Exclusive interview – Marco Sarlo, General Manager of the Royal Hotel in Sanremo, Italy
Marco Sarlo is very involved personally in the tourism development of the city and is a former President of Sanremo Promotion and since September 2017, he is Councilor for Tourism and Events in the city, a technical appointment. We started by asking him what the tourism situation is in the upper luxury segment.
Until the beginning of 2018, in the upper luxury sector, the Royal Hotel was the only five-star deluxe hotel in the Sanremo area. A few months ago, another five-star hotel opened but that is not a member of a luxury chain, however, it is another competitor in the destination.
In the near future, there will probably be two other hotels built, which are likely to be managed by the national chains. More luxury hotels has made Sanremo a more appealing destination.
The international promotion of the Riviera dei Fiori and San Remo is one of your main missions. What actions have you already taken or are you going to take?
In March 2019, a new luxury mall will open in Sanremo, which will open up new markets for the city as such luxury malls have in cities in the Far East. People are really crazy for luxury shopping. I think we have all the right conditions to become a new destination in the luxury segment in the future.
We are also working on different projects including a strategic marketing plan, to create an umbrella campaign for the future in order to penetrate new countries, such as the United States and Australia. Sanremo, as a destination, is really well known in Europe.
Since the 19th Century, Sanremo has been a very famous winter destination for European royals and rich families. Creating this umbrella campaign will help the professional hoteliers become part of luxury distribution channels such as Virtuoso and Signature.
During your career as General Manager of the Royal Hotel, and GM of the Grand Hotel St Regis in Rome before, you have come to meet the elites of the planet. Have you a special memory of these meetings with Kings, Heads of State and International celebrities?
I arrived at the Royal Hotel in Sanremo 10 year’s ago; before that I was in Rome as GM of the Grand Hotel St Regis and this was the hotel used by international diplomatic activity in Italy. During my career in Rome, I met a lot of Royals and Presidents, such as the King and Queen of Spain, Prince Rainier of Monaco, the King of Saudi Arabia, President Gorbachev, President Yeltsin and President Mandela.
During my period at the Royal Hotel, especially during the Song Festival each February, we have a lot of people. I’ve met Queen Rania of Jordan, Mikhail Gorbachev, but it’s also popular with famous actors and musicians including Nicole Kidman, Andy Garcia, Charlize Theron, Robert de Niro, Celine Dion, Ricky Martin and Duran Duran.
How does the Royal Hotel, a luxury five-star hotel, differ from other luxury hotels
In Italy, the Royal Hotel is unique because it was founded and has been managed by the Bertolini family since the hotel opened in 1872. We are very rich in history and tradition – there are no other luxury hotels in Italy that have been managed for 146 years by the same family.
What messages do you want to send to international Travel Advisors such as Virtuoso or Signature to get them to advise Sanremo and the Royal Hotel to their customers?
Sanremo and the Royal Hotel is the perfect destination for pre and post cruise stay, with a relaxing atmosphere and a very high and exclusive gourmet experience in food and beverages. We can offer wine tours around the city and is chance to discover more about Sanremo. With the opening of the luxury mall next year, I estimate that this will bring a 25% increase in occupancy, 90% of which will come from international guests. We are only a 45-minute drive from Nice International Airport and Sanremo is a very good alternative to the Cote d’Azur.
Photo: Marco Sarlo with President Mandela