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Meet the hotel expert: Thomas Pruneyrac, new GM and co-owner of Le Domaine de Rochebois

Le Domaine de Rochebois is a large 19th century property transformed into a stylish luxury hotel with two adjacent Perigourdin styled pavilions overlooking a nine-hole golf course in the panoramic Dordogne Valley.

By LLM Reporters  |  May 23, 2022
Thomas Pruneyrac

Le Domaine de Rochebois is first and foremost the story of two brothers and their respective wives who fell in love with a 19th century aristocratic home in the heart of the Périgord, and decided to give a second life to the estate by turning it into a luxury and refined hotel. Two years on, after a complete refurbishment, the Pruneyrac family are ready for their grand opening night on the June 30th.

We met with Thomas Pruneyrac, general manager and co-owner of this stylish French establishment to learn more of the fascinating story behind the hotel.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Thomas Pruneyrac, the new owner of Le Domaine de Rochebois in SW France?

Thomas Pruneyrac is a ‘doer’ who likes challenges since a young age. I have been working in hotels, in the events industry, as a tour operator and as a DMC. As such, I can safely say that I have touched at every angle of the tourism and hospitality industry which makes me a good all-rounder with a global vision of things. But this new project is not just a Thomas Pruneyrac project; it is a Pruneyrac family one since I am in partnership with my brother and our respective wives – which makes it even more exciting.

Le Domaine de Rochebois exterior
Le Domaine de Rochebois is a large 19th century property transformed into a stylish luxury hotel

It’s a big challenge that you have taken on your shoulders, though an exciting one it seems. How did this all start?

The four of us (my brother and his wife, as well as my wife and I) have a hospitality and tourism background, which was an ideal starting point. In April 2021, as the four of us were spending a weekend in the area, we came across Le Domaine which was for sale and it was love at first sight. The four of us visited it the next week and came out of this visit with the same feeling: This place was for us.

With this being a family business, how do you ensure that you stay on task and remain professional?

We come from a long lineage of entrepreneurs and every generation of the Pruneyrac family has worked together – as such, this is not a new model for us. We all have a distinctive role in the organisation and it has been working splendidly up to now, since we complement each other. It is also a big motivational factor for us, as we back up each other and we know that we can rely on each other when the stress levels are reaching high levels (and it often does when doing a refurbishment followed by a reopening).

Le Domaine de Rochebois had a few other lives, one of which being a private home of a French noble family in the 19th century. How would you define the ‘new’ Domaine?

When working with the architects and designers for the refurbishment of Le Domaine, our main leitmotiv was to keep the soul of this ancient house that was built as a home for one of the blue blooded families of the region in the early 19th century and which has a splendid history. It was important to keep its old time splendour, while moving on with our times so as to make it a chic and non-stuffy five-star property which was non existent in the area where we are.

We shall host our guests as friends of Le Domaine, keeping it a classy but also relaxing place where they will hopefully get the feeling of ‘home from home’ since this place was a family home for many years.

Le Domaine de Rochebois estate
This magic place dominates the valley of the Dordogne in the heart of the Périgord Noir

History, culture, gastronomy, sports, and adventure; it seems that you have all the ingredients to make a success out of it. How do you see the next few months now that you are only a few weeks away from the opening?

With the four of us coming from very diversified backgrounds in the hospitality industry, our aim is to create a concept that blends class, friendliness and sophistication to Le Domaine, but once we are open, we will surely finetune quite a few things since we will get a better idea of clients’ expectations.

Our challenge is that we are the only five-star hotel is a 200km radius, which makes it a unique selling point but which also brings very high expectations. As such, we will surely bring a new base of clients in the area who are aficionados of palace hotels, and who will have totally different expectations from those that are coming to neighbouring properties in the Périgord at the moment.

We have been lucky enough to get a lot of visitors from different stratums of the business world who have been giving us valuable advice, and this makes our project a constantly evolving one. For example, we had no idea two months ago that we would be adding a rooftop area with a restaurant, bar, and lounge with breath-taking views on the Dordogne valley.

Why should someone choose Le Domaine de Rochebois for their holiday?

We shall be enticing a level of clientele who did not come to the Périgord noir previously due to the lack of established five-star hotels in the region, and this will be a big challenge. This area of France is the third most visited one, but had a lack of high level quality hotels and we shall be filling up this void. Le Domaine de Rochebois will be offering three gastronomical restaurants, a kids club, and golf course, not to mention access to the most beautiful sites that surround us in the area.

Le Domaine des Rochebois bedroom
Le Domaine des Rochebois is a unique place to combine work, change of scenery and relaxation

It seems that the Chateau would be an ideal setting for a film set, like Highclere Castle was for Downtown Abbey. Is it something you have in mind?

Our Domaine is more adapted to hosting film production teams that actually being a film setting in itself, and there are many historical sites in the area that would be better equipped for such projects, like the Chateau de Fenelon where the movie ‘last dual’ was produced not so long ago. In the 90s, the chateau was actually used for filming but now that we have invested so much to make it a five-star boutique hotel, we feel that it would be more of a ‘home’ for a film crew after a hard day of work in the vicinity.

In our global world, big brands have had the tendency to engulf smaller ones. Do you believe that there is still space for individually owned and managed boutique luxury properties like yours in the future?

Nowadays, a healthy mix of both is the winning formula. Being an independent hotel gives us the flexibility to adapt and take decisions at the drop of a hat, but we have also joined the famous five-star hotel collection ‘Les Collectionneurs’ created by celebrity chef Alain Ducasse so that we may benefit from the prestige of the brand association as well as from its sales and distribution network.

Le Domaine des Rochebois golf course
Le Domaine des Rochebois offers a stunning nine-hole golf course

Three to five years down the line, how do you foresee the evolution of Le Domaine de Rochebois?

Our aim is to put the region on the map as a sophisticated destination, where clients would come back as regulars, as if they are travelling back to a holiday home every few months. Also, we want Le Domaine de Rochebois to become a brand in its own right at an international level, which will surely indirectly help to make Le Périgord noir become a corner of France that people associate with culture and luxury. Everyone knows Les Grottes de Lascau but there are so many other top notch places to discover in the region.

Hotel number one is now ready to open. Any dreams of opening a second, third and maybe forth one medium to long term?

For the time being, let’s get Le Domaine de Rochebois on track first! But we are definitely open to any other opportunities that may come our way. Small groups of hotels like Les Airelles started like we did, and they are now the number one hotel group in the region of Le Chateau de Versailles since they have a hotel in the current chateau which is known internationally.

Factbox

Address: Route du Chateau de Montfort, 24200 Vitrac, France
Phone: +33 5 53 29 36 88
Website: rochebois.com