The Ritz-Carlton name is synonymous with luxury. They have won countless awards due to their unwavering commitment to service, thus becoming the gold standard of hospitality. This month, our Travel Maestro interview is with Jeremy McClellan, Director of Global Accounts, Travel Industry for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. In his current role, he manages customer relationships with the travel industry community along the Eastern Seaboard. He has worked with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company for the last 10 years and is based in Washington, DC.
Hi Jeremy, welcome to our travel industry professional interview series.
1) What drew you to the travel industry as a career and how did you land in the hotel segment?
My parents divorced when I was young and I grew up with my mother and step-father in Germany, traveling back and forth to the United States about 5 times a year. I think this constant travel between my parents and the ability to travel easily from European country to country while on holiday was where I first learned to love exploring and understanding new cultures.
2) How have luxury hotels changed over the years?
I think luxury hotels have just adapted to meet the needs of today’s consumer. At one time it was a luxury to have on-demand movies in hotel rooms, and now everyone has this at home! As technology progresses, our hotels continue to evolve. I will say that without a doubt however, the key fundamental of “exceeding even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our customers,” remains our highest mission. This phrase is a part of The Ritz-Carlton Credo and will always remain a priority and a constant.
3) Ritz-Carlton is arguably the most prestigious luxury hotel chain in the world and consistently ranks highest in guest satisfaction. What sets Ritz-Carlton apart from the competition to achieve these statuses?
Our Ladies and Gentlemen. They are simply world class and are the best in the industry. Each of my colleagues around the world knows and owns The Credo, the Motto and the 12 Service Values that really act as a guide on how we can best exceed our customer’s expectations.
4) Is there a “typical” luxury guest?
I think the “typical” luxury guest is to be “atypical.” Luxury holds a different meaning for everyone and our focus is to identify that meaning, which can be very personal, for each individual and ensure that those needs and wants are exceeded.
5) The atmosphere and even the culture of some luxury hotels really don’t encourage guests to bring the kids, but we find that many young families want and appreciate the quality and service of a luxury vacation. What does Ritz-Carlton offer for families traveling with children?
Now more than ever, as free time becomes even more a commodity, we definitely see an increase in multi-generational or family travel and The Ritz-Carlton LOVES families! From our famous Ritz-Kids programs offering Pirate ship sailings in St. Thomas to learning about Sea Turtles at Amelia Island and the Ambassador’s of the Environment in partnership with jean Michael Cousteau, we welcome VIP’s of all ages.
6) The new Ritz-Carlton Aruba is scheduled to open October 2013. Tell us what we can expect to find there.
The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba is being developed on the last possible plot of land on the island for a beach front property. The rest of the currently undeveloped shoreline has been sanctioned to be a wilderness preserve. With this in mind, we are very excited to be bringing the first luxury property to this destination that lies outside the hurricane belt. It will be a little over 300 rooms and welcome both group and leisure customers. We are aiming for a May 2013 opening.
7) Bulgari Hotels and Resorts is a sister brand to Ritz-Carlton with properties in Milan, Bali and next month opening in London. I keep hearing about “LoveMarks” in connection with Bulgari. Can you tell us what LoveMarks are?
LoveMarks is a marketing concept first coined by Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi and speaks to the idea that truly great brands gain both love and respect by the consumer. With this in mind, Bulgari Hotels and Resorts seeks to be a LoveMark space by delivering a consistent product that pays homage to its heritage, while still evolving to meet the needs of today’s society. Every decision and action taken at Bulgari Hotels and Resorts seeks to ensure this continuity of passion for the brand.
8) What efforts does Ritz-Carlton make to practice environmental stewardship and sustainability?
Community Footprints is the philanthropic organization founded by The Ritz-Carlton. Its three main pillars are hunger and poverty relief, well-being of children, and environmental conservation. Specifically speaking to environmental conservation, each individual property is tasked with identifying ways in which their operations can “go green” and conserve natural resources and many of our Ladies and Gentlemen volunteer for various community organizations that share similar goals.
9) Dubai is a hot destination as either a short layover or a destination in itself for both business and vacation travelers. What features of the Dubai Ritz-Carlton appeal to business travelers and what makes it a good choice for leisure travelers?
The GREAT thing about The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the city of Dubai is that you truly have a “Tale of Two Cities!” For the business traveler, The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Centre is located just off Sheikh Zayad Road near The Gate complex in the heart of most multi-national headquarters office buildings. For the leisure traveler, guests can stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai on Jumeirah Road which is a gorgeous, intimate property right on the Persian Gulf. I have been to both properties and think they are equally stunning. My recommendation… stay at both!
10) Staying in a fine luxury hotel is on many people’s travel bucket list. Since you have already stayed in some of the most luxurious hotels all around the world, what’s on your travel bucket list?
I am extremely thankful to have this position which affords me the ability to travel around the world visiting our properties and exposing customers to different and fascinating destinations. Having been to six of seven continents, I think Antarctica would definitely be on my bucket list!
Jeremy, thank you for sharing your experiences and insights on the incomparable Ritz-Carlton luxury brand. For luxury lovers everywhere, to find out more about any of the 90+ Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Resorts and partner brands across 35 countries, please contact Covington Travel.