Sir Rocco Forte plans expansion of his five-star collection

26 Sep 2007 by Mark Caswell

Le RichemondIn an exclusive interview with Business Traveller at the reopening of Le
Richemond Hotel, Geneva, Sir Rocco Forte has confirmed that the expansion of
Rocco Forte Hotels is set both to continue and accelerate. Now rebranded as the
Rocco Forte Collection, the official opening this week of the historic Le
Richemond Hotel on the waterfront at Geneva, follows on from new Rocco
Forte properties in Berlin and Frankfurt, with The Charles Hotel, Munich set to
open next month. Next year sees Prague and Sicily hotels open, with Marrakech in
2009, and Sir Rocco said he could see an eventual doubling of properties across

“There is a hit list of cities, and they are the
obvious ones in which we do not have hotels: Paris, Madrid, Milan, Moscow and
Amsterdam. We haven’t found the right project yet in those cities and we want
something special.” Sir Rocco said that the
expansion remains true to his original idea of filling a gap in the five-star
end of the market across Europe. “There are individual hotels, and small
regional groups, but nothing like us,” he said. “I believe there are
sophisticated travellers out there who want a five-star hotel but who want
something that reflects the place they are in. They don’t need the security of
being in the same hotel wherever they are.”

Le Richemond joins an impressive roster of
five-star hotels in Geneva, including the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues, itself
once a Forte Hotel. “Funnily enough even when we had des Bergues, I always
thought the Richemond was the one to have,” said Sir Rocco. “It has been family
run for many, many generations, and we’ve found, as we did with our Brussels
property the Amigo, that when it comes to a sale, a family would rather sell to
a smaller company, than a larger one since we have the same philosophy of
ownership and management.”

Sir Rocco identified property prices in key cities
as one of the major obstacles to growth. “But now we have reached the size that
it has, we are finding that we are being approached more often, so if anything,
I’d say the pace of our expansion will probably accelerate. And at the same
time, our size now means that we can hold out and say this is what we do, and
turn down the projects that are not right for us, and we’ve done that several
times in the last 12 months.”

One advantage of the increased size of the
Collection now means that a guest recognition programme is in place, unbranded,
but operating behind the scenes and able to identify guests who have stayed in
other properties.

“It is important to recognise your regular guests,”
says Sir Rocco. “People want to be made to feel important, but there’s no way
the staff in one hotel would know whether you have stayed in one of our other
hotels. Now, with a centralised inventory in place, they can do that. From a
traveller’s point of view, it also means we can now list their likes and
dislikes, and try and accommodate them when they arrive at one of our other
hotels for the first time. We treat them as special people.”

For a full review of Le Richemond Hotel, see the
November 2007 issue of Business Traveller magazine. Visit

Report by Tom Otley

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