Name: Francois Olivier-Luiggi
Title: General manager
Company, city: The Pierre New York, a Taj Hotel; New York City
First job: Assistant manager, Room Service, The ESSEX House, a Nikko Hotel (1994)
Where to next: No plans … happy to be in New York and with my friends and colleagues at The Pierre.
A LITTLE BIT MORE
What actor or actress would play you in a movie of your life?
Any actor who is at least 6 feet, 4 inches tall: Tim Robbins, Donald Sutherland, John Lithgow, Jason Mamoa or even Brad Garrett (who is 6 feet, 8 inches)
What would you be doing professionally if you weren’t in your current industry?
Gardener or landscape design
What is your favorite book, movie or television show?
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris and the TV show 30 Rock, created by Tina Fey
What historical figure, dead or alive, would you love to have dinner with?
Auguste Escoffier, the French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer
What is your most recent project, and what was the inspiration behind it?
Renovation of the Pierre Ballroom. We knew it would be a technological challenge since the current ballroom was the result of a crazy extension of the original Pierre into the next-door building — the grand vision of none other than Jean Paul Getty. Separating the two buildings back to their original footprint, along with all the utilities, then going back to the original plans of 1930s architect Schultz and Weaver … all while keeping the hotel open for business. It was the perfect blend of historical research, technological know-how and operational savvy.
What is your favorite aspect of the job?
Managing a team and winning!
What’s the biggest business risk you’ve ever taken?
In our business, selling the presidential suite at any top hotel is really difficult. The biggest risk was turning down a piece of business at $50,000 a night for two weeks because I had verbally promised it to another client (who hadn’t returned any phone calls in five days). These big bookings are always last-minute; you cannot upset any guests, especially when they all want to come at the same time. Eventually the original guest came and it all worked out.
Who is someone you admire professionally in the travel industry?
Charles Pierre Casalasco. Born in Corsica (as I was), he arrived in New York in 1900 to start his illustrious career that led him to build and open The Pierre hotel.
AS A TRAVELER
Tell us about a travel nightmare: On a trip to a conference in South Africa, every leg of the flight had a plane breakdown or weather delay, eventually landing too late, missing connecting flights, spending additional nights in hotels. It took three days to get there, and on the way back, same thing, connecting flight cancelled. The happy ending is the airline upgraded me to (real) first class on my next trip, a real treat.
Share a comical travel experience: Being confused for Bill Gates at Chicago O’Hare; the more I told them it was not me, the more they refused to believe me. Then the gate agent saw my boarding pass and passport, to the great disappointment of the other waiting passengers!
What is your preferred method of travel — planes, trains, automobiles, cruise ships — and why? High- speed trains, especially in Europe and Asia. From the TGV in France to the magLev in Shanghai, not forgetting the Swiss funiculars … [a] fast, efficient way to travel in style and with views!
What has been the best example of customer service you’ve experienced during your travels? I love going to a small hotel in Austria, the Alpenresort Walsertal in Faschina. It is family-owned: The son is the chef, the parents run the hotel, and it has the friendliest team. The passion for service from everyone there, the friendliness and attention to detail from the team makes it my favorite place to visit. So the best example of customer service: being recognized and made to feel special!
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