BHN talks to Arnaud Zannier, founder of Zannier Hotels, about the brand’s ethos and expansion plans.
• Can you give us some background on yourself, both professionally and personally, and tell us what inspired you to come a hotelier?
“I always wanted to run my own business (probably a familial heritage…). I worked for five years in London on the development of the Kickers shoes brand. Working in the fashion industry, I launched NDC, my own high-end shoes brand, which has rapidly become a success. NDC shoes were sold in the most beautiful shoe shops around the globe. The hospitality adventure started later, when the Zannier family bought the restaurant La Ferme de mon Père, in Megève, from the renowned French chef Marc Veyrat.”
“I had the vision to enter the hospitality industry offering an alternative luxury. In 2011 Le Chalet Zannier opened, a wonderful retreat with alpine decor. This was the beginning of Zannier Hotels. Phum Baitang followed four years ago. This stunning resort, located in Siemp Reap (Cambodia), has been rapidly acclaimed. The opening of 1898 The Post in August 2017, in a historical building in the centre of Ghent (Belgium), completes the collection of exclusive properties.”
• Your hotels are in a widely disparate range of locations – what attracted you to your current locations, and what are you looking for when evaluating future properties?
“For all of them, the opportunity and the beauty of the locations. In short: elegant settings. I discovered Le Chalet through a family trip and immediately saw the potential of this place, that inspires both serenity and genuine conviviality. This is not only due to the proximity of nature but also because of the architecture and coziness of the place. The unique location and typical environment of Phum Baitang definitely confirmed my vision to launch accommodations with a soul. Every opening takes into consideration both the location, the local culture and the experience our guests will be able to live, and the emotion they will retain. No doubt that this ability to adapt to a specific culture, heritage and site is not only a key success factor but also a fundamental of Zannier Hotels’ DNA.”
• How many projects do you have in the pipeline?
“Zannier Hotels is undergoing a rapid and perfectly controlled development. Two lodges will open this year in Namibia to offer authentic safari experiences: Omaanda, composed of 10 huts made with the local Ovambo architecture, will open early July in the Windhoek region. Sonop, the second tented camp will open by the end of this year at the southern part of the Namib desert. A stunning resort will follow in QuiNhon (Vietnam) in autumn 2019. With its private white sand beach, and 98 hectares of land, the 71 suites and villas and the 45 ￼privately owned serviced residences will constitute another jewel of Zannier Hotels. Other projects are being considered.”
• How would you describe the essence of the Zannier brand – what makes it different?
“Zannier Hotels offers a new vision of the luxury hospitality industry, with a way of living free of all pretention. All properties opened are designed to combine authenticity, simplicity and genuine luxury, with discreet tailored service. My idea is to develop a brand for aesthetes in search of authenticity. Their architecture integrates local culture and expertise in design. Each project offers a combination of pure, natural and imperfect materials that will – with the age – provide warmth and character to the property.”
• What are the biggest challenges you face in growing the brand?
“Getting the right people on board is probably the biggest challenge for Zannier Hotels, in order to pursue the vision, and transmit the genuine values of the brand. Conviviality, discretion, authenticity – those are not values easy to pass. In order to ensure consistency both in terms of service and guest experience, hiring the right people is key.”
• How has the rise of Airbnb and the sharing economy affected your business and your guests’ behaviour?
“Luckily, the high end or luxury hospitality environment is still partially preserved from platforms like Airbnb. We do not see Airbnb as direct threat to our hotels, as we are convinced to offer a different experience. We are a people-orientated business. Airbnb is a product-orientated business. We offer much more than just renting rooms. We bring an experience, stories, a reflection about the culture or the architecture, a different point of view on the world.”
• How do you see your business evolving over the next five years?
“Who can say what will occur in the five years? At Zannier Hotels, we aim at pursuing our development, keeping our values and our own vision of hospitality. This is our credo, our objective, and it will remain our target.”