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Olivier Jolivet discusses his career at COMO and the challenges facing the luxury travel industry in the next five years.
By Alex Martin | October 27 2020
Since becoming CEO of COMO Holdings in 2017, Olivier Jolivet has overseen a rapid expansion of Como Hotels & Resorts, including the brand’s first venture into continental Europe, COMO Castello Del Nero in Tuscany. With over two decades in the luxury industry, including time as CEO of the Aman hotel group, Jolivet knows the market better than most. However, even he had to think on his feet during a challenging 2020. Here, he discusses the proudest achievements in his career, his biggest challenges and why COMO is in an excellent position to thrive in a post-Covid world.
What attracted you to join COMO as a Group?
COMO is a multi-asset family office with an appetite for diversification. I was impressed with the long-term strategy of its luxury brand portfolio as well as the opportunistic approach on the private equity side.
What has been your biggest achievement in your role to date?
This is a difficult one to answer, but probably growing an organization driven by performance that’s consumer-centric with a strong ability to innovate while being always very agile. These values are key, especially within the current climate. With people not traveling, they are more self-centric about what is good for them. Innovation in new products with the right content marketing and technology are the three key parameters to keep your business above water. Take the success of COMO Shambhala for instance [COMO Group’s award-winning wellness concept providing the wellbeing component within each COMO property through facilities, treatments, instruction, products and signature COMO Shambhala cuisine].
What, in your eyes, defines a “typical” COMO experience?
COMO inspires people to live fuller lives and make a meaningful difference by creating experiences worth re-living. From a hotel standpoint, for example, that means once-in-a-lifetime experiences, whether it’s meditating at an ancient Bhutanese temple or diving with manta rays and sharks in the Maldives. Ultimately, this is something you can’t describe; you need to experience it for yourself!
The group talks of inspiring a new generation of ‘second summit seekers’. What does that mean, exactly?
Our second summit seekers strategy is our secret recipe, something that comes from deep within. After reaching initial success, more people are starting to realize that it does not guarantee joy and fulfillment. They seek more fulfillment through new lifestyle choices. They are independent and driven, strive for an improved society and are committed to health and wellbeing. COMO customers, like us, want to make a difference. They already know the feelings of success and status and are now pursuing an inner sense of fulfillment through authentic journeys of personal transformation.
How do you think Covid-19 will change travel and travelers and what long-term changes are the properties making?
I have always said that luxury has something to do with space and intimacy. It is now more relevant than ever and small luxury destinations will prevail. Travelers are in pursuit of privacy, and we’ve noticed an increased demand for our private villas and residences, as well as private, exclusive experiences. For COMO, it’s not about long-term change – one of our founding purposes has been our 25-year commitment to holistic wellbeing and while the world finds its way in a ‘new normal’ our core philosophy toward proactive wellness isn’t changing – it has just never been more front of mind.
Aside from Covid-19, what are the biggest challenges facing COMO in the next five years?
Sustainability has always been a core component of our strategy and we see our environment changing every day. This is not only a challenge for COMO but for everybody. It is a new mindset and we must play our role here and by having the right people and talent in the group who understand the urgency of being an active player to make our place a better place for future generations.
Are there any plans for further expansion in areas where COMO does not currently have a presence, such as the Middle East?
Yes, this is something we are exploring. We don’t limit ourselves to any destinations nor to any new businesses as long as it makes sense to our values, principles and philosophy.