Value feedback. No matter if it is received verbally or in writing, in person or on a review platform, positive or negative: if travelers take the time to express their feedback it is important to value it as it contains important information where the operation is running very well or where there is room for improvements. Establishing a culture in which feedback, positive or negative, is valued and taken seriously, is the first and most important step in any operation. Travelers will come back if they had a marvelous experience and they will tell their friends. They most likely will also come back if they experienced a less than fantastic service, provided that their feedback has been valued, glitches have been recovered, and actions put in place for the future.
As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emanuel Schreiner, founder of RVS Hotel Consulting.
Emanuel founded RVS Hotel Consulting in 2015 with the vision to create and shape luxury hospitality products by uniting the top consultants of the luxury hospitality world. Emanuel studied Hotel Management at the renowned Hotel School in Bad Gleichenberg, Austria, which then led him to work in some of the most exclusive hospitality environments including, residential mega-yacht The World, as Consultant and Project Manager with LVMH’s ultra-luxury resort Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives, as Hotel Manager to the five-star river cruise ships of the US firm AmaWaterways, before managing and consulting hotels in the famous Arlberg ski resort in Austria, in Europe, and in the Maldives. Emanuel also loves to bring ideas and talent together in fields beyond hospitality and acts as a mentor and advisor within other businesses including a healthcare think tank and a project in Namibia to create and mobilize aid during the Covid pandemic.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In a family photo album, there is a photograph of me serving at a rather formal family dinner at our home when I was about eight years old, dressed in a shirt, bowtie and proud smile. I can’t really recall what brought me to hospitality but quite clearly it all started rather early.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
There are many! One of the main reasons why I love what I am doing as a luxury hospitality consultant is that my career basically is a series of interesting and diverse stories, one after another. From starting with being one of the first hotel interns ever on the private residential ship The World (www.aboardtheworld.com) and being hired as an on-board manager right afterwards, founding my first company; a film and media production company at age 24, to running my own bar, then managing and consulting hospitality operations from ski resorts in the Austrian Alps and private luxury resorts in the Maldives, to five-star river cruise ships and city hotels.
Through these different milestones, I was grateful to always meet inspiring and highly experienced hospitality professionals that were happy to share with me their knowledge, insights and opinions. Eventually these people and experiences became the roots for my personal success and a reason for establishing the RVS consultancy which includes a network of luxury hospitality experts from around the world.
Upon reflection, I realise that maybe my career path itself is an interesting story.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There have been, of course, mishaps throughout the years but it’s hard to name the funniest one. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn — that’s what I took from my working experience so far. What matters most is how you handle and turnaround situations; how you can successfully recover a service glitch and how you and others can ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
In the year 2009, after graduating hotel management college in Bad Gleichenberg, Austria, I was very fortunate to meet the mentor of my hospitality career, Renato Chizzola. We met when I started as a hotel intern aboard the luxury residential ship The World where he was at the helm as General Manager. He was the inspiration and motivation that shaped me as a host and as a leader; he involved me in other projects and amazing luxury hospitality environments. We went on to successfully worked together at the Cheval Blanc Randheli, and over the years he became not just a business partner within my RVS network but also a close friend.
Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?
While our consultants and I focus on working with independent upmarket hotels and hoteliers around the world to support them and their teams to create and shape purposeful luxury hospitality experiences, we are focusing on positioning and translating non-hotel luxury lifestyle brands in to the hospitality world. For example, if a global luxury brands without any hospitality experience is seeking to diversify their customer experience by creating new touchpoints in the form of hotel and residential properties, we work with them to translate the existing brand DNA into a three-dimensional hospitality experience. From creating the branded concept, implementing it through defined standards and trainings, and manage the operations of these properties for the long-term success while maintaining a high level of customized branded experiences.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
From our direct experience, non-hotel brands are not always happy with engaging a large international hotel operator, for various reasons. Big hotel operators do bring advantages such as global marketing and distribution systems or reservation and loyalty programs. On the other hand they are only flexible to a certain degree to create new guest experiences, new standard operating procedures and new levels of service that are all tailor-made for the brand whose name is on the door.
Therefore, RVS specializes not just in bringing the brand to life as a luxury hotel or residence. As a white-label operator we always put the brand first with bespoke branded experiences and standards, and without our own name being mentioned anywhere. We could be seen as the brand’s hospitality management division with our expansive hospitality expertise at hand, yet without being part of the corporation and thus being more cost efficient.
As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?
Travellers will start to trust again the travel providers and hospitality companies, provided that those companies ensure that hygiene and safety measurements are subtle yet effective and seamlessly blend into the travel experience. Privacy, exclusivity, personalisation, less frequent but longer trips, as well as meaningful experiences will be sought after.
The often-changing local restrictions at home and at the destination make travel agencies and concierges important and trusted figures in the traveller’s planning and booking stages. Travel insurances have already adopted to the changed circumstances and are essential for the travellers’ peace of mind.
For me, the big challenge in the light of Covid, however, is to keep the guest experience human. Hospitality in any form — at a restaurant, on the plane, at the hotel — is a human interaction and thus we need to make sure this can still take place in a safe way.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
In a way I am very easily satisfied. It does not take much to make my vacation experience perfect. I like to spend time in good company with family and friends. What I personally enjoy most is an authentic, casual experience, influenced by the destination and created by genuine people. As an example that can be a family dinner at a local, family-run tavern overlooking the hills in Tuscany at sunset, with food from the market and prepared according to a family recipe. That’s also great a great story to tell.
Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.
For myself, being in nature helps a lot with freeing my mind. Already a brief walk in the forest grounds is when I am able to hang my thoughts on the trees. That is the simplest and most efficient way for me.
Nowadays — well, at least before Covid — many travellers were taking their smartphones on vacation. What I mean is, people were going to places that look great on Instagram and once they are there, they have to show everyone what an awesome time they are having.
With a global pause in travel during the last two years, I believe many have reflected on why they want to travel, with who and where to. Authentic, meaningful, sustainable experiences that can be relaxing, reconnective or transformative for one’s self are ranking even higher now.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Know your customer. In addition to publicly available information, i.e., on the internet and social media, dedicate time to learn more about your guests prior to their arrival. Engage with them, find out the reason for their travel and seek to understand their wants and needs. It is very important to know them well in order to provide a truly tailor-made experience for them.
- Know what you stand for. A distinctive positioning and branding is essential for any business; even more for hospitality businesses and I don’t mean just the logo, website and room rates.
With a clear vision, concept and story you can bring into line your strategies, make decisions faster, help your team to identify themselves with your property, and create unique guest experiences.
We have had projects where the hotel had an amazing family story to tell but you only got to hear it when you sat down with the owner of the property. Once we had put that original story at the centre of the hotel’s branding, staff training and guest experiences, the entire operation became super authentic and exclusive because everyone felt personally committed to that story and the success rooting back to it; and that of course impacted the guest satisfaction absolutely positively.
Guests, just like teams, become loyal to your business if they can identify themselves with it. As you see, it is very important to make the story and vision part of every aspect of your operation.
3. Be mindful and authentic. In other words, be distinctive, be yourself — everyone else is taken. You don’t need to be like a grand hotel in Paris if you are a boutique hotel in the countryside. Travellers usually look for a destination first, then for a hotel. The destination is the most important element in a travel experience so make it part of your operation! Explore your surroundings with the eyes of a traveller, think of experiences you as a local enjoy and if those would be suitable for your guests. Involve local culture, communities and customs, from materials, designs and nature to festivities and music. Utilizing these elements and integrating them in the hotel’s concept, story and service culture instantly creates authentic experiences.
4. Exceed expectations. For some this might sound easier than it actually is to accomplish. It is not all that difficult if you have actioned the first three points mentioned above. With a clear positioning you leverage the expectation levels through marketing, with the information about your guests’ wants and needs, and together with a dedicated and committed team you can create truly bespoke experiences that will ‘wow’ them.
Small surprises and generosity are additional wow-factors. I don’t mean giving away free dinners and rooms nights. Small personalized gifts, such as a palm leaf origami laid on the bed woven by one of the staff members or simply a hand-written note by the general manager, can be impactful.
Most valued in hospitality and contributing immensely to a guest’s loyalty are personal bonds with individual staff members. Some guests travel where their favourite waiter or manager currently is working because of a unique level of trust, familiarity and recognition.
5. Value feedback. No matter if it is received verbally or in writing, in person or on a review platform, positive or negative: if travellers take the time to express their feedback it is important to value it as it contains important information where the operation is running very well or where there is room for improvements. Establishing a culture in which feedback, positive or negative, is valued and taken seriously, is the first and most important step in any operation. Travellers will come back if they had a marvellous experience and they will tell their friends. They most likely will also come back if they experienced a less than fantastic service, provided that their feedback has been valued, glitches have been recovered, and actions put in place for the future.
Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At RVS, wherever we go we want to enable people to unfold their potential and to grow. As a company we are nurturing talent, we want to meet young people who we can introduce to the luxury hospitality world, we want to learn from them as much as they want to learn from us. This way we can support the next generation of hoteliers and hospitality influencers and spot talents for our own growth. You know, it’s important that you send the elevator back down.
This year, a number of students from the hotel management college I attended, Bad Gleichenberg, were not able to find internships due to Covid closing hotels and restaurants. So I dedicated my time to personally provide them with an insightful learning experience at our office, creating an internship program featuring luxury hotels, hospitality consulting, branding and experience design.
RVS also encourages and supports women either on their way to become self-employed or a consultant within the network and company. This is important to us as we found many women with great expertise and entrepreneurship still don’t feel one hundred percent secure to make this decision alone. With our network, the constant exchange and our company infrastructure, RVS provides a good foundation to start a journey as a consultant for luxury hospitality.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
That’s a really good question! I’m already involved with amazing initiatives like the Earth 300 project (www.earth300.com) which is an extraordinary effort to create solutions and technologies to fight climate change. I fear that any idea I have would be inferior in comparison to that.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
LinkedIn: RVS Hotel Consulting & Management
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!