Olivier Jolivet has been the chief executive officer of COMO Group since 2017, overseeing the brands portfolio of 15 leading hotels across the world—from London to the Maldives. Most recently, Jolivet oversaw the brand’s first European launch with COMO Castello Del Nero, a 12-century castle set on 740-acres of undulating green in Tuscany.
What sets COMO apart from other luxury brands and how do you maintain a point of difference from other luxury hotel brands? Since its start, COMO Group’s shareholders have stayed the same, which has provided a rare sense of stability and the opportunity to think long term. It’s a competitive advantage, particularly when recruiting new talent. COMO is more than just a brand, it’s a spirit and a lifestyle, which is why we’ve invested in fashion, restaurants, wellness and sport, and will continue to do so as we grow.
What is your approach to sustainability for now and in the future? Our properties are located all around the world and each destination faces its own unique challenges when it comes to sustainability.
Recent successes include appointing a Sustainability Manager at COMO Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos to oversee projects on the island, such as waste reduction, water saving and our mission to eliminate single-use plastic bottles by 2023. Our Maldivian resorts, COMO Cocoa Island and COMO Maalifushi, are heavily involved in marine conservation initiatives, while COMO Uma Bhutan supports Clean Bhutan, a non-profit organisation working to make the country zero-waste by 2030.
COMO Castello del Nero marks the brands first venture into Europe—why Italy? What can you tell us about the upcoming opening of COMO Le Montrachet in France? Italy is a destination that never goes out of style, and as an international lifestyle brand, it’s almost impossible to avoid. Tuscany in particular is one of the most beautiful regions in the country, with its rich history, beautiful landscapes, traditions and cuisine, it’s of great international appeal. Opening the region’s first Asian-inspired wellness concept in the form of the hotel’s COMO Shambhala Retreat offers something new and unique to such a favored destination.
COMO Le Montrachet, our next European project in the pipeline, is an exciting one for us. We’re opening the property in Burgundy, which is widely considered the world’s most prestigious wine regions and COMO will be the first international hotel group to have a location there. It’s going to build on our reputation for offering authentic, locally inspired dining experiences, and we’ve worked with long-time design partner, Paola Navone, on the interiors to give it that distinct COMO feel.
How do you balance creating a brand that is both timeless and cutting edge? I think the secret to a timeless hotel brand is to have a strong brand identity and stick to clear core values. One of our points of distinction, for instance, is the distinctive look of our properties. When designing a hotel or restoring an existing building, we have a deep understanding of what can and what cannot be changed: we always keep the original and historical elements intact. This way we provide guests with state-of-the-art facilities and elegant spaces that have a story to tell.
Bhutan is a relatively unusual country in the portfolio. What is the process when it comes to finding and opening new properties? We place huge importance on location when developing a new property, always thinking about how a destination links with our brand’s values. Bhutan has such a strong spiritual energy, which travelers seeking authentic experiences respond really well to, so although it might be considered unusual, it’s actually a part of the world that makes a lot of sense for the COMO brand.
What does modern luxury look like? While luxury can mean different things to different people, COMO’s idea of luxury is understated, sophisticated, authentic and deeply intertwined with personal wellbeing. We pay a lot of attention to the architecture of our properties because we want to give our guests space to dream and a pure ambience where they can recharge, rest and reconnect with themselves. And for me, luxury has something to do with the connection between space and intimacy.
What trends are you noticing in travel at the moment and in hotel bookings? The pandemic led to a shift in people’s priorities, with health and wellness ranking higher than ever. As a consequence, the trend towards wellness-led tourism has continued to soar and today many businesses are sharpening their wellness offerings to keep up with this. However, our wellness credentials are unmatched; COMO and COMO Shambhala are pioneering.
Privacy and intimate locations are also of utmost important for luxury travelers, and we noticed an increased demand for COMO’s private villas and residences, as well as private, exclusive experiences catering for small groups of friends or families.
Today, discerning travelers eschew luxury for luxury’s sake and are more interested in immersive, meaningful experiences that make them feel part of a wider story: the story of the destination they’re discovering.
What gives you hope at this moment? The turmoil of the past few years has taken a toll on everybody, no matter where in the world or what industry they work in. Meeting people face-to-face was impossible, and making digital connections was the only way. Now that the world is opening up again, resuming in-person meetings and connecting with people from all over the globe and hearing their inspiring stories, is energising and won’t be taken for granted again.