Exclusive interview: Salvatore Pisani – General Manager – Splendid Venice – Starhotels Collezione.
Having previously worked at the Westin Excelsior in Venice, Salvatore Pisani moved to the Splendid Venice in May 2011, and has been responsible for the relaunch of the hotel after a 25-million Euro renovation with a successful repositioning in the key markets, including rebranding, sales & marketing initiatives, new market exploration and development of under-utilised spaces.
He has been behind the property’s outstanding financial performance, with special recognition received for best RevPAR, ADR and GOP percentage increase, along with the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
We asked him to tell us a little more about his time at the hotel…
I saw, when I arrived, that luxury hotels were growing in popularity, and we had space to improve, so we invested in the people, changing a lot of the staff. We also invested in renovating the rooms and the suites. But something very special that I put in place was to open the doors of the hotel also to the locals. So, it’s a very active hotel now; we organise a lot of events like live “music aperitifs” where people from both within the hotel and also locals come in, and have a really lovely time with live music. They get connected; they talk to each other and they have a beautiful experience. We were, I believe, the first hotel in Italy that opened its doors in this way, and now it’s about five years that we have had a huge programme of entertainment – not only for the guests but also for the local residents. Basically, we have changed the hotel philosophy in Venice offering a huge programme to all our guests as well the locals. The hotel is not only a nice place to sleep and eat.
You have a lot of awards…
The hotel has been recognised as one of the best in town. In 2018, by Condé Nast travel readers we were in the top 10; we were ranked number eight. It also makes me very proud and happy that the hotel is one of the top performance in terms of GOP, RevPAR and guest satisfaction, and this is thanks to the repositioning work that we have done.
What about distribution?
We joined the Signature Travel Network programme three years ago, and all the most important luxury travel networks want to be our partners, because the hotel is one of the best in town. Signature really bring us a lot of high-end clients, which has brought up the average of the hotel.
In terms of marketing, in addition to the networks you’re with, what are your main channels?
Actually we of course have to work with the online travel agents such as booking.com who are today probably number one with Expedia, but we also do a lot of direct bookings with our own booking engine through our website and also through Preferred Hotel Group.
What advantage to travel agents or travel advisers have when they work with you?
We spend a lot of time on the road, meeting travel advisors, and I always say that they have to send us an email when they do a booking directly through the GDS or third-party sites. It is important for them to get in touch with me or one of my team directly because we always put in extra attention, not only in terms of amenities, but also in terms of assistance for the clients in case of any issues they may have. We can even help them to find tickets for the opera, or get the best tables at restaurants. So, the Travel Advisors’ first action should be to send a note to us saying that their client will be coming to our hotel. We don’t force them to book directly with us; we just say it’s important that they know that we always try to give an upgrade, we really do everything to make sure that their clients feel the value added of the travel advisor.
I know you work with groups, but what kind of groups do you work with?
Medium sized. We work with several booking groups. We have a beautiful rooftop terrace which is a new addition that we added in 2013, where in the mornings, people can go up and have a beautiful view enjoying coffee, juice water tea all free of charge. Then starting 5 o’clock in the afternoon we start an open bar with music, and the people really have a unique experience, because from the rooftop you can see Venice from a different perspective.
What are the hotels three unique selling points?
The first unique selling point is our location which is really excellent. We are between Saint Marco and Rialto. The second selling point is our attention to detail. The third unique selling point is our beautiful rooftop terrace.