Didier Le Calvez joined Hôtel Le Bristol Paris on 29 March 2010. A prominent figure in the international luxury hotel industry, he has been active in the sector for 35 years, 18 of which he spent within the prestigious Four Seasons group, where he was Vice-Chairman in France and Portugal from 1999 to 2007.
From the New York Plaza to the George V in Paris, via the Regent in Singapore and New York’s Pierre hotel, throughout his career he has demonstrated his talents in the exclusive world of luxury hotels, as well as his desire to make every hotel in which he has worked an exceptional place.
How did you get into the hospitality industry?
I grew up in Saint-Martin-de-Ré on the Ile de Ré, which is a very touristy French island so I was surrounded and raised in a hospitality industry. I immediately liked this field because it combines service and entrepreneurship. Being an hotelier is a profession that touches everything: human resources, accounting, food & beverage. I am especially fond of the last part because I am a food connoisseur.
In such a competitive industry, how does Le Bristol stay so successful?
The hotel’s exemplary service and unrivaled elegance make it the hotel of choice in the French capital. We continue to make updates to Le Bristol Paris so it stays top of line. For example, we just completed a six year renovation of the property thanks to the financial support of the Oetker family. Debuting a fully refurbished lobby and nineteen rooms and suites, Le Bristol Paris completed its six year restoration this spring, becoming one of the first luxury hotels to finish its renovation program in complete discretion. Throughout the process, Le Bristol Paris never closed its doors and continued to welcome guests, setting it apart from other Parisian luxury hotels.
What partnerships/marketing strategies did you implement that attributed to the success of Le Bristol Paris?
Since my arrival in 2010, we have implanted a new marketing strategy. The main goal is to diversify our markets by country and also by segments.
Your greatest successes as manager?
As manager, my greatest successes were the improvements that I have brought at the Regent Singapore and the Pierre in New-York. I have contributed to the rise of their fame, service, and profitability.
How important is location selection to the success of your hotel?
Location is very important. We are located in the heart of Paris. With an address on the prestigious rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, we are surrounded by haute couture and art; that is why affluent, fashionable guests continue to return to Le Bristol Paris.
How important is design/architecture to the success of your hotel?
It is important to us. Le Bristol Paris is an authentic French / Parisian palace and a true reflection of the City of Lights in its architecture, décor, original work of art, original furniture from private collections, and fabrics from the best manufacturers in France and Europe. Fabrics are only selected from the most prestigious companies. The prints, paintings and mirrors are all authentic, as reproductions are not allowed at Le Bristol, which is owned by a family of art collectors. The hotel continues to serve as a home to high profile Parisian clientele, including people from the worlds of fashion, art, entertainment, architecture and more.
What qualities make a 5 Star Hotelier?
The first quality requested is to have a loyal and professional staff, always delivering the best service.
It is also very important to provide an authentic experience. Le Bristol Paris is a true French Parisian palace and is a direct reflection of the City of Lights.
Describe the ideal customer experience at the Le Bristol Paris?
Le Bristol Paris is the reference of the French art de vivre. The ideal customer experience at Le Bristol starts by an amazing dining experience - Le Bristol Paris offers the largest variety of dining experiences in Paris, directed by renowned Chef Eric Frechon who has 4 Michelin Stars (unique in Europe). He is supported by a talented team, 4 M.O.F. (best craftsmen in France) for cuisine, restaurants and bars. Guests can pamper themselves with a bespoke treatment at the Spa Le Bristol by La Prairie or by taking time to swim in the sixth floor swimming pool overlooking Parisian rooftops.
I do not have one specific mantra, but I am an extremely optimistic person by nature.
Favorite travel destination?
My most memorable holidays were in the Seychelles on Fregate Island Private, which is also an Oetker Collection property. It is a jewel of conservation. I was there with my wife and children and in less than one hour, we saw a hawksbill turtle laying its eggs and the hatching of the turtle eggs from another nest. More than 130 baby turtles were running to the sea. The children were very excited and I was too. Flora and fauna have remained untouched on-island – it is what it makes the island a unique place of unforgettable experiences.
Role model - business and personal?
My role model is John Sharpe, Director of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts from 1984 to 1999.
What literature is on your bed stand?
I have limited time for reading, so I choose accurately targeted readings. I am now reading “The Analects” of Confucius. I’ve already read them but I am very appreciative of his philosophy. My next readings will be an essay about the Romanov family written by Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, member of the French Academy, because I find the parallelism between the history and the present situation interesting.
The last one will be an autobiography written by Jean d’Ormesson, also member of the French Academy: “Un jour je m’en irai sans en avoir tout dit”. The writer is an elderly man who wants to share his thoughts before leaving. It is an inspiring book full of wisdom.
What's next for the Le Bristol Paris and yourself?
My main goal is to sustain the success of Le Bristol and to strengthen its legendary effect on the Parisian market. 2010 is definitely Le Bristol’s decade.
It was to Mr Le Calvez, a professional with a passion for the industry, that the Four Seasons group entrusted the reopening of the Hôtel George V in Paris in 1999. Didier Le Calvez was its emblematic Manager and boosted the hotel to the status of leader among the luxury hotels of both Paris and the rest of the world. Under his management the George V was named World’s Best Hotel by Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report seven years running and World’s Best Hotel by Institutional Investor in 2005.
Mr Le Calvez has also received a number of awards of his own. Awarded the Ordre des Palmes Académiques and decorated with the Ordre National du Mérite, in 1995 he was voted Manager of the Year by American magazine Entrée. He also received the recognition of his peers when he was named World’s Best Hotel Manager in 2006 as part of the Hospitality Awards. In June 2012, Mr Le Calvez was decorated as a Knight of the Order of the Legion of Honour by previous French Prime Minister and Senat President, Mr Jean-Pierre Raffarin.
Didier Le Calvez is now taking on the role of Chief Executive Officer of Hôtel Le Bristol Paris in a new context, marked by the forthcoming opening of some prominent new high-end hotels in Paris. It was this new challenge, as well as the strong values of Hôtel Le Bristol and its owner, that motivated his decision. In fact, collaborating with the Oetker family and joining Le Bristol is above all an immense privilege for Didier Le Calvez, since, in his view, the establishment represents the quintessence of French luxury and refinement. In 2013, the trust Oetker Collection testifies to him leads his appointment as ‘Senior Vice President Operations and Sales & Marketing’ of the group. In this role, he coordinates the marketing and media strategy for Oetker Collection.
This excellence can be seen particularly clearly in the meticulous attention to detail brought to the decoration of the hotel by Mrs Oetker, her enlightened choice of fabrics, furniture and lights, its custom-made bedrooms, and the high-quality staff who have been present at Le Bristol for many years and are capable of meeting the needs of each guest. These strong arguments, not to mention the unique status of Le Bristol, convinced Didier Le Calvez to accept this new position. Voted “France’s Leading Hotel” and “Europe’s Leading Hotel” at the 2011 and 2012 World Travel Awards, Le Bristol has been extremely popular in particular thanks to the high standard of its service, the size of its French garden, the beauty of its swimming pool and its Spa Le Bristol by La Prairie or its unequalled gastronomic quality and variety. Oetker group’s exceptional financial support (more than 150 million euros), combined with Didier Le Calvez powerful will, also have enabled the entire renovation of Le Bristol, its 188 rooms and suites (including 85 suites), the acquisition of a new wing, the refurbishment of Epicure, the three-star gastronomic restaurant, the opening of 114 Faubourg, the French one Michelin star luxury brasserie, and the opening of Le Bar du Bristol, the trendiest place for Parisian evenings.
Didier Le Calvez now wishes to make the most of these assets and strengthen Le Bristol’s position based on one of the hotel’s fundamental values: authenticity, reflecting its unique status on the Parisian scene. He is more determined than ever that the quality of service and the sense of luxury enjoyed by guests at Le Bristol should show off the very best that France has to offer.
(Photo Credit: Roméo Balancourt)