Having started his career in 1983, Jean-Pierre Soutric held various sales and marketing positions successively with Intercontinental, Hilton International, Exclusive Hotels by Forte, then Four Seasons for the last 20 years as Director of Sales and Marketing for the opening of the Four Seasons George V Paris. He was promoted since to various regional roles until his latest appointment as Vice President Corporate and Travel Industry Sales Europe.
Jean-Pierre joined Oetker Collection in October 2015 as Senior Vice-President Sales & Marketing.
How did you get into the Marketing/Hospitality industry?
If you had asked me WHEN I would have said in … July of 1914 when my great grandmother opened her first hotel. It is indeed in the family DNA! She did opened her first hotel a few weeks before WW1 would broke. She saw all of her clients leaving overnight. Resilient she would come back 4 years later (in the meantime the hotel had become home to wounded soldiers).
Many years later as I studied management in a business school I noticed that none of the students had identified hospitality as an opportunity. I knew this sector would have to follow the path of other service industries. I internship at various hotel companies and managed to integrate one of them after my military service. It was 30 years ago and I have never left this industry nor I have ever looked back.
Tell us about Oetker Collection. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
Oetker Collection is not an idea nor a concept – it was born of the passion of a man (Rudolf-August Oetker) for beautiful historically significant hotels in stunning locations e.g. Brenners Park in Baden Baden, du Cap Eden-Roc at the tip of Cap d’Antibes, Château St Martin high above Nice, Le Bristol Paris on the chic Faubourg St Honoré opposite the Elysées Palace. Today the company is driven by excellence in operations as well as an astute growth at destinations where our repeat guests travel too. Our (modest) size makes the Collection a perfect fit for hotel owners who share our values. To our core owned hotels (described above) came along properties in Marrakech (Palais Namaskar) Courchevel, (l’Apogée) London (Lanesborough). Sao Paulo and New York are next.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Oetker Collection's success?
First off we have been loyal to our historic partners: the travel industry across the segments (high-end retail, wholesale). Since the creation of the Collection we have worked very hard to enhance our cooperation with the top consortia such as Virtuoso, Signature and Traveller Made. We are a proud Preferred Partner of the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts program. At the same time we also embrace new distribution platforms as long as they remain ethical and value quality engagement. More importantly we remain connected with the travel professionals who drive the business to our hotels. Again across segments: retail, wholesale travel and also group and corporate.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
The industry is changing but not always at the pace of our clients. The hotel of the 21st century has yet to be invented. We still check-in at hotels as the travellers of the 19th century did. There is a desk to check-in, another one for concierges, we wear similar uniforms and behave as our ancestors did with their clients back in 1900. Clients are younger and they travel for reason which make our décor irrelevant and too many of us are product driven, missing the point. So to ensure continued success it is time to keep the client at the very heart of our preoccupations. Jobs all around the hotel industry have yet to adapt (I include the travel industry).
Be a kind man – show empathy - prove generosity, respect and patience - remain modest.
Your greatest success as SVP of Sales/Marketing of Oetker Collection? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
I am 4 months in the job – allow me not to answer under my Oetker Collection’s hat although (to me) my greatest success was to convince my boss that I was … a good fit for the position (smile).
In my previous life at Four Seasons where I spent 20 years before joining the Oetker Collection - I have no hesitation – my greatest success: the almost instantaneous success of the George-V back in 2000.
Most difficult moments were (are) plenty – the worst being this permanent doubt not knowing for sure if I am doing the right thing. That said isn’t it a fab antidote to arrogance?
Your advice to an aspiring hotelier?
Make sure the love of your life supports you. As an hotelier you belong to clients, partners, colleagues – keep room for him/her!
Describe the ideal experience at an Oetker Collection property.
You know you will have an extraordinary stay, a wonderful beach or ski holiday, a fabulous event when everyone on property knows WHY you are visiting or WHY you have chosen this particular hotel. This is the absolute definition of excellence - also the contrary to generic standard service. To me, an ideal experience demands consistent engagement and astute empathy. Be yourself … so guests know you are sincerely and genuinely happy to have him/her!
How do you motivate your employees?
Allow me to refer you back to paragraph “Life Motto”.
What's next for Oetker Collection?
Continue to grow our brand for what it stands for: heritage, craftsmanship, service excellence and, may I add mine? Pure life pleasure.