ALEXANDER SCHNEIDER, PRESIDENT, GLOBAL NIKKI BEACH HOTELS & RESORTS DIVISION
Can Faik talks to Nikki Beach Hotels & Resorts’ Global Division President, Alexander Schneider, to find out more about the hospitality brand’s values and plans for future development…
Alexander Schneider has been working with the Nikki Beach brand since April 2016, leading the opening of Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Dubai, a project that broke the mould of existing resort concepts in the Middle East.
Within six months of opening, the resort ranked in the top ten of all luxury resorts in Dubai, which serves as testament of the strength of the Nikki Beach brand as well as Alexander’s expertise and hard work. Now, he heads up the Global Hotels & Resorts Division for the company as President.
What was your background in hospitality prior to working for Nikki Beach Hotels & Resorts?
Various leading roles for international hotel brands like Hyatt, Kempinski, and Carlson.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
We are currently in a unique position to drive one of the strongest brands for F&B and entertainment with a 20-year record of accomplishment in the hospitality arena. These sorts of unique constellations do not occur very often in one’s lifetime.
What are the complexities of meeting the demands of shareholders, fulfilling the growth of your management team and delivering the brand’s values to the guests?
It comes down to the cohesiveness of your concept and the quality of its application. If you manage to create a product that can cater to a meaningful target group in a unique fashion you will be successful. In today’s development landscape, it is important to choose the right partners that truly embrace your concept. There is a lot of liquidity out there but few investors that truly have the ability to understand a brand.
What are Nikki Beach Hotels & Resorts unique selling points?
Most hospitality brands have decided to concentrate on one part of the energy scale, which created a market that provides either party brands or zen-driven products. We believe that our clientele demands choice in ambiances and energy levels. Secondly, the hospitality world has lost its connection to food and beverage. Many brands sublet their restaurants to secondary operators in order to avoid failure. This can be a good choice in isolated cases, but it will always create a disconnection in the guest experience. Hence, we are proud to create our own concepts under our brand umbrella, which has led to a result that 50% of our revenue is now coming from our food and beverage outlets in our properties.
What are the personality traits that define a successful and happy hotel proprietor, in your opinion?
As in every interpersonal relationship, communication is key. In an owner-operator environment, transparency and teamwork are second to none. A hotel brand should not hide behind its brand standard booklets and operating agreements. At the end of the day, we will all make mistakes along the line of a 20-year plus relationship. Therefore, we embrace our owners like family members and include them actively in our decision-making process so that both the good times and the bad times are tackled in unison.
With five hotels already opened, will Europe become a bigger focus for the Nikki Beach Hotels & Resorts brand?
Europe has always been the natural habitat for our company, and we feel that this part of the world is made for our brand. Consequently, we have taken the very conscious decision to bring our hotel division headquarters to Barcelona in order to be closer to the market and its opportunities.
What other exciting projects do you have in the pipeline, especially after the recent opening in Santorini?
This year, we have opened our Key West concept in Montenegro as a teaser for the resort that we will open there in 2021. Secondly, our project in Sri Lanka is moving ahead and we have great faith in this destination. Finally, yet importantly, our development pipeline is growing constantly, and we will be able to share new openings very soon.
Is Nikki Beach Hotels & Resorts looking at any countries in particular for new openings?
The Mediterranean arena is very important for us as it is such an intuitive fit, but also Latin America and Southeast Asia are on our list as ‘destinations of desire’. Markets are developing so rapidly these days that it is ever more important to look for tomorrow’s destination instead of following the caravan.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotels in Europe compared to the US and Middle East?
As a cutting-edge operator, you want to create properties that have a local and cultural influence. There is no relevant target group for the ‘one size fits all’ approach. Therefore, it is paramount to differentiate your service styles, offers and looks according to the market that you are in. This is no contradiction to brand consistency for us but much more an added value for the guest experience.
What is your plan for Nikki Beach Hotels and Resorts in the US?
Our brand was born in Miami so we will always have strong ties to the US market and there are several selective destinations that we want to develop.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel interior design?
I believe that hunting trends can be extremely dangerous as these cycles might become outdated very quickly (think about all the iPod docking stations that are still around). However, we do see a trend that intuitive design and functionalities are becoming more and more sought after. Guests are tired of educating themselves on hotel room technology.
How important do you feel hotel design has become when launching a new hotel?
Good design has always been essential but now it becomes genre defining. As tools like loyalty programmes and executive floors have lost their appeal, experiential design and the sense of belonging have taken the lead.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Pushing boundaries while protecting legacies. Few industries provide such a heady mix of innovation and traditions at the same time.
What would be your dream hotel project?
I believe that our current mission is pretty much a best case scenario as we have all the ingredients on our side. Brand, timing and environment.
What would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed?
It’s hard to pick individuals but the overall common denominators would be: boutique hotels with amazing food and great hosts. Perhaps the Monte Carlo Beach Club and the Widder Hotel in Zurich would make it to the top of the list.
Where currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
It’s a permanent feature: Tokyo.
Let’s finish with the issue of work-life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
Passionate people will always struggle for balance in their lives and, very often, this is what makes them great at what they do. Too many people are following too many trends these days, which clearly creates extra stress for them. So, I stick to my routine following the old: ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ principle, which teaches you that a healthy body will create a healthy mindset.