Hotel Byblos and its nightclub Les Caves du Roy are French Riviera legends, hosting celebrities, old wealth, young Bohemians and new wealth for rest, play and partying since the Swinging Sixties. As the Byblos celebrates its 50th anniversary, Antoine Chevanne, CEO of the family-run Groupe Floirat, which owns the Byblos, the Caves, and owns two other French resort hotels, talks to Nathalie Breitschwerdt about running a family business, discreet luxury, and the enduring allure of St Trop.
LUX: Your great grandfather founded Groupe Floirat back in 1967, how has the business evolved since then?
Antoine Chevanne: Groupe Floirat has grown, starting with our flagship property Hotel Byblos in St Tropez, 50 years ago. It now comprises of three properties including La Réserve in St Jean De Luz and Les Manoirs De Tourgeville in Normandy. Although the group has expanded, I have strived to maintain the spirit of the group that my grandfather first implemented, a feeling of home away from home, a personalized experience and intimate luxury.
LUX: From your experience, what are the challenges facing family run businesses today?
Antoine Chevanne: I think both the challenge and reward for a family run business is to maintain its own values and not lose sight of the company’s ethos. It’s finding a balance between adapting to the latest trends in luxury and technology, whilst continuing the legacy of the company’s founders.
LUX: Byblos St Tropez continues to thrive after 50 years. What is the key to its success?
Antoine Chevanne: The key to Hotel Byblos’ success is personalized luxury to create a unique experience. We like to give freedom to our clientele, whilst providing impeccable service. We want our guests to feel at home, but in the most immaculate conditions. The breakfast at Le B by the pool is open until 1pm, and guests can eat dinner at any time after a night at Les Caves Du Roy – these are just examples of what I like to implement to make my guests feel special. As a ratio, we allocate on average 3 members of staff per room.
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LUX: In our rapidly changing world, how important is it to emphasise traditions and stability?
Antoine Chevanne: It’s very important to emphasise the company’s values in order to prove you are not getting swept away with the rapidly changing world. The challenge is to remain unique, whilst growing with our times.
LUX: How do you define luxury within hospitality?
Antoine Chevanne: Time, Space, Freedom – we want to make our guests feel relaxed. Many of our guests lead busy lives so we want them to feel free, independent as if they were in their own home. For example we serve breakfast until 1pm to give our guests time to relax and get up at whatever time they wish in the mornings.
LUX: In this sense, how has Groupe Floirat separated itself from other hotel groups?
Antoine Chevanne: By creating these bespoke and unique experiences for our guests. In order to do so, we partner with like-minded brands, who share the same beliefs and values of the group. For instance, this year for Hotel Byblos 50th Anniversary, we partnered with a range of luxury brands that share a similar mindset: Rolls Royce, Audemars Piguet, Goyard, Sisley, Missoni Home and Dom Pérignon. By creating these affiliations, we ensure guests are delivered any service to the highest standards, always in a similar spirit. Even our staff is now family, with certain members who have been with the group for over 20 years.
LUX: How do you see luxury hospitality evolving over the next 5-10 years?
Antoine Chevanne: I don’t predict luxury will change immensely over the next 5-10 years. An experience can’t be replaced by virtual reality, an emotion can’t be replaced by an application, a feeling can’t be replaced by social media… Luxury will continue to be the ‘crème de la crème’, which is what guests seek when they travel to a 5 star property. May it be the gastronomy, beauty, or wellbeing, all of our properties will continue to deliver optimum, innovative and exclusive services to guarantee we remain ahead of the game. With this in mind, we seek to predict the change of expectations with the change of generations.
LUX: Which of your experiences have been most helpful in leading Groupe Floirat?
Antoine Chevanne: Being the General Manager at Hotel Byblos for 5 years before becoming CEO in 2006, this really taught me the power of observation. Being aware of my clientele, receiving feedback and implementing solutions. Being on the ground at the beginning of a career, is key to successful leadership.
LUX: In which ways has St Tropez changed over the last few decades? If at all, how have you responded to those changes?
Antoine Chevanne: The beauty of St Tropez is it’s never changing, legendary atmosphere. Byblos has maintained its prestigious reputation not only due to our services, but also thanks to our loyal customers and long standing relationships.
LUX: When not at Byblos, where is your favourite holiday destination?
Antoine Chevanne: My family house in South West of France in a village called Ahetze, where I can enjoy some quality time with my friend and family.