Interview with our Hotel Director
After holding numerous managerial positions in Europe, the USA, and Asia, Philippe Clarinval took over as executive host of the five-star Carlton St. Moritz hotel almost three years ago.
During the summer break, he found time to chat about life and work at the Carlton Hotel. The multi-lingual dual Swiss-Belgian citizen provided details of what is needed to be an outdoor butler, spoke of a generator that caught fire one night, and explained what it is like to manage a team that comes from 18 different countries.
We hope you enjoy reading the interview and look forward to welcoming you back to St. Moritz from 6 December onwards. #CarltonStMoritz
If you had the opportunity to meet a famous person, whether dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Clarinval: It would definitely be Helmut Schmidt (former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany). I always admired his perspicacity, his intellect, and his intransigence – as well as his constant sense of mischievous humour. This probably sounds ludicrous, but as a child I always watched the parliamentary debates with Helmut Schmidt. Or, actually, I had to watch them as my mother was exceptionally interested in politics. It goes without saying that I didn't understand anything about what was going on, but this important man certainly made an impression on me back then.
People experience a lot in the hotel industry. Can you tell us about a particularly special and impressive experience you had in a hotel?
Clarinval: Unfortunately there is not enough space in this interview to recount all the fantastic anecdotes of what I have experienced around the world. I am always particularly touched by personal experiences that may appear trivial at first sight, but that are extremely significant for those involved. These can be happy moments, but also devastating blows, which we experience first-hand from time to time.
You have had a new outdoor butler for your guests since the last winter season. Were you involved in the recruitment process? And which criteria does an “outdoor butler” actually have to meet?
Clarinval: I was closely involved as I recruited him myself. I have known Othmar for a long time, which means that I learnt to appreciate his fantastic personality from early on. After working for an airline for many years, he moved into the field of executive search and became a head hunter. In that area of business he was able to successfully apply his extraordinary knowledge of people, which is an art that is also required in the hotel business and which stands Othmar in good stead in his role as an outdoor butler. A man with his experience and his personality, which is as balanced as it is contagious, is a true asset for our team. He radiates calmness and meets people on equal terms.
Have you ever been called out of bed by a guest or an employee?
Clarinval: Thank goodness it only happened once. It was when a generator caught fire in a hotel I was managing in Asia. Otherwise my consistently wonderful teams have always known what to do to ensure that incidents don’t become emergencies.
Over the winter, about 150 personalities are responsible for your international guests. What is important to you when you put your team together?
Clarinval: As you say, the word “personalities” is key. Everyone is different – or rather unique – and everyone plays the important role of host in his or her own way, while at the same time having to live out the values of the hotel. Without this consensus, I wouldn't stand a chance. It is very difficult to be an outstanding service provider without everyone striving for the same goals.
What is it like to manage such a large team from 18 countries?
Clarinval: That makes it sound as if I am the only manager for this gargantuan task. Fortunately, that's not how it is: I am not alone. In fact, the opposite is true, and I am surrounded by fantastic employees who manage themselves for the most part. I am more of a catalyst providing necessary impetus and indicating certain directions. It is, however, more important to recognise how complex a hotel is, how all connections are interlinked, and how different people depend on each other. Nowadays, when the aim is to make everything simpler and faster, we need to make a point of celebrating the dynamic three-dimensional nature of this system to ensure that it doesn't become a mere stereotype. Otherwise, flexible changes will no longer be possible and this “organism” will – to put it starkly – no longer be viable. The interplay between various countries increases this complexity, but also adds something incredibly valuable to the organisation. Knowing how to handle cultural differences and showing understanding and compassion towards one another is essential not only when dealing with guests, but also when dealing with employees.
Be honest: what is it like living on your own in a hotel for eight months?
Clarinval: Honestly? Well ... I sometimes hear noises that make me wonder whether all the doors and windows are really locked. And on those occasions, I have to take my courage into both hands and make myself go and check everything late at night. Fortunately – or maybe unfortunately in terms of marketing – I haven't yet come across a ghost of the Romanovs or walked past a portrait that suddenly came to life. During the day, any sense of haunting then disappears as I am never on my own. However, I don’t think I ever want to watch “The Shining”!
St. Moritz, 5 July 2019