SPOTLIGHT ON Jean-Luc Naret, Executive Director, The Set Collection

Luxury travellers are venturing into unique experiences more than ever as travel demand ramps up. Jean-Luc Naret recently joined The Set Collection as Executive Director with over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry operating and strategically leading hotels and resorts for luxury hotel brands worldwide.

Can you tell us about The Set Collection’s unique offering?

The Set Collection is a new luxury brand representation company of like-minded independent hotels, run by hoteliers for hoteliers. It has been designed for owners, investors and management teams seeking an alternative to the traditional representation and distribution service. With an agile and flexible business model, The Set Collection provides a tailored solution to supply only the services that hoteliers need, designed to adapt quickly to continually evolving markets conditions and business needs of its member hotels whilst providing a competitive fee structure. Under The Set Collection, owners and management teams retain their hotel brand and identity alongside the day-to-day running of their property whilst taking advantage of tailored services available to support their operations and existing team members. 

By becoming a part of The Set Collection, our partners benefit from such services as our unrivalled distribution tools, 24/7 online and phone reservations systems, access to worldwide travel partners, marketing solutions, industry relations, customer loyalty programmes and concierge services. In return, our partners support the growth and development of our industry-leading brand whilst we expand our footprint across the world.

What do you forecast for luxury travel in 2022?

Due to Covid, it’s clear that the hospitality industry has been considerably affected. However, looking ahead, it’s an exciting and encouraging time, especially for us with this launch of The Set Collection. 

As we know, the demand for travel is now stronger than ever; this, coupled with the demand for luxury, has seen guests’ expectations develop constantly. Something that delights guests on their first stay will be expected on their next. Hotels must manage these expectations and be reactive and deliver creative and innovative ideas to keep guests excited and returning to their favourite destinations. 

It’s also notable that the travel industry has become more environmentally conscious than it ever has been, and this shift must be reflected and honoured at every touchpoint possible for a guest. It’s no longer a novelty but an expectation to have sustainable credentials and be aware of what guests want. Of course, you are staying in a hotel and expect your bed linen to be changed frequently. Still, now you can see that more and more guests choose not to have their room made up. It’s not because of the cost, but because people are more conscious of the environmental impact and realise the effects of climate change – especially in places like the Maldives. 

How do hoteliers meet their guests where they are and still surprise and delight? 

Our sophisticated and well-travelled guests come with a set of expectations that develop constantly, something that delights them on their first stay will be expected on their next. As such our teams are passionate about meeting these expectations but then constantly exceeding them. At Lutetia, for example, should you leave your car with the doormen not only will it be returned to you cleaned, but even with its oil checked and a note left. At Café Royal you will be greeted by name not just by the receptionist, but by the concierge, the spa team and so on, every step of the journey must feel both familiar and friendly and professionally luxurious. We are creating a problem for ourselves in our success of course, with every visit our guests become harder and harder to please, but this is a problem we are proud to manage! 

What trends are you seeing as travel returns? 

For many years, guests were looking for similarities in travel, wanting comfort security, and would often turn to familiar brands such as Hilton, Four Seasons etc., to offer this comfort worldwide. However, in 2022, the pattern and trends have shifted, influenced by travellers looking for unique properties anchored to their location, where guests can experience the local culture.

How are you addressing the global staffing challenges?

Although various novel factors are currently affecting this issue today, the hospitality industry has always experienced periods of challenge in this field over time. Out of a class of 150 young hotel graduates, 100 remain three years later and 50 ten years later. This approximate statistic was true thirty years ago and unfortunately still holds true today. Certainly, things develop, of course, recently the huge interest in the world of the kitchen and celebrity chefs on television has made it possible to find great talent more easily, even if conversely there is the sometimes attitude that notoriety leads to success, the ratio still remains. It’s up to us to find passionate young people to whom we must engender the desire to stay in this profession, a profession that offers a career path like no other! It is not uncommon these days to see young people under thirty at the head of restaurants or hotels around the world. We must encourage and ensure these young talents maintain their drive to shape the hotel industry of tomorrow. My personal philosophy on recruitment and retention relies upon an easy equation – if I have happy staff then I have happy guests, and then I have happy shareholders!