Roberto E. Wirth, President and Managing Director of the Hassler Roma, is the first son of Oscar Wirth and his wife Carmen. As the second-generation owner of the Hotel Hassler, and fifth generation of a famous hotelier family, he believes in carrying on the rich tradition of the Bucher-Wirth hotel dynasty. For almost two centuries, the Bucher-Wirth family continues to make their mark in the field of luxury hospitality.
In the past Mr. Wirth has received numerous personal awards, the most recent being: “Independent Hotelier of the World 2005” by HOTELS magazine, one of the most prestigious publications in the hospitality industry; the Prize for Economic Achievement by Rome’s City Government in an event presided by the city’s mayor (February 2006); the "Marco Aurelio" 2006 prize for Tourism from the Vice Mayor of Rome, Mariapia Garavaglia - this prestigious award recognizes those who have distinguished themselves in the Roman tourism sector, emphasizing the importance that tourism has for the economic and social life of Italy’s capital. In Nov. 2014 he was awarded the “Leading Legend Award” by The Leading Hotels of the World, for his commitment to the art of independent hospitality.
How did you get into the hospitality industry?
Since I was a child, I could experience firsthand the hotel life. My father managed Hotel Eden in Rome. I lived in the hotel, I ate in the hotel; all my life, as well as my family’s life was synchronized with the hotel’s routine. It was like a brain washing… I always wanted to become an hotelier. And it was not easy to realize my dream because I had not the support of my family. Above all my father strongly took position against my desire. He was convinced that my deafness could be an insuperable obstacle. I had to face and overcome many difficulties before I succeeded but I never gave up.
Tell us about Hassler Roma. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the hotel?
I am the second-generation owner of the Hotel Hassler, and fifth generation of a famous hotelier family of Swiss origin. My dynasty began with Franz-Josef Bucher, now considered one of the pioneers of the hotel industry in Europe. In 1890 Franz-Joseph appointed his son-in law – and my grand-father - Heinrich to manage Hotel Quirinale and later Albergo Minerva, bought by Bucher in 1894. Then Oscar, my father and Heinrich’ son joined the Hotel Hassler in 1921 as the partner of another Swiss Hotelier, Franz Nistelweck. My father Oscar later became the sole owner of the prestigious hotel. A curiosity: During Mussolini’s dictatorship, the Hassler had to change its name and became Villa Medici (Mussolini thought that the name Hassler had Jewish origin…). Thereafter the hotel was requisitioned by the U.S. Air Force to serve as their Rome headquarters during World War II. In 1947, the Hotel (again) Hassler reopened to travelers from around the world and took up its traditional position as a temple of hospitality.
Today, I consider the Hotel my home and my family heritage. My first aim is to keep it as a jewel that shines more and more. It is an independent Hotel, I am proud of it, and I have no intention to sell it.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have contributed to Hassler Roma's success?
I cannot say we have specific partnerships; Hassler, as mentioned before, is an independent hotel but we have been member of The Leading Hotels of the World for many years and this helps in strengthening the development in the different markets and reach the right target of customers. During its history, the Hassler witnessed a lot of implementation. Originally, it was a four stars hotel and the rooms had no bathrooms. My father in rebuilding it modified the room structure, created the upper floor, moved the restaurant – usually based on the ground floor – to the 6th floor (making it the first Roman panoramic restaurant in a hotel)… The Hassler became a five star hotel. In addition, when my father married my mother, who had live many years in New York, and had many important American friends who arrived in Rome to visit her, the Hassler started being very popular again. To keep the success and improve it we are strongly focused on Sales & Marketing activities and actions without forgetting one of the most important thing that a luxury hotel has to provide to its clients, I mean of course an excellent service.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
Hospitality industry has changed a lot; do not forget the cutting-edge that is having a huge influence in every aspects of our life, the “globalization” which affected everything… We have clients coming from every country of the world and the biggest trend is the request of a customized service that can turn a travel in one-o-a-kind experience.
Never give up!
Your greatest success as President/MD of Hassler Roma? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
The success comes from hard work… Just use the head and not the feet… I can say I achieve the aim to keep Hassler Roma independent and one of the most well-known worldwide property in the luxury hospitality industry. The most difficult thing is managing the staff. It is not easy… It happens that I have to repeat things many times before people do what they are supposed to. It is annoying and really upsets me. Luckily, it does not regards all members of my team!
Your advice to an aspiring hotelier?
You know, there are two different kind of hotelier: one who deals with independent properties and one who deals with properties member of hospitality chains. Working for an independent hotel is completely different; rules, activities and mentality change. Therefore, the first thing I would suggest to an aspiring hotelier is that he/she starts choosing between the above-mentioned categories.
Describe the ideal experience at Hassler Roma.
It is not simple to reply. Maybe the ideal experience is dealing with VIP guests, anticipating their desires, knowing their habits, giving them an unique experience up to their expectations
How do you motivate your employees?
Trying to be as gentle as possible but also severe when it occurs…
What's next for Hassler Roma?
It is a secret… so it becomes impossible to imitate us…