News on Sunday

Jeremie de Fombelle : “There is a world of opportunities in the hotel sector” 

The tourism sector is at low tides and is being criticised mostly from a negative perspective. Amidst all the adversity, we should be proud that our country has been awarded with international recognition. For instance, LUX* Le Morne has has bagged two awards. The General Manager of LUX* Le Morne, Jeremie de Fombelle, highlights the recent achievements of the hotel. He also elaborates on the health of this sector. 

The tourism sector seems to be in troubled waters. How is it going for the hotel business? 
Well! I can assure you that LUX* Le Morne is not in troubled waters! We just closed the month of June with 95% occupancy and the business on our books for the coming months is very much ahead of last year. Our guests are thrilled, they love Mauritius and will come back! So, you won’t hear me moaning today! Tourists come to Mauritius because they consider that we have the best hotels, the best people and the most beautiful island. I have worked in seven destinations across the globe so far and I think it is really true! Mauritius is unique. If there is a drop in tourist arrivals, professionals in the sector should ask themselves the question: “What can we do at our level to be the best in our field of expertise?” If the private and public sectors roll up their sleeves and decide to be the best, there is absolutely no reason for the tourists not to visit Mauritius. 

Of course, we can always look for scapegoats and blame each other but it won’t make the situation any better and it is not my cup of tea. The solutions to most of our problems, if any, are in us. 

LUX* Le Morne has recently bagged two awards. What is the secret behind the success of the hotel? 
The main factor is the team at LUX* Le Morne: Ashok Bhugoo, the Resort Manager, his team and the 400+ team members. The best team I ever had. It is no secret that people is everything in our job. Passion for hospitality and “passion for making each moment matter” are in our DNA. It is not just a slogan; it is for real. The stunning spot with Le Morne in the back drop helps to make the magic operate but I think we also have an original and authentic approach of luxury at LUX* Le Morne. More authentic, more genuine, more caring, more meaningful. It makes the difference and our guests simply love it. 

Disruptions should not be seen as threats to our sector though. It is a chance for us all. I love disrupters! They force us to adapt, to change, to question ourselves every day."

How has the luxury hospitality evolved over the past years in Mauritius? 
I think the creation of the LUX* brand, 8 years ago under the leadership of Paul Jones, has been a small revolution for the hospitality sector in Mauritius and beyond. LUX* did break the traditional and global codes at that time and continues to do so. It may have inspired others in Mauritius but overall, I think the luxury hospitality model is still very traditional on the island. Tradition is not a bad thing though. But the only risk of that traditional model is to feel settled. In hospitality and in business in general, if you start to feel settled, it is the beginning of the end! 

What have been the most common disruptions in the hospitality sector so far? 
On the global scene, companies like Airbnb, Online travel agents and TripAdvisor have drastically changed our way of traveling. Expectations and habits from millennials are often disruptive, too. We better get used to disruptive factors in the travel industry because it will become the norm soon. Disruptions should not be seen as threats to our sector though. It is a chance for us all. I love disrupters! They force us to adapt, to change, to question ourselves every day. Disrupters make you resilient.

Europe, Asia and America are facing exactly the same challenges in the hospitality industry. It is a fact and we have to continuously work at closing the gap. It is a priority."

How has the LUX* Le Morne positioned itself in the tourism sector in Mauritius over the past few years? 
LUX* Le Morne is one of the best performing hotels on the island both in terms of reputation and REVPAR (revenue per available room). The “favoured status” of LUX* Le Morne in Mauritius is something amazing indeed, but it hasn’t occurred by accident. Our team members do project the values of the company. They walk the talk every single day. They are what differentiate us from the competition. They are LUX* Le Morne. We position ourselves as a caring resort. We care for our guests, our team members, the community and the planet. We cherish authenticity, elegance, simplicity and attention to details. It is a long journey, we can always do better and it is what makes the adventure so exciting!

Luxury is also about innovation and creativity. Tell us more about your approach and what should we expect from LUX* Le Morne in the near future? 
You simply can’t work at LUX* if you are not creative and innovative! Creativity is a mind-set and a culture here. As I said earlier, the most important is to never feel settled and always question the way we do things in our day-to-day life. It is a never-ending process. Very often, resorts wait for a renovation or a rebranding to start being innovative and as soon as the resort is open, the innovative mood goes on sleep mode... It is not the case here and creativity should be seen in each touchpoint of the stay. I won’t tell you what is next on the creative list of LUX* Le Morne because we never release the surprise in advance but there are many more to come and you won’t be disappointed!

Are there any particular regions you are focusing when it comes to expansion? 
Following the opening of The LUX* Collective Executive Office in Singapore, the company has entered a new era when it comes to expansion. Many openings are in the pipeline including China, Vietnam, France, Italy, and UAE. It is so exciting to see a Mauritian hotel group going global at such a rapid pace. 

Otherwise, is the young generation showing any interest in the tourism and hospitality field? 
Well, looking at the success of the hotel schools in Mauritius (Vatel, Gaetan Duval, etc) one could say the situation is not as bad as it looks. The situation is much better than in Europe or America, for example. But it is a fact that the hospitality sector loses its appeal in Mauritius, too. Especially for the jobs requiring less qualification. It is our responsibility to change the reputation of the hotel sector on the job market. Nobody will do it for us. There is a lot that can be done to improve work-life balance, happiness at work, stress management. 

Some employees in this field state that salary in this industry is deplorable? Do you share the same view? 
Salaries in the hotel sector across the globe are not high. It is not a problem in Mauritius only. It is global. Europe, Asia and America are facing exactly the same challenges in the hospitality industry. It is a fact and we have to continuously work at closing the gap. It is a priority. But it is also one of the rare industries where you can start your career as a porter and become General Manager a decade or two later. There is a world of opportunities in the hotel sector. With passion and hard work, anyone can reach the best positions in the organisation!  

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