Guido Fiorentino, fifth-generation hotelier, President & CEO, Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, Sorrento, shares valuable insights about present-day challenges in the Hospitality business
For Guido Fiorentino, President & CEO, Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, Sorrento, the business of hospitality runs in his blood. For more than 180 years, the Fiorentino family has looked after their luxurious properties across Italy that have hosted some of the biggest aristocratic families of Northern Europe. Fiorentino, who is a fifth-generation hotelier, faces the challenge of carrying on his family’s mantle, being relevant in an increasingly competitive environment and adapting to rapidly changing technology. Today’s Traveller spoke to the hotelier about the things he cherishes the most.
How does it feel to be a fifth-generation hotelier?
It is not easy to be a fifth-generation hotelier. My father always encouraged me to explore different options. I started my career at the Grand Hotel Vesuvio in Napoli. But, after a year, I changed course. With the help of my maternal grandfather, I entered the family’s leather business.
In 1999, when I was called to join the company’s board, I was truly delighted. In 2007, however, my father fell sick, so my family asked me to take up the family business. I spent a good one year working closely with my father. From the end of 2010, I was fully in charge of the hotels.
How were the initial years?
The initial period was not easy. The first thing I did was to prepare a speech for our close-knit family of employees, many of whom have been there for several years. After my speech, a delegation of employees met me to say, “Guido, we have known you since you were a kid. But, we are not sure that you are a good manager. We will do what you want for a year, but we want to be sure you are the right one.”
After one year, they came back and said, “We see that you are really passionate, really focussed. So, we trust you. But, we have another problem. Your father was a ‘second father’ for us, but you are too young. You could be our younger brother though.” Such is my relationship with my employees.
Tell me more about your family’s involvement with the hotel and its clients?
As our family has run hotels for multiple generations, we take our hotel business passionately and seriously. When you grow up in a hotel, you meet and connect with your guests. Today, with the help of technology it is easier to connect and keep in touch. Let me recount a story. At 18 years, I was in New York, dining at a restaurant. I met an old lady who instantaneously recognised me, even though I had never seen her before. It was later revealed that she had been a regular patron of our hotel and recognised me from the portrait of Raphael Fiorentino, the Founder of the hotel, whom I resembled.
Carrying on our family’s legacy is the most important thing for us. Our hotel was built by the family in 1834. At that time, there was a tourist boom from the aristocratic families of Northern Europe for a tour of Italian cities such as Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples and Sorento. My family saw this as an opportunity to expand the hotel business. Till now, we are carrying on the family’s legacy.
What are the main challenges you are facing today?
There are two primary challenges – we have to protect our legacy, and we also need to be contemporary. Since I took over, I have added two new restaurants and two new bars to be at par with our competitors. Today, hotels are not the place you just want to sleep in, but have an experience at, too. We organise a lot of special events – from art exhibitions to live cooking sessions with award-winning chefs – to keep our guests engaged.
Another challenge is bureaucratic in nature. We had four hotel buildings. In 1980, one was damaged by an earthquake. We are still working with the government to rebuild the hotel in the same style. Finally, although we have run the hotel for five generations continuously, I think it is time for us to grow and expand.
Are there any noticeable trends that you foresee for 2020 and ahead?
Offering top-notch services will remain a priority. I have lived through the times of grand hotels and grand services. My aim is to provide the best services for our clients. So, we have invested a lot on training our staff. Technology is also an important area to focus upon.