Brothers Ivan and Rouslan Lartisien are the founders of the Grand Luxury Group, which offers discerning clients a handpicked collection of the most luxurious hotels around the world, along with an upscale concierge service and exclusive offers and benefits.
StyleNest caught up with them to find out more about their collection of exclusive hotels, their travel essentials and packing tips, and where they will both be jetting off to this summer.
You launched your business the Grand Luxury Group ten years ago. What led you both to launch the company and embark on a career within luxury hospitality?
We were both passionate about luxury hotels and refined service. 10 years ago we really felt that offering a selection of the very best hotels everywhere in the world through a digital platform was a service that was lacking in the hospitality industry. Combining luxury and digital was a challenge at that time but we really felt there was a need for that.
Grand Luxury Group is now the second largest luxury hotel reservations system. What challenges have you had to overcome whilst building the business, and what have been the highlights of your journey?
Challenges have been numerous but mostly linked to the difficulty entering a very elitist and closed industry, all the more as we came from very different professional horizons. We had to convince the hotels one by one to accept to join us in this adventure and it took some time, but passion is the best way to convince people. The highlights were of course the first signatures of prestigious hotels such as Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. Now our greatest pride comes from the superb feedback from our clients about the trust they have in our collection and the quality of the service we strive to provide everyday.
Your collection of hotels includes prestigious names such as Dorchester Collection, Four Seasons, Shangri-La, and Mandarin Oriental, as well as a selection of boutique hotels. How do you handpick the hotels? What do you look out for when staying in a hotel?
Being one of the best hotels in the world often relies on a very fragile alchemy. Of course, the usual standards must be fulfilled. Infrastructure, décor…etc. But what really makes the difference is the little je-ne-sais-quoi that takes the hotel to another level, that gives you the feeling of entering a unique environment, a place where you feel you enter another world and you live a one-of-a-kind experience. That is what we are looking for. We won’t give any secrets but visiting hundreds of hotels a year gave us this accurate eye on what makes a hotel really stand out.
Any advice for how our readers can get the most out of their hotel stay?
Share more information with your hotelier or with us. Do not hesitate to let them know why exactly you are staying with them, i.e. is there a specific reason and let them craft some ‘wows’ which will enhance your experience or create memories for life! Same with your preferences, from favourite colour, view, location etc.
With the influence of social media, in particular Instagram, the way we travel has changed rapidly over recent years. How do you respond to the ever-changing luxury hospitality industry and your client’s expectations?
Instagram is a mirror of who we are. We do not judge but assess the critical trends and subtle changes that shape our society. Of course there are cultural subtleties but in the end we all love authenticity, from people to food and nature! We capture those elements and incorporate them in our client communication, photography, and programmes. We also look at client clusters and communities to get further customer insight and trends. Using tools such as Instagram is a necessity in today’s society and it is a means for companies to get insight into client patterns, however, one must be careful to avoid pigeonholing yourself and the idea of who your clients are. Of course we serve rather wealthy clients but we also serve those who have been saving for years for one remarkable holiday; we cater to mothers and daughters, single dads, women travelling alone, multigenerational, same sex couples etc. We look at all different types of guests and break down the invisible barriers, to truly serve each and every client.
What current trends have you spotted within luxury travel? Do you have any insider tips you can give our readers on where to go this summer, before everyone else does?!
Clients more and more want to live the destination like locals do. Our clients are not looking for incredible experiences anymore, they want authenticity, connection, they are willing, for instance, to live the Paris of Parisians. Our work is to find those great experiences that will bring this local but exclusive feeling to our guests. This summer, why not rediscovering Bali like explorers at the Capella Ubud tented camp. They may also visit Luang Prabang, which still offers this unique feeling of a peaceful city full of history where time seems to be suspended.
With most of us now sharing our travel photos and secrets on Instagram, it can be hard to find somewhere new and undiscovered on holiday. How do you manage to avoid the tourists and stay off the beaten path?
Why would we need to stay off the beaten path? Millions of tourists in Paris will not make this city less attractive. We are always amused when people wish to avoid Thailand because it is too touristy, forgetting that maybe the unique culture and beauty of the country may be a reason for such attractiveness. Our role is not to avoid touristy destinations but to offer our clients the right way to visit those places and the right hotel to avoid the crowds and feel secluded after a day of sightseeing.
When in the UK what are your favorite hotels and destinations? Any fabulous restaurants you can recommend to us, or perhaps a secret cocktail bar?
The perfect spot does not exist nor does the perfect hotel, therefore our absolute favorite in the UK has the gardens of Le Manoir aux Quat’saisons, the bar at Connaught or Rosewood, dining at La Dame de Pic and the view from the Four Seasons spa.
And what is your all-time favorite hotel and why should our readers stay there?
We could quote Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, a timeless myth that has it all. Quality of service, exceptional location along the great Chao Phraya river, and this unique atmosphere that you may only understand when entering the hotel, something out of this world where all senses are charmed. But we could also think of Qasr Al Sarab in Abu Dhabi. Imagine driving during 2 hours on a completely straight road, with the desert surrounding you and then suddenly, after the last few kilometres climbing among beautiful ochre dunes, the hotel appears like a mirage, a visual pleasure like a dream coming true. Maybe one of those rare arrivals that you will never forget.
With all this travel you must both be expert packers! What advice do you have for how to pack exactly the right items, and the right amount!
A suitcase is so personal … but here is a good tip: carry the must-haves (say a blazer) and different coloured pairs of trousers and the indispensable “pochette” (the pocket handkerchief) to personalise your look according to the time of day/night.
What are your holiday and travel essentials?
A good book, a head set to keep calm and quiet and some music and (unfortunately) our mobiles, as business never really stops.
And finally, where will you both be jetting off to this summer and why?
This summer, it will be a Mediterranean cruise, maybe to prepare the future of Grand Luxury… 😊