Swedish-born Frida Ivarsson is the third owner of Château Le Cagnard since it was first converted into a hotel in 1928. Located in the medieval village of Haut-de-Cagnes, it is ten minutes away from Nice Airport and is historically famous for its strong appeal with renowned and emerging artists, including Renoir and Picasso. Ivarsson’s family had always kept a holiday home in Haute-de-Cagnes, so when the hotel was put up for sale, they decided to purchase it, with Frida made responsible for the day-to-day running of the property. Having studied business and events management in the UK, and working previously for Airbus, Ivarsson was keen to enter the hotel industry regardless of her limited sector experience. Following 13 months of renovation, Château Le Cagnard reopened its doors for business and through her strong vision and determination, has already begin to see the results of her hard work, winning the Classical Elegance Award at the 2013 World Boutique Hotel Awards.
What made your family decide to buy a hotel?
My family has always had a close connection with Haute-de-Cagnes and with France. We also had a strong understanding of the advantages that the village had in terms of its tourist appeal, although it was more of a gut feeling about Château Le Cagnard that made us decide to buy it.
What makes Château Le Cagnard stand out from other hotels in the area?
I focus on giving the guests an experience, not just one night’s sleep. It is important for me to give the guests something different. Each of the 26 rooms are named after a prominent artist associated with Haut-de-Cagnes. It is the artworks of today’s upcoming artists in the village that create a uniqueness in each room, matched with a refined Provencal style design and modern fittings.
You recently won “Entrepreneur of the Year” in Cagnes-sur-Mer. In your opinion, what were the key factors that helped you beat more than 2000 enterprises?
I am very flattered to have won this prize. Being a young women and Swedish in a foreign country, it has been fantastic personal accomplishment. I have always had a clear picture and ambition in my mind of what I’ve wanted to achieve and have worked very hard to be on top of the business, whilst continuously learning about the fascinating world of hospitality. When I promote Château Le Cagnard around the world, I also promote the destination of Cagnes-sur-Mer, which has helped tremendously in gaining media awareness and forming strong sales relationships within the travel sector.
What steps did you undertake help acquire the skills required of a general manager?
Although I have never previously worked in hospitality, my prior experience working for Airbus helped me to acquire strong leadership and financial skills. Working also on both the client and supplier side has allowed me to gain a good understanding of customer needs, while aiming to finds opportunities to be more competitive. Being fluent in three languages also has its benefits.
The French Riviera has continued to be a resilient market due to its popularity within the luxury leisure travel and MICE sectors. What are your key priorities for 2014 to help raise the bar in terms of performance for Château Le Cagnard?
I’m currently working to improve our online presence so that clients can book directly through the website as well as adding a GDS distribution channel. The FIT and the MICE market for board and executive meetings, as well as high-end incentives are strong opportunities for Château Le Cagnard; therefore these are segments that I will continue to pursue for 2014. Now that we are in our second trading year and coming into the second season, I have a very positive outlook in terms of reaching this year’s financial projections.
Nathalie Salas is a writer for Perfect Boutique Hotel, a website dedicated to readers who have a passion for boutique and lifestyle hotels. She is a also a freelance consultant specialising in hospitality and tourism, helping small businesses improve their marketing and branding on an international level. Nathalie is British and lives in Asolo, Italy.
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