LONDON—Privately-owned Grace Hotels is in a period of growth—and the luxury boutique hotel brand doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. By investing in its leadership team, the company believes it will grow its portfolio faster than ever before.
“It has been 11 years since Grace Mykonos opened and the group has grown steadily since then,” said Robert Swade, who became Grace Hotels’ CEO in September 2016 after an 11-year stint at Jumeirah Group, where he rose to the title of COO. “The portfolio now features six hotels in Greece, the United States and Argentina. As a brand, Grace has achieved great recognition in a relatively short space of time, through its beautiful and iconic properties, and by consistently delivering exceptional guest experiences.”
The current Grace Hotels portfolio consists of the following properties: Grace Mykonos and Grace Santorini in Greece; Grace Mayflower Inn & Spa in Connecticut; Grace Vanderbilt in Newport, RI; Grace White Barn Inn & Spa in Kennebunk, ME; and Grace Cafayate in Argentina. All Grace Hotels properties are between 21-42 keys.
“Each hotel is a wholly authentic expression of its locality, allowing guests to enjoy a true immersion in local culture with an experience incorporating both tradition and modernity,” he said. “Gastronomy is an integral part of all hotels, with menus showcasing the finest local ingredients combined with international touches.”
Swade has been consolidating Grace Hotels and cementing brand foundations for the next stage of expansion. To define growth strategy, he ordered a comprehensive brand positioning and target market assessment. The evaluation highlighted primary focus areas for opportunities to develop and manage hotels and mixed-use developments. The top executive also developed a 10-year resource plan to sustain projected deal signings.
Part of the Libra Group, an international business group owned by the Logothetis family, Grace Hotels has been planning a significant growth period. The luxury boutique hotel brand expects to have 30 more hotels open or under development in the next 10 years. The following Grace properties are under development: Grace Marrakech in Morocco; Grace St. Moritz in Switzerland; La Dolfina Grace in Argentina; and Grace Kalamata and Grace Kea in Greece. The company’s growth approach has become more defined; Grace Hotels now has a deliberate strategy for expansion efforts.
“New hotels will be located in markets that provide a consistent image and guest experience, in addition to being an economically viable opportunity,” he said. “It’s a highly competitive market, but as a smaller group, we offer a very personalized level of engagement with owners. We have a good deal of flexibility around our approach to design guidelines and management agreement terms.”
With locations in Europe and the Americas, Grace Hotels would like to build upon the connections and relationships it already has in these locations. “It makes good business sense to grow within clusters,” Swade said. As far as growth in Asia is concerned, the company will take a more opportunistic approach. “Given that it is the fastest growing region for the hotel industry, we are keeping a close eye on the market and would not want to miss any exciting opportunities,” he said.
For Grace Hotels, destinations should be able to inspire people and provide them with chances to create meaningful memories. “With regard to the property itself, we are committed to ensuring we maintain the boutique model in order to stay true to our brand ethos and offer exceptional service,” Swade said. The hotel group has also been pursuing opportunities to manage mixed-use developments with a residential component.
In addition to Swade, recent appointments at Grace Hotels include Tim Williams as group HR director and Gary Schweikert as head of Americas. In July 2017, Alison Styles joined Grace Hotels as its group commercial director, a role the hospitality group created to ensure there would be oversight of sales, marketing, revenue and brand activity. The company made these appointments with a single goal in mind: Support expansion efforts with new leadership.
“All our executives have in-depth experience in luxury hospitality and have lived and worked in many different countries around the world, including the United States, Australia, Thailand, UAE, Tanzania and several European countries, which creates a cohesive team sensitive to cultural differences,” he said. “We are highly ambitious with a natural entrepreneurial spirit, and are passionate about creating exceptional experiences for our guests.
“One of the things that I have learned and which has impressed me most is that we have some truly fantastic, dedicated people in our teams around the world, who not only deliver exceptional service, but are also eager to share their knowledge and culture, which contributes to an unforgettable stay for our guests,” Swade continued.
While there have been some challenges along the way (for instance, Grace Santorini opened during the 2008 financial crisis), the key to Grace Hotels’ success has been its people—employees who know and understand the brand, Swade said. With their help, Grace Hotels will continue to broaden group awareness.
“We have a very strong appetite for growth and solid foundations, which have been built through the creation of a new leadership team,” he said. “Our vision is to grow the portfolio significantly over the next five years, through managing beautiful properties in inspiring locations.” HB