Grand Luxury is a curated hotel booking site and a concierge service through which clients can arrange exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. LUX speaks to the company’s founders, brothers Ivan and Rouslan Lartisien about handpicking their hotels, delivering first-class service and making the impossible possible
LUX: How did you take Grand Luxury from a start-up to a global business?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: From a 3-person company in a maid’s room to a 100-person company based in Paris, London, Dubai, Mauritius, Philippines, Romania and Italy, Grand Luxury has changed entirely in just 10 years. To better serve our individual clientele, we strive to continuously exceed the boundaries of personalisation. We are now the 2nd largest booking force for luxury hotels in Milan, London, Paris, Marrakech. In 2018, we have also become the leading EMEA agency on the luxury segment. The explanation might come from the fact that since the very beginning we have always been truthful to our original values.
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LUX: You handpicked all of the 350 hotels in the booking collection, did you visit them all and what were you looking for?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: We have visited 90% of our hotels and rely on a network of travellers we know since the very beginning for the rest. We also have a team dedicated to visiting hotels on a regular basis but the final choice is always on one of us two.
We are mixing objective and subjective considerations. First of all, the hotel must meet the core standards of a 5-star deluxe hotel. But there must be a rather unique feeling, a special “je ne sais quoi” that will make you feel you are entering in a one-of-a-kind property. A Grand Luxury Hotel might not even feel like a hotel anymore. During our selection process we must have the conviction that we are about to engage in the promotion of a most unique place and enchant our existing clients and of course the new comers to Grand Luxury who we shall lure to our exceptional universe.
LUX: What defines first class service?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: For us, luxury starts on-line and off-line when one of us engage on a conversation with the client. Everything has its importance: from the property we had curated, to on-line photos, content and suggestions to enhance the trip. We then ask many questions, not in a formal and mechanic manner but in a way our engagement seem natural and genuine. It’s quite irrational but when you show interest and express empathy, it works.
Luxury used to be materialistic, brand-driven, “stuff”-centric. Today it is more about the “moment”, the parenthesis you open to break away from your daily routine or your busy occupation. From being a Mom of 3 teenagers to a woman who looks after her for that one week and away from the family.
To this end we select, inspect and curate places that are truly exceptional. Not from a physical stand point but from our client’s perspective and for what they really want or need.
Luxury is also about the “results”, the outcome of a trip: be it to celebrate a milestone event or to explore family roots, or simply get away and reunite with your spouse, your mom or your best friends.
LUX: How do the current trends in booking patterns differ from when you started 10 years ago and does it vary across culture?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: To be honest, on some aspects – it did not change so much. We have been quite constant in our strategic vision as we had decided to focus on two salient points: a highly restricted selection of the best hotels in the world, and very personalised service, all of this with a digital twist! The combination of the very best hotels and quality service allowed us to reach a high ratio of repeaters. What has changed in the market is the quest for more experiential travel and the growing desire to experience a destination as locals. That is one of the reasons why Grand Luxury has completely revamped its website, it will be rolled out at the end of the year to embrace these new market trends. Of course, we have to adapt to the cultural aspects.
LUX: What are the top 5 guest demands?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: Unlike some long lasting and rather terrible clichés, wealthy customers are not capricious and impatient. Their demands (we prefer to use the word requests) reflect who they are and what is important for them (in general or for this specific holiday). If this is a family reunion for a special occasion, all details count from smooth arrivals to small attentions for each member of the family and to make sure you meet these expectations, there is only one technique: ask many questions and anticipate! Do not leave anything to chance (this is good for every single client). Many contact us not to simply find a great holiday spot for them, but for a reason and over the years we had many situations e.g. this famous film director who needed a quiet place anywhere in Europe likely to inspire his writing therefore had to have a solid historic feel without being difficult to reach! This gentleman, a widower for a few months, who wanted to visit all the places he had been happy with his wife before she passed after a sudden leukemia. Imagine the amount of emotion behind his request.
This father who wanted to reward his only daughter for graduating brilliantly. Not a regular five-star palace hotel guest but who had decided to spend well over what he would normally do, to celebrate this milestone event in his family. This very rich family (2 children age 8 and 10) who decided to spend a whole month in Paris and give the children a true education in art, history, culture. They wanted to have a young university teacher every day, capable to take the children on a different experience in a nice, supporting yet demanding manner.
And one day, we had this Australian billionaire who wanted to propose on the third floor of the Eiffel Tower. He wanted to have it for himself and the woman of his life. We managed to obtain a yes from the very traditional institution at a rather high price. Our client was a bit hesitant to spend so much and we knew he was open to an alternative suggestion. In a day we managed to contact the Musée Rodin and to privatise the famous museum for an hour after closing. Champagne had been arranged next to Le-baiser (the kiss) one of the most moving piece of Rodin and of course it work very well as she said yes and was incredibly touched by the gentleman’s surprise proposal.
LUX: Can you tell us more about some of the sought after experiences Grand Luxury can arrange?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: We always try to work on experiences that will work on emotion, memories and take you more deeply in the cultural essence of a country. For instance in Paris, we worked on a specific program about French gastronomy. We picked the clients at 5am at his hotel, brought him to a very nice bakery in the heart of the old Paris to see before the opening of the shop how the croissant and baguette are made, taste it fresh out of the oven. Then the client took a basket of bakeries and was brought on a Riva on the French Seine to eat on a nice private breakfast-cruise, with Champagne of course as you are in France. Then, the client was brought back to his hotel just in time to see the arrival of the food supplies at the Michelin-Star restaurant.
LUX: How is luxury travel evolving?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: The big change we’ve seen in the last few years is the way people expect to experience a destination. Today, all of our clients from around the world want to feel like a local when they visit a destination, so we bring them experiences that will show them the heart and soul of the place. We have guides in each destination who are really knowledgeable about certain aspects of a place, so we’ll call the guide that best fits the preferences of the guest. In terms of hotels, we’ve seen that more and more people want a more residential feel in the place they stay, so they have a kind of home to go back to in the destination. This is something we’re seeing more and more of with luxury travellers.
LUX: Is technology increasingly important to travellers or do they want to be off the grid and why did you launch the app to accompany the online site?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: Technology for us at Grand Luxury Hotels is absolutely essential. It has never been used to replace staff but to increase value for our clients. The App is a perfect example. It is a unique opportunity for our customers to have their own assistant directly in their pocket. A transfer, the best new trendy restaurant close to your location, flowers or caviar in your room in less than 30 minutes, a great ballet or musical to go to in the evening! We make it easy for the customer to choose and book among our curated list of partners. And for us, technology is here to answer to clients who want easy and quick options. But if they want to speak to their dedicated adviser, they can of course chat with him/her anytime through the app!
LUX: What can users expects to see with the upscale concierge service?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: Anything, there is no specific limit. It Is all about the client’s needs and wishes. 3 years ago we set a special trip for a small group of opera fans which was meant to end in Prague. On the last night we booked Don Giovanni at the Estates Opera House (where Mozart debuted the famous opera). We had told our clients that a supper would be served after the show but we did not mention where. We had actually arranged for our group to have dinner on stage … with the cast!
On another occasion we had set a wedding anniversary in Venice. The clients (a very nice couple in their 70s) had decided to treat themselves to a long weekend in Venice. Nothing too original so far – but as they head to the restaurant for a dinner we had booked for them, we sent them by boat to a small palazzo instead, where their family and close friends were waiting for them (we had arranged the group to travel a day after and of course made sure their were completely invisible so another of our Venice property was chosen) the family had asked us to surprise their parents, they also wanted to pay for the stay and finally add a fun touch and a small show at the palazzo to also recognise how exceptionally loved the couple was.
LUX: Where will Grand Luxury be in 5 years?
Ivan & Rouslan Lartisien: 5 years ago we had approximately 10 employees. We are now almost 100. The only limit is our imagination. We already have so many plans for the coming months : full relaunch of our website under a completely new design, deepen our offering with far more experiences to offer, launch our new website www.grandluxurycruises.com … Just for one year. What is sure is that Grand Luxury wants to position Itself as a luxury brand offering 360 degrees offer in the travel industry.
Discover Grand Luxury’s list of hotels: grandluxuryhotels.com