Tag Archives: luxury

Alberghi diffusi, the truest luxury is dictated by finely crafted authenticity

The recent Travel & Leisure article entitled Reviving the Italian Village takes a note of vanity efforts afforded by the enormously wealthy. That might seem a judgmental statement, it isn’t. I am grateful for anyone, for whatever reason, choosing to take on the arduous process of heritage preservation.

When Dr. Giancarlo Dall’Ara originated the concept of alberghi diffusi thirty years ago, long before futurists started speaking of circular economies, I believe he aspired to create a noble legacy which would positively impact rural Italian economies by driving tourism, ensuring the preservation of cultural heritage and providing a path to the continuation of a more connected way of living. As urban life has become more complicated and messy, much like the value proposition offered by Product of Designated Origin (PDO) assignation, the alberghi diffusi now has the potential to fulfill a demand for an authenticity remarkably devoid from most contemporary life. I don’t see alberghi diffusi as a Utopian fantasy but a model of socio-cultural, economic and environmental sustainability, scalable and practical in perfect harmony, and logical extension of what I set out to create with Thistle & Broom back in 2003.

The haemorrhaging of rural communities, and the diaspora of countries alike, is not new. Natural disasters and economic hardships have driven great migrations of people to cities nearer, and very far away from agrarian lifestyles for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

The currently running ‘Anno dei borghi’, organised by Italy’s MIBACT (Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism) is designed to entice visitors to explore 18 regions and help manage the impact of the tourism sector growth on Italy’s urban areas – as well as spread the economic impact around.

Creating an alberghi diffusi from a near ruined village without services takes time. Italy’s unemployment hovers around 11%, and is more than three times higher among those under the age of 25. Housing, following the 2016 earthquake, remains at a premium. At the end of a rather long and dark tunnel two emerging trends of isolation as luxury and experiential travel provide a much welcome light. Mind you this isolation is not a minimalistic, silence-only spiritual retreat but one replete with simple but exquisite accommodations, agro-tourism / slow food / gourmet dining, extraordinary privacy and ultra-high speed internet connections – all of which create jobs, and provide economic stability.

It is here that a sweet spot of sustainable development exists, a convergence of yet-to-be alberghi diffusi with a tremendous opportunity to prove systems destined for adoption in Smart Cities. I am not referencing autonomous cars but rather reinvigorating, and making contemporary circular economies which have always existed in communities bound by the ‘butcher, baker and candlestick maker’. The alberghi diffusi model is a solution to any number of pressing contemporary issues worthy of both investment monies and public policies support.

Clean-tech incubated in alberghi diffusi would pull villages off the easily hacked central grid while providing self-sufficiency. What’s more, this model allows those individuals not lured to the bright city lights to continue practicing (or develop) arts, crafts and traditional hand-skills of a region with the market (quite literally) coming to the mountain. Imagine bathing with organic botanical goats’ milk soap and sleeping on crisp linen sheets hand-woven from blue flowered flax grown in the meadows surrounding these villages which a year before was wafting in the breeze and growing tall in the sunlight. That the village is masterfully IoT connected and a set (or two) of those linens can be ordered and paid for with a voice command based upon block-chain technology generates real efficiencies and quality of life for all parties.

The truest luxury is dictated not by fashion, but finely crafted authenticity and the improved efficiencies offered by technology.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Does your hotel really deserve Four (or more) Stars?

Every hotel and resort wants to avoid a disastrous TripAdvisor review of their property. And let’s be perfectly honest these posts are often simply conveying glaring truths written by someone in a nasty, snarky tone who has far too much time on their hands. In our social media driven world theseTrip comments have far reaching impact on your business, and almost universally what prompted them could have been avoided.

How much money do you spend annually on marketing your property? Has anyone from the agency handling all those efforts for you, including and especially social media marketing, EVER set foot on-site? Spent a night or two? Eaten in your restaurants? Used your facilities?  Prior to launching any initiative which will draw attention to your business let me share some practical advice with you; ensure that your property actually exceeds the copy being written by said agency.

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In Asia your bathroom could be outside meaning rocks, insects, amphibians, heat and humidity – #wearyourslippers

Over the years I have stayed in a wide range of Relais & Châteaux, Leading Hotels of the World, bed & breakfast inns and in the last year I have actually stayed in a couple of hostels. It’s safe to say I have accumulated a fair portfolio of impressions of ‘the good, the bad and the downright horrible’ and these extremes provide an ample baseline for what makes a memorable stay.

“Service is a promise that cannot be seen, touched, or felt through any of our external senses.” ~ Jag Randhawa

Every member of your staff has an impact.  While they are paid to ‘take care of us’ believe me when I say I can tell exactly who loves their work, people and your business. Equally so there are those who I stand in front of and wonder ‘who is this person related to?’ because there is absolutely no explanation for them otherwise having a job in the hospitality industry. My business partner was a guest at a hotel where we had previously stayed a year earlier for a mere three nights. On his arrival he was greeted with “Where’s Teresa?”. Why should this bell captain (of a luxury hotel in Istra, Croatia) who meets thousands of people a year and tends to all of their various pieces of luggage remember me?  What set him apart from his colleagues in the first place was his atttitude, and in turn that was rewarded with a note in an envelope with a tip on my departure. (I also take the time to make mention of extraordinary service in writing for the benefit of career advancement.) To guests reading this, when was the last time you did either?  When20150929_142514 thoroughly impressed I will likely ask to walk into your kitchens to praise the chef and the kitchen staff (usually resulting in a hug). Your wait staff, front desk staff, the concierge and the service staff usually know who I am because I ‘engage’ with everyone you have hired (and I do mean EVERYONE). And yes, I actively share on social media the (good) things that I notice.

“In bed my real love has always been the sleep that rescued me by allowing me to dream.”

~ Luigi Pirandello

It would be a great idea if management actually spent one night a week sleeping in every single room in rotation and applied a very critical evaluation to their sleep in said room. Springs that poke you in the back are not the way to win praise from your guests, replace them. The standard height for a chair or a sofa is between 26 and 30 inches so why would you let a designer convince you that a bed lower than this is optimal? Put your beds on a handsome frame, give the mattresses proper support and make them a height that anyone can sit on the edge of comfortably.  (I will also offer that the added height eases the stress on the backs of your housekeeping staff resulting in less days off or workman’s compensation claims.)

Those narrow strips of brocade or velvet at the foot of the bed are especially silly if they don’t even match the draperies or occasional pillows in the room, save the money, whereas a nice blanket is highly appreciated. You don’t have to turn down my bed and put a chocolate on the pillow (or offer me a small tray of them with a cordial – alcoholic or non) but it is very thoughtful.  Your sheets should be the highest quality your budget allows and there should never ever be a frayed hem, stain or hole in them. Same goes for towels, err on the side of generous in size and having thick terry robes or even lovely waffle woven ones wins serious points. It should be self-speaking that no guest should ever see black mold – you’d be amazed. Caulking should be maintained and/or replaced, facets and drains should work. Single use loofah mitts are biodegradable and eliminate the need for wash clothes (which seem to be an increasingly rare appointment in hotel bathrooms anyway).

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My pillows go everywhere.

I carry my own pillows with me.  Why? Because, with the greatest of exceptions, even fine hotels stock fiberfill pillows which are miserable and hot.

If your windows have three layers of curtains designed to ensure that your guests sleep well yet they are too short and the light creeps in (early morning or late night it doesn’t matter) – that’s an immediate fail. For goodness sake insist that the decorator add three inches to the overall length of the window PLUS whatever you need to hang them from rods to make certain that they cover your windows.

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Saddest. Plant. Ever.

Honest. This palm was sitting in the hallway leading to the wellness center and spa of a 5-star hotel I stayed at! Does this convey wellness to you? How many of staff members walked past this pitiful palm and yet didn’t ‘notice’ it?

Replace your lightbulbs! This should be perfectly logical but nothing says ‘down-on-the-heel’ or we’re not paying attention faster than a lightbulb here and there that is burned out.

Wi-Fi being slow isn’t even an option anymore. Test it. Put five staff members with devices in close proximity to one another throughout your facility and have them randomly watch videos, post photos and UPLOAD huge files – all the normal things we do as your guests – and if they can’t all do what they want simultaneously BUY MORE BANDWIDTH! Industry analytics are treading that (US) travelers (business and leisure) are now for swearing posh properties for value or economy hotels because these offer free, unlimited, always available Wi-Fi and luxury hotels are charging an additional $25 per day, per device. The old expression fits here “penny wise, pound foolish”.

Maintain your property with critical attention to detail. My business partner once waited 6 hours in a steam bath of a July hotel room for his AC to be fixed. He finally gave up and got into the shower only to finish and discover a ladder blocking access into his room and a man up in his ceiling finally dealing with the HVAC. This with no forewarning such as the simple courtesy of a knock on the door or a phone call! What’s more as the filter was taken down it was so caked with dust that an industrial vacuum was required to clean up the floor from beneath the ceiling to the door. Fail. Fail. Fail.

Which accommodation actually deserves four star designation? The bed & breakfast inn with exquisite (envelope) organic teas, made-to-order fresh truffle scrambled organic eggs, densely seeded home-baked bread (and a toaster) with small batch local fruit preserves or the hotel with Lipton 20150821_080944tea bags, buffet warmer scrambled eggs, with similar bread but no toaster and plastic packaged jams? It should be noted that the same bed and breakfast inn, staffed entirely by women, insisted on hauling my 35kgs of luggage upstairs (and then back down at check out) and the luxury hotel (staffed by muscled men) didn’t have a bell captain on duty.

I once left a pair of mixed suede and leather navy high heels outside my hotel room door at the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago for polishing, sadly they were returned in the morning universally polished (destroying the suede).  Management made it right by reimbursing me for a pair at the now defunct Marshall Field’s prior to my meeting later that day but training is obviously everything in preventing such ‘missteps’.

The realities of customer retention demand training your employees to become brand ambassadors in addition to their job descriptions. Everything that is right or wrong about your hospitality business is all too visible to your guests if not to you and your staff. It’s not an excuse but it’s easy to become inured to noticing details. Pay attention and you’ll never have to worry about how to bury bad reviews ever again.

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We’d like manage your online reputation and showcase your property with resonate content that will only serve to enhance your brand, grow your audience base to drive incremental revenue and ensure that ‘your story’ is the best it can possibly be. Get in touch. Visit @Commarglo to learn more about leveraging social media for your brand.

Rubber Meets the Road – guest blog for Ethical Value

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Please consider visiting Ethical Value for consulting on CSR best practices!

Publishing simultaneously with Ethical Value – http://bit.ly/174hNas

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Let me be clear I am not an eco-warrior, or a war protester. I have the utmost respect for NGO workers but there is something terribly flawed in the pervasive hand-out, not hand-up mindset of so much of what is called ‘aid’ coming from the private sector or governments.  Create jobs with all that money for goodness sake! Image

Since the 1970s (in the tender bloom of my teenage years) I have maintained that doing right by the world around us, ethically, in terms of product development, green i.e. sustainability and its net results in recycling, reclaiming, up-cycling, stewardship of the planet as well as solving the Earth’s ‘pressing problems’ need not be mutually exclusive to creating jobs and building economies which scale and have positive impact. Making money out of ‘doing good’ is not a horrible thing! What is horrible, in my humble opinion, is leveraging ‘feel good’ marketing and communications to increase profit with only nominal re-investment in society or none at all (while fat, dumb and happy Joe or Jane consumer thinks they are making a difference in voting with their wallet).

My personal efforts with Thistle & Broom were driven by the belief that to sustain the cultural heritage of a specific country whilst positively impacting the lives of the actual artisans creating bespoke luxury products by their earning 66% of the retail price was a noble and ideal business model. Honestly, given my own elimination of the brick and mortar storefront a decade ago, T&B should have served as a paradigm shift for the luxury goods space and made me a key-note speaker at the Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit at least once.  Alas, I suppose I must content myself with having been quoted in The Economist!

There are plenty of other like-minded individuals with deeper pockets, outside investment, and, far cooler products than, say, an authentic hand-knit Fair Isle jumper. People who understand that doing good and having positive impact can only be sustainable with innovation and, yes, volume sales.  It’s why, as the driver of an 1989 Turbo-charged Saab convertible and someone who once sold luxury automobiles while simultaneously serving as the Finance Director for a United States Congressional campaign, who looks at the Bentley Continental GT and gets a total head rush, I am VERY EXCITED about the various vehicles of Croatia-based RIMAC Automobili and United States based BRAMMO.

ImageImageThe products of these companies fire on all possible cylinders for me (pun intended) even as I am not a motorcycle rider, nor likely to ever spend $1m USD on a limited edition car, or ride an electric drive bicycle. They are based in sustainable practices and if they only eliminated the consumption of petroleum based fuel they’d rock; but what both the RIMAC and BRAMMO marques offer are exquisitely designed, breathtakingly engineered and (mostly) practical transportation solutions.

As a modest car geek, you’ll forgive me if I get ridiculously excited about the tire shredding capability of the RIMAC Concept One car, 1088HP, 0-100kmp (0-60mph) in 2.8 seconds, a Bulgarian leather interior that is so gorgeous it belongs in MOMA and the Tate Modern, the coolest placement of engines ever – one at each wheel; something that RIMAC CEO Mate Rimac calls All-Wheel Torque Vectoring (AWTV) – the car is first and foremost a super car that just happens to out-perform combustion engines. Did I need to mention it’s also urbane and sexy?

Equally but differently so, Craig Bramscher of BRAMMO has taken his eco-consciousness and early adopter mind-set to create world class motorcycles that cherry picked engineering from precision racing brought such down to street level for law enforcement as well as commuters. PS, I LOVE that Craig has staff to teach an all-female riding school!

The men behind these machines certainly embrace the mantra of “I feel the need, the need for speed”, Vrrroom, and their teams excel at meeting their objectives.  It is only a matter of time before the Top Gear guys are begging for the opportunity to drive (or ride) any of these machines, very likely bumping into the top 10 episodes of all time in the process!  From an outsiders view, both companies successfully leverage the passion of their founders and best in class commitment to their portfolios while providing real value to employees, customers, their respective economies and the world at large.  It’s an exciting possibility to consider that in our near future that technical innovation and sustainability will be “where the rubber meets the road” fostering dynamic system changes across all aspects of our global economy.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share it with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Available through Amazon, Lulu and Barnes & Noble!