Philippe Gombert, the man behind Relais & Châteaux
Relais & Châteaux is a family of hoteliers and restaurateurs who, together, form a collection of like-minded individuals with common goals. An International Association, the Relais & Châteaux Congress, is a group of elected members from the properties and restaurants from around the world that act on behalf of the individual boutique hotels and gourmet establishments to support the success of all and to ensure that the Quality Charter in place is upheld universally. Fellowship, personal generosity, sense of place, harmony and being are at the core of the charter.
Philippe Gombert is the son and grandson of Paris-based hoteliers who originated from the southwest of France. He began his career in the hotel industry when in 1982 his family acquired Château de la Treyne in Lacave, France, some 150 miles east of Bordeaux. Ten years later, in 1992, the Château was accepted as a member of the Relais & Châteaux family. Philippe served the Association of Relais & Châteaux (R&C) for 12 consecutive years, initially as a Delegate and then as Secretary General. He was elected as the President of the group in Berlin last year at the 39th International R&C Congress.
You were newly elected President when we met at the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes, can you share with me what your vision for Relais & Châteaux is under your presidency?
After 12 years serving our Association as a Delegate, and then a Secretary-General, I decided to stand for the International Presidency because I am passionate about our cause and values, and all those who nurture it. My main objective is to convince all our members that now, more so than ever before, we need to be united behind a strong, major and global brand that reflects our values of authenticity, generosity, exclusiveness, and excellence. These strikingly relevant values resonate with our guests today. The first ambition we have to work on is in a genuine digital revolution: Relais & Châteaux must have a global internet showcase; an attractive platform which positions the world of our brand to include blogs on the art of travel and cuisines. Since my election, we have launched our website in Portuguese, and an Android Tablet app (which completes our collection of apps on iPhone, iPad & Android smartphone) and a version of this one in Russian.
What trends in the travel industry do you feel are relevant to the R&C brand?
2014 will be the year of good taste. Gastronomy is getting more and more trendy in travel. Travelers want to discover a country not only for its landscape but also through its products and terroirs. This year we welcomed two new Grand Chefs, both embodying their land through their cuisine. Diego Muñoz at Astrid & Gaston, who studies about Peruvian biodiversity and products, serves as co-lead of Gaston Acurio’s new project, Astrid & Gaston-Casa Moreyra, which intends to project a whole new level of Peruvian culinary arts. On the other end of the planet, you can taste South Korean cuisine at the Kyoung- Won Park at Si-Wha-Dam. There, every dish draws its inspiration from nature, a poem or a painting. It represents a work of art and a celebration of Korean culinary art at the same time.
Can you share with us what luxury means to you at R&C?
60 years later, Relais & Châteaux continues to stand globally for contemporary values, the values of discreet luxury, an increasingly sought-after rarity: authenticity, charm, inspired cuisine, the opportunity to discover flavors from throughout the world, the unique character of our properties, an art of living shared by enthusiasts, personal commitment, and the promise of dreams to appeal to all travelers.
What is new for R&C for 2014/2015? Are there any new properties you would like to share with us?
In January 2014, our extended, international Relais & Châteaux family has become even larger with the addition of six new properties from five different countries: France, Switzerland, Greece, India, and China:
Maison d’Uzès, (Gard, France) offers an incredible trip back in time.
The Mihir Garh, (India) or the ‘Fortress of the Sun’ rises majestically from the middle of the desert, 45 minutes to the south of Jodhpur. www.relaischateaux.com/mihirgarh
Brilliant Resort and Spa Kunming, (Yunnan, China) offers the opportunity for a wellness break with a Spa which provides volcanic hot-oil treatment, yoga or tai chi classes that are practiced in perfect harmony with nature; a Pu’er tea ceremony is performed with artistic precision.
Hotel Restaurant Mammertsberg, (Switzerland), a haven of peace, overlooking Lake Constance.
Wellness Hotel Chasa Montana, (Switzerland) Edelweiss for skiing families and friends. It offers the perfect opportunity for a memorable skiing experience in winter and summer alike.
Myconian Utopia Resort, (Greece) happiness, gazing out at sea. Its terraced architecture, contemporary cubes linked by passageways, overlooks one of the most popular beaches in Mykonos. www.relaischateaux.com/myconian-utopia
How does R&C remain a cohesive brand when each property is truly unique? What are the criteria for hotels to become a member of Congress?
Our members share the same values and comply with the same Quality Charter, which can’t be dissociated from the unique personality of each property. For a property to be a Relais & Châteaux member, it has to comply with our Quality Charter which contains more than 300 criteria, and more particularly, the founding values of the Association as well as the spirit and soul of Relais & Châteaux.