Is luxury travel now blasé? With the world only starting to open up, isn’t every opportunity to leave our-day-to-day a luxury in itself? “Luxury travel defines new trends and opportunities in travelling,” says Michele Sambaldi, managing director at Pellicano Hotels. “It is something that is strongly linked to the most intimate meaning of the word ‘service’. Companies and corporations that operate in the luxury travel sector are customer-centric and can teach others how to create memorable experiences throughout the entire customer journey,” he adds.
You may wonder what it takes to run some of the best-loved luxury hotels in Italy. Is there a secret sauce to marrying familial hospitality with modern desires? Wonder no more as we speak with Sambaldi about what it’s like working with the renowned Scio family and the unique characteristics of an Italian holiday.
Was a career in hospitality something you always dreamt of?
My interest in travel and tourism was born thanks to one of my professors in college. I was then a business and administration student and he was an expert in the geography of tourism. I quickly developed a passion for it and decided right after graduation to take a Tourism Management master at MIB School of Management in Trieste.
Are there any misconceptions about Italy as a travel destination that you want to debunk?
I have heard sometimes that Italy is not hospitable. I personally think that Italian people, generally speaking, are very hospitable but the country often is not. And I mean that in terms of infrastructures: airports, railway stations, public transportations. Services are mid-level, not suitable for a country that owns the largest number of UNESCO sites in the world.
Our politicians are not very able to invest in the long-term and plan improvements in what I mentioned before. It seems like they do not consider that tourism is 13% of our GDP. I think it’s mainly a competency issue and a mindset that lets us take for granted all the beauty we have.
Could you tell me about what it was like to be involved in the merger that resulted in the Pellicano Hotels Group? What were some of the challenges you had to overcome?
I was hired to help create what I call a ‘corporation with a soul’ with new functions for the organisation: HR, sales and marketing, finance. Pellicano Hotel was preparing for its growth and we needed competencies, new processes, SOPs, and a new approach to running a business without losing the company’s DNA. We did face some doubts and misconceptions initially from the taskforce, but overall, it has been a great transformation.
Pellicano Hotels prides itself on being family-run. What do you believe are the advantages of working with a family that is all-in on this project?
What I love about the Scio family is their openness to external managers and new ideas. Myself, and all the members of the Pellicano Hotels team are completely free to speak our mind and give our perspective about an issue or something that could be improved. It’s actually quite unusual in Italy, where owners often are not ready to delegate or let employees make mistakes. The family’s vision and managers’ skills are very well settled at Pellicano Hotels. And this is one of the keys to our success.
What type of persona do you look for when hiring new talent?
Our company values are innovation, personality, consistency and passion. These traits are the same we look for in people we hire; passionate individuals that have an intimate sense of hospitality and enjoy creating outstanding experiences for guests. Our HR department is committed to recruiting people with a genuine approach and the right attitude. Technical skills are important but even more so are soft and behavioural skills.
Do you have any favourite stories about any of your celebrity guests?
There are many stories, but I wouldn’t be able to share any of them. All our guests value their privacy, and we are committed to ensuring they get it. All I can tell you is that we are always prepared to amaze, and each story is one of excellence that brings happiness and joy.
In your opinion, what sets the group apart from other luxury properties in Italy?
A combination of passion, tradition and innovation. Hospitality needs to be more innovative and open to embracing other sectors, such as fashion, retail, art, culture, cinema, etc. There are no limits. Our new e-platform issimoissimo.com is a great example of that. We are also very good active listeners; our guest’s voice is very important to us and that is part of our brand identity.
What are some of the new measures your team has put into place to deal with the post-COVID-19 situation?
The government has put a strict set of rules and procedures for the hospitality industry. They include new hygiene standards and rethinking of spaces, amongst other things. We have worked closely with the local authorities in order to apply the prescribed safety guidelines and have developed and implemented our own rigorous protocol going above and beyond what is internationally required.
At Il Pellicano for example, we will open 25 rooms instead of our 52, in order to maintain safe distancing inside the outlets, spaces between the tables, spaces between the sunbeds by the pool and across all the common spaces. We will also serve a common menu across two restaurants, allowing us to keep the required safe distances. Breakfasts will be served a la carte, and certain charges, such as room delivery, will be waived to minimise contact.
Which Italian cities are your favourites for: 1) food 2) history 3) fashion?
1. Tuscany in general. I was born in Tuscany and I am a fan of Tuscan cuisine in its simple variety
2. Rome. There is no city like Rome in the world for history, it’s a journey through ages, arts and culture.
3. Milan is our fashion destination, but I would suggest Florence and its surroundings as well.
Hotel Il Pellicano
Address: Località Sbarcatello, 58019 Porto Ercole GR, Italy
Phone: +39 0564 858111