A dynamic and enthusiastic manager, since the summer Julie Renouvel has been running the latest ibis Styles establishment in the Paris area. A fast-paced adventure which looks like becoming a great success as the hotel is already fully booked mid-week, less than a month after opening.
Although you're only 34 years old, you already have extensive experience…
My training and education - I'm a graduate of the Lille business school - had already given me a good grounding in management, administration and communication, the core skill set of the business world. As I'd been interested in the hotel industry from the outset, I joined the Group to manage the F &B side of a Novotel establishment. When an opportunity arose for me to go up a gear by taking on the running of a hotel, and what's more a newly opened one, I accepted without hesitation.
And yet a new hotel is more risky than a business that has an established customer base and is already running smoothly.
It's true, but the possibility to start with a blank page and to be involved in the first years of a new hotel is a rare and very motivating opportunity. During the three months before it opened, I saw the hotel created from scratch, walked through the building site, and made some very personal choices, with a high degree of freedom to do so as one of the key characteristics of the ibis Styles establishments is their lack of standardisation.
And what's yours like?
The decorative scheme is directly inspired by Mondrian's work. When it comes to cooking, we have focused on short circuits and "healthy eating". To achieve this, I've recruited a chef who shares these values, which I believe are very important. I wanted our restaurant to be seen as an establishment in its own right, open to residents from the surrounding area and not just travellers staying with us. Everything is home-made, from products which are often produced in the region, and possibly even in the hotel itself as we plan to create a herb garden and to site a beehive on the roof.
You were also able to pick your own team.
Yes, and that's simply priceless! As we've subcontracted out the cleaning of the bedrooms, we are a small team and I've naturally recruited professionals from the hotel industry to the key positions. But in reception and for room service, I've favoured interpersonal skills over know-how.
What form does this take?
Taking a genuine pleasure in welcoming guests is a must. From time to time, it's also important to move away from the very rigid standards found in the hotel sector. It's the personal touch which has made Airbnb so successful. We should look to their example for inspiration.
Is this something which is easier in an ibis Styles?
Definitely. I've had a unique opportunity to leave my mark on an establishment, and a high degree of freedom in doing so. I belong to a brazen generation, I take risks, calculated ones of course, but risks all the same. The important thing is to be bold and to try something new.
The hotel opened on 24 October. Is it too early to be talking about success?
It's still too early, but we're off to a promising start. Being based in the centre of a leading business area, we have naturally focused our sales policy on a business clientele. Our objectives are met, and we're fully booked in the middle of the week. We now need to work on boosting guest numbers at weekends, including by approaching professionals operating in the tourism sector.
Aren't you worried you'll get bored when the hotel reaches "cruising speed"?
The challenge will be different, but perhaps also more difficult. Getting onto a long-term footing is never easy. If everything goes well, I'll possibly be fortunate enough to take part in cross-divisional activities, focusing on the future of our profession. It's a major challenge, and one which is only possible if you're firmly established in your daily life.