PARIS – Dolce Vita, meeting the City of Light.
Roman jeweler Bulgari is about to bring a touch of Italian hospitality to Paris with the opening on December 2 of its seventh hotel in the world, located in the city’s Golden Triangle just a two-minute walk from the Tony Avenue Montaigne, where parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is headquartered.
Completely redesigned by Italian architectural firm Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel, who worked on all hotels in Bulgari, the old office building from the 1970s has been transformed into an 11-story luxury property with just 76 rooms and suites .
Its previously mirrored facade is now clad in light gray local stone, framing oblong windows inspired by Italian Renaissance architecture.
With prices ranging from 1,400 euros for a 450-square-foot room to 35,000 euros for the two-story penthouse, which includes a rooftop garden with views of the Eiffel Tower, the Bulgari hotel sits squarely at the top of the luxury pyramid of Paris, alongside his stable mate, the recently opened Cheval Blanc on the Seine.
“We are very excited because it is probably the most difficult, the most populated and the most expensive city in the world when it comes to high level hospitality”, Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of Bulgari, told WWD. “For us, this will truly be the ultimate proof of the desirability of our brand and our concept. “
The hotel will include a 2,365 square foot boutique, replacing the former Bulgari flagship on Avenue Georges V, and complement the brand’s store on nearby Avenue des Champs-Elysées, opened in 2018. Bulgari unveiled earlier this year a renovated store on Place Vendôme, the epicenter of global fine jewelry.
“As a jeweler and master of hospitality, Paris is ultimately the most important city for us, even though we come from Italy. So bringing Roman hospitality and Roman jewelry to Paris is obviously a must, because Paris will forever retain this status as the capital of jewelry, ”Babin noted.
Located at the corner of avenue George V and rue Pierre Charron, the hotel is a stone’s throw from the Four Seasons Hotel George V, where Sylvain Ercoli, general manager of the Bulgari Paris hotel previously worked.
As such, he’s uniquely positioned to know what sets the newcomer apart from the French capital’s existing “palaces”, the official ranking of hotels that exceed the five-star standard.
“I think it brings a touch of Italian elegance which, for me, is absolutely timeless,” he said during a recent visit to the premises. “It’s Italian luxury, bourgeois, but which in a way espoused Paris.
He highlighted the decor of a suite costing 20,000 euros a night, clad in glossy eucalyptus wood panels, its dining room clad in straw marquetry from the studio of the famous master Lison de Caunes. Dotted with designer objects and furniture from Gio Ponti, Flexform, Fontana Arte and B&B Italia.
Viel described it as a cross between Roman glamor and Parisian sophistication.
“In a way, Rome and Paris are two sides of the same ambition, if you will. They are the center of modern creativity. Fashion is both Roman and Parisian; food is both. So they kind of embody the same position around the world, but from two very different points of view, ”said the architect.
The hotel shares a number of codes with the Bulgari jewelry universe, including a palette of warm colors ranging from garnet and amethyst to its signature saffron hue. In the lobby, a painting of actress Monica Vitti by Chinese artist Yan Pei-Ming overlooks a marble floor encrusted with a star motif, similar to that found in the Bulgari store on Via Condotti in Rome.
The 14,000-square-foot spa includes a semi-Olympic pool covered in mosaics in shades of emerald, jade, and malachite. The Vitality Pool, on the other hand, is decorated with a motif inspired by the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, a major inspiration for the Divas’ Dream jewelry collection.
With nine treatment rooms and a circular spa suite including a private hammam, the wellness area works with beauty brands Amala, Bellefontaine, Ananné and Augustinus Bader, and is the only place offering clinic treatments 111Skin’s in France.
Il Ristorante restaurant is run by Michelin-starred chef Niko Romito. It has 58 seats inside and 40 outside in an interior garden, and offers dishes including its signature vegetable lasagna and a Milanese risotto made without butter. French classics like sole meunière and onion soup are on the room service menu.
Babin said the amenities were exceptional for a boutique hotel and justified the high Average Daily Rate (ADR) of the rooms.
“This economic model only works if the experience is so exceptional that you agree to pay an ADR which is much, much higher than other palaces, because otherwise you would not have the critical mass to absorb the cost of offering better services and infrastructure – the swimming pool for example, or the spa – than most existing palaces, ”he said.
He noted that Bulgari, which has hotels in Milan, Bali, London, Beijing, Dubai and Shanghai, is generally number one in every city in terms of revenue per available room. It also ranks near the top of rankings established by the Leading Quality Assurance (LQA) benchmarking service.
“We obviously want to become number one in Paris, which is not easy, because Paris is the most competitive city in the world when it comes to measuring that,” he said, noting that the city has more than 10 hotels with an ADR greater than 1,000 euros.
This is an ambitious goal, at a time when the city is still struggling to regain its pre-pandemic tourism levels. Ercoli said the French have traditionally made up only 3 to 5 percent of luxury hotel guests in Paris, while U.S. citizens make up 35 to 40 percent of guests.
As American, European and Middle Eastern travelers return to the French capital, Russian, South American and Chinese nationals are still confined to their homes by COVID-19 travel restrictions. However, city officials are betting on a massive influx of visitors for the 2024 Summer Olympics.
In the race to attract VIP clients, Babin expects to face Cheval Blanc, an internal competition apparently sanctioned by LVMH boss Bernard Arnault. “It is certain that the group’s ambition is for these two hotels to become the two new benchmarks for the ultimate luxury experience in the City of Light,” said Babin.
The executive noted that the two were relative newcomers to the hospitality segment. Bulgari opened its first hotel in 2004, and the hotel division of Cheval Blanc was founded in 2006. “Cheval Blanc is above all the best wine in the world, and we are above all one of the best jewelers in the world, therefore two activities that I say are a bit far off, ”he said.
“On the other hand, our clientelist obsession has helped us build business models which, to the extent that they have proven to be very successful, by creating, de facto, a style of hotel that I would not only qualify as a luxury hotel. 21st century, but the ultimate experience. through a boutique hotel format, ”he argued.
The next openings for Bulgari’s hotel division are openings in Rome and Moscow next year, Tokyo in 2023, Miami in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2025. It is also looking for a location in New York, Babin said.
“The master plan is to have New York, LA and Miami. I think if you really want to establish a strong presence in the United States, these three cities are absolutely mandatory, and I think in all these three cities our concept remains unique, so we don’t necessarily have the stress of being there as soon as possible, ”he commented.
The only Italian player in the hotel industry in the French capital, Bulgari relies on its cultural assets. “Our style is very different from any existing player in Paris,” Babin said. “We come from a historical background and a very cultivated environment. On the other hand, we are Latin people, so we are warm, we are happy, we have love and empathy.
This approach works well for his clients, whom he described as successful freelance types looking for a home away from home, and has resulted in a high rate of return clients elsewhere.
“Customers today are much less formal than they were over a century ago, when they [other Paris] palaces were built. And they really enjoy being in a practical, contemporary and modern environment with a staff that is extremely customer-obsessed, but at the same time approachable and friendly, ”Babin said.
“When I see the evolution of hard luxury, it seems like it’s a trend right now. As a general rule, fine jewelry is more and more worn dressed and dressed, which means that people appreciate their luxury not only for different formal opportunities, but also for informal ones, and our hotel concept really follows these lines ”, he concluded.
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