sell a destination, and make their stay a unique experience that they will want to repeat. Whether it's through gastronomy or well-being, today when a customer travels, he or she wants to escape from his or her daily life. 
We must be proactive and facilitate the stay of our customers, be efficient and creative in order to satisfy their wishes and find solutions to accommodate them as well as possible and thus build their loyalty. 

BI: Does the appetite for luxury and refinement prevent us from appreciating simpler things?
On the contrary, doesn't the greatest luxury lie in the simplicity of things well done? More than simplicity, I would say that we must cultivate a certain taste for authenticity.

BI: What do you remember about your first stay in a luxury hotel?
My parents' delight in pleasing my sisters, my brother and me.

BI: What is your greatest memory in a luxury hotel?
: It was a few years ago, at a hotel where we regularly visit as a family with my children and husband. I returned for a weekend alone with my husband and the manager had us prepare a package with each of our children's favourite specialties to take home for them.

BI: What is your biggest regret, your worst experience?
I have no regrets. My failures have made me grow and have made me stronger and more determined. The main thing is to learn from your mistakes.

BI: What is your favorite hotel?
It's the Crillon le Brave hotel, a place out of time and although I go there very regularly, I always have the same emotion each time. It is my haven of peace.

BI: What is the most luxurious gift you have ever given?
I have no idea. But when I give a gift, I like to give what I would like to receive.

BI: What is the most luxurious gift you have ever received?
A gift that can't be bought.

BI: What is considered a luxury, but you couldn't live without?
The list is long but if I had to choose 2, I would say eating well - quality products - and traveling because traveling nourishes and inspires me.

BI: What kind of leader are you? What principles guide your professional life and what demands does running a luxury establishment require?
I think I am a deeply optimistic and positive person. My motto is: there is no such thing as no! There are always solutions and you will find them. Passion and determination are qualities that are essential for leadership. 
At Maisons Pariente we are a big family and together with our hoteliers, attitude is the key for us. We consider human qualities a higher importance than technical skills. With a good attitude and a strong will, you can achieve anything. We place a lot of value on humility and kindness and working with respect. 

BI: What is the most important quality you demand from your teams?

BI: What mistake inspires you the most indulgence?
A mistake that is due to innocence or clumsiness, where the person responsible shows a real willingness to repair the damage and takes responsibility.

BI: Why is it important to train your teams in customer service excellence?
Together with our Human Resources Department, we have instituted training for our staff in order to offer the best experience to each of our customers. To train but also to inspire our staff. To reassure them and to give them that little bit extra that will make all the difference when they are in the job. We make sure that our family values are applied both internally and externally: family spirit, freedom, aesthetics, excellence, sincerity and social commitment. 

BI: What importance do you place on the posture and interpersonal skills of employees in the luxury industry?
Our hoteliers embody our Maisons and are their best ambassadors. 
They reflect our family hotel values and have been chosen for their unique personalities. They contribute to the development of the Maisons Pariente spirit of attentive, never stuffy, sincere and generous service. 

BI: Even as a manager, do you continue to learn more about luxury, its codes and the many ways in which it is embodied?
Of course I continue to learn the codes of luxury. Luxury is constantly evolving, and you have to stay tuned, be curious, tame and cultivate your sensitivity to luxury. 
I learn from my sister Kimberley, with whom I work with every day, co-founder and artistic director of Maisons Pariente, and from my father, with whom we created this collection of hotels and with whom we wrote our own definition of luxury hotels. 
I listen to his precious advice and with my colleagues, our team of hoteliers, together we learn, discover and design the luxury that will embody our hotels of tomorrow. 

BI: What advice would you give to young professionals?
Do what you love because you do it well and you enjoy doing it. Then: work, work and work because you don't get anything for nothing.

BI: What do you recommend for men: a neat beard or a close shave?
Clean beard. 

BI: For women: for or against red nail polish?
Red, always.

BI: For or against tattoos ? Piercings ?
I'm not a big fan but I tolerate them completely!

BI: If luxury was a color, what would it be ?

BI: An animal ?
A cat. A British shorthair.

BI: An adjective?

BI: An emotion?

BI: An object? / A work of art?
Turandot, by Giacomo Puccini.

BI: A motto?
Tomorrow it will be too late, life is now.

BI: A virtue?

BI: A historical character?
Simone de Beauvoir, one is not born a woman: one becomes one.

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