Tatiana Serafin

Luxe travel not set to recover until next year

Global Markets recently interviewed Mark Tamis, COO of Setai Hotels and Resorts, about his expectations for the global travel industry and how Setai, a luxury concept targeting “the world’s most coveted and affluent consumers,” stays on top. An excerpt of the conversation follows:

Global Markets: Let’s talk about the past several years in travel.

Tamis: “Challenging would be an understatement. We felt it coming two years ago but never understood the full magnitute in the decline of travel. The very top of the market was severely affected. At that end, people don’t have to travel or if they travel they can choose scaled down accomodations; so the higher up you are in a category the more affects you will feel.”

Global Markets: Are we seeing a recovery?

Tamis: “Knock on wood we’ve seen the bottom. We’re fairly conservative. 2010 is more about stabilization. 2011 is more of a recovery, 2012 a strong recovery. But it won’t be til 2013 that we see the same numbers in travel that we saw in 2007/2008.”

“For example, Miami is such a Northeast travel market. As Wall Street recovered and confidence returned, we started to see an uptick in the first two quarters of the year. We’re also getting the European and Latin American travellers.” [Setai Group operates The Setai in South Beach, one of the world’s most exclusive hotels]

Global Markets: What are your expansion plans?

Tamis: “We’re set on global expansion. The locations and projects are top of the market, but they are very small – 30 villas or less than 200 rooms. It’s about the most exclusive not a giant development site.”

“In Punta el Este [in Uruguay] we have a lodge under construction. We have a sign but it is not on sale yet. The Setai retail office in Miami gets 3-5 calls a day.”

Global Markets: Any other opportunities?

Tamis: “The Brilla Group hired us to manage their new asset, The Raleigh Hotel. We are giving a new life to the property while maintaining an authentic to Miami experience. 21 different management companies bid for this work. We have the local expertise.”

Global Markets: What is your differentiator?

Tamis: “The brand is about the experience between the guest and service, the emotional connection that is created. You have to enforce the brand everyday to keep it alive. Ours is about creating the stage and platform for employees, our largest investment is our employees.”

Global Markets: Do you think the era of the condo-hotel concept is over?

Tamis: “The most important thing in a condo-hotel project is that there has to be a great hotel. Where that model went wrong was when operators and developers lost sight of the fact that it needs to be a great hotel. The economic decline hastened the failure of some of these projects.”

“In Setai in South Beach a condo sold for $15 million. It is about the power of the brand.”

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