In a hotel world with a growing number of soft brands, collections and representative companies, executive director and global brand leader Jean-Luc Naret is trying to position The Set Collection as a bespoke offering, with owners, investors and management teams with the options and agility to source only the marketing support they want and really need.
Launched in 2021, founding members of The Set Collection are The Set’s own hotels owned by the Akirov family – the Conservatorium in Amsterdam, Café Royal in London, Lutetia in and Mamilla in Jerusalem. In 2021, Upper House, Middle House, Temple House and Opposite House joined the Group. The objective is to reach some 150 member properties in three years.
In May this year, The Set Collection joined Dubai-based Global Hotel Alliance (GHA), operator of the multi-brand loyalty program GHA DISCOVERY, to strengthen its distribution. The hotels founding members of the Set Collection will also become members of the Ultratravel Collection Alliance, an exclusive selection of the programme’s most luxurious properties in destinations around the world.
HOTELS spoke to veteran luxury hotelier Naret, former CEO of La Reserve Hotels in Europe, about The Set Collection to better understand what sets it apart and
HOTELS: How is the portfolio doing and what does the Collection bring to date?
Jean-Luc Naret: We have already signed new hotels which joined us in early 2022, the incredible House Collective properties in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Chengdu and Beijing. Overall, the portfolio is doing very well as we adapt and take advantage of this new period of strong travel results.
H: Why compete with The Leading Hotels of the World, Relais & Châteaux, etc.? ?
JLN: Naturally, one can only be compared to other players in the field, but The Set Collection was born out of a desire for a distinctly different offer. Not only something we were missing, but also a need we heard over and over again from our peers. Unlike the brands mentioned, our organization is run by day-to-day hoteliers and run by a family that owns its own highly successful and praised hotels.
Today, there are a large number of hotel brands in this dynamic and exciting industry, most of which belong to large hotel groups (Accor, for example, has around sixty, Marriott twice as many). Simply put, customers and owners are getting lost in this multitude of brands and need clearer benchmarks.
Our brand, The Set Collection, was created by the four founding hotels of the Set Hotels brand (Lutetia in Paris, Café Royal in London, Conservatorium in Amsterdam and Mamilla in Jerusalem). Each of these hotels is undeniably recognized as one of the jewels of the luxury hotel industry and a leader in its market. For example, the Lutetia is the only Palace on the Left Bank.
By creating The Set Collection brand, we wanted to address hoteliers and owners who are looking for an alternative to traditional representation. We offer our members the opportunity to safeguard their own hard-won brand identity and recognition without having to join a management brand and are able to provide them with a full range of à la carte services both commercially and representationally. Not only do we offer our talents, expertise and leading practices across multiple disciplines, but we also offer the opportunity to benefit from our strong market power. Another very important point of our differentiation is the fact that we offer a selection of à la carte services, tailored to the member – a point of flexibility that our competitors do not offer.
H: How do you differentiate or manage fees differently from traditional representation firms?
JLN: Our fee structure is flexible and performance-based. Our fixed fees are exceptionally low in the industry with the performance-based revenue model ensuring mutual accountability and motivation to convert. Here again, unlike competing models, The Set Collection offers a very agile service structure, a tailor-made menu of complementary services strictly relevant to the member.
H: What are the growth forecasts and timeline?
JLN: Our goal is to have around 30 hotels in our collection within the first few years on five continents and around 150 within three years.
H: Could you potentially add a portfolio of properties to The Set Collection, similar to what GHA has done, in relation to unique pieces?
JLN: We look at both unique and independent properties as well as additions to the portfolio. The hotels in our collection will be the independent leaders in their destination and we will help them position themselves globally. To these quantifiable criteria is of course added something that is not transcribed: the feeling of the same state of mind or similar attitudes. You could even call it chemistry. At The Set Collection, we believe this is the art of our people; our combined talent, skills, expertise and flair that create these inspiring environments that feel beautifully composed, and that’s what we look for in our people.
H: Where are you looking for new member hotels?
JLN: Hotels wishing to join The Set Collection must be luxury hotels in destinations complementary to our existing properties whose owners wish to retain the management of their hotels but entrust us with their marketing and the network we have built around the world.
Our goal is to build a portfolio of non-competing hotels, which can work collaboratively to deliver a richer experience and greater value for our Set Collection guests, while maximizing cross-exposure and revenue generation opportunities. Although the primary goal is to limit member hotels to one per location, certain exceptions would be considered. For example, where the hotel experience offered is different enough that a Set Collection guest chooses to stay at only one of the hotels based on personal preference, perhaps one property with a very contemporary design and the other very traditional . Of course, if the hotels share the same property that has requested more than one, this would be allowed, as would be the case when an existing member brand acquires a new property.
H: Talk about your distribution model, its strength and its differentiation.
JLN: We’ve partnered with big names in distribution that everyone knows, like Saber, and they bring you everything you know about more traditional representation models.
However, we have gone further than simply connecting our member hotels to the distribution ecosystem and letting them do it. For example, with our booking engine, we worked with a very talented third party to create a “skin” that sits on top of the Saber booking engine and provides a more luxurious and user-friendly experience for our customers, increasing both conversion and alignment with brand ethos at booking stage.
We have also partnered with other experts in the fields of distribution and business intelligence to provide our members with truly exciting technology that allows them to be at the top of the game in terms of maximizing profitability. and revenue generation, but without the need to add heavy additional resources or headcount themselves, which is a crucial consideration for independent hotels.
Due to our business model, where fees are largely performance-based, there is a mutual responsibility to drive results, which also means that, in addition to our member hotels benefiting from the best distribution technology on the market, they also benefit from our expertise and advice as much (or little) as they need to get the most out of it and obtain the best results.
H: How to “tailor-made” the membership?
JLN: The advantage of our business model is that we are ‘asset-light’, which means we can be agile in the face of the ever-changing market conditions so prevalent in our industry.
We don’t have large offices around the world that we need to cover in our costs, whether or not they provide the same value to all member hotels. This means we can create a truly bespoke offer for each of our members to ensure they only pay for the services that are important to them.
We do not offer a one-size-fits-all package. We have, of course, some services that are included for everyone, like CRS, Booking Engine, GDS, etc. But then we have an a la carte menu of additional services that member hotels can choose from depending on their needs. needs such as global sales representation by market, digital marketing expertise, public relations support, etc.