From delivering service to creating experiences – Q&A with Benoît-Etienne Domenget

From delivering service to creating experiences – Q&A with Benoît-Etienne Domenget

For nearly two centuries, five-star hotels have been providing exceptional service to distinguish themselves from competition. But in today’s age of experiences, hotels are under pressure to deliver next-level interactions that go beyond service to create unforgettable memories.

Benoît-Etienne Domenget is the new CEO of Sommet Education, the newly-formed group operating the prestigious Swiss hospitality management schools of Glion Institute of Higher Education and Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, which has campuses in Switzerland, Spain, UK, US, and China. A former Managing Director of Accor Switzerland, Benoit-Etienne was then called to the helm of Michel Reybier Hospitality Group, including luxury hotels such as La Réserve and Victoria-Jungfrau Collection. These days, he’s using that experience to develop the industry’s next wave of talent…

“The term “Experience Industry” was coined by authors Joseph Pine and James Gilmore in an article published in Harvard Business Review in 1998 defining experiences as next-level services, engaging the customer emotionally to create a memorable event while adding value to the interaction. Other industries are now looking towards the hospitality industry to create more customer-centric experiences.

The global luxury industry, accounting for yearly spendings in excess of USD 1 trillion has seen a shift of focus away from the luxury product towards experiencing luxury, as a whole as identified by Boston Consulting Group. This has led to some of the world’s most popular luxury brands foraging into hospitality, opening hotel properties and launching concept stores with F&B operations and event spaces to create experiences for a younger generation.  Due to this increasing demand, Glion Institute of Higher Education has established an undergraduate track combining hospitality and luxury brand management, preparing students to join this aspiring sector and create the personalised experiences of the future.

To be memorable, experiences must be relevant, meaningful and unexpected – only then will they remain in the customer’s mind and stand out from other impressions. When finally the experience is executed in a way that it delivers on a brand’s promise, it becomes invaluable – and its price secondary.

There is indeed a big skills gap in the global hospitality industry that currently supports over 290 million jobs and is expected to create 90 million more over the next ten years (World Travel & Tourism Council). It’s more important than ever for the marketplace to have a constant exchange with educators. Of course, not all of these jobs are in the luxury segment, where the mind-set and soft skills are essential. Today’s luxury travellers expect outstanding service throughout their journey, but it takes empathy and a certain open-mindedness to anticipate their needs and respond in a personalised way. While the right techniques can be acquired, a passion for hospitality, people and service is a prerequisite.

The best piece of advice I can give to someone who serves the hospitality industry is be sincere, genuine and authentic: a guest or a colleague will always recognize and appreciate sincerity and authenticity and it is the first step to create emotion. Stay humble: if you treat everybody around you respectfully, you will in turn gain their respect. Be adventurous: hospitality is an extremely dynamic industry that offers limitless opportunities for people seeking to explore and discover.”

These and other emerging trends on the luxury scene will be discussed at ILTM in Cannes, 4-7 December 2017. To find out how your business can get accreditation to attend ILTM, click here.


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