03 July 2023to Charlotte Cullinan
As the Oetker Collection opens its 11th location, CEO Timo Gruenert explains how the group creates a Masterpiece hotel, and how they ensure that Europe’s leading hospitality industry feels modern.
Oetker Collection CEO Timo Gruenert recently opened the Italian brand’s first location in Capri. Credit: Oetker Collection
With icons such as Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, The Lanesborough and Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa, finding new places with the same attractions always takes time. “It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack,” recalls Timo Gruenert of the Oetker Collection. “It’s hard, so it’s very rewarding when you get it.”
And they found not one but two, soon after opening the 11th location of the Oetker Collection and the first Italian Masterpiece hotel, Hotel La Palma, and The Vineta Hotel in Palm Beach to follow at the end of 2024. It took 10 years of searching to find the last one, and while the development continues in the south for Florida, for now Gruenert’s focus is on Capri.
The original La Palma hotel opened in 1822 and has been transformed into a 50-key Mediterranean luxury resort under the direction of interior designer Francis Sultana, offering a rooftop restaurant and bar, beach club, swimming pool, spa and fashion boutique.
Hotel La Palma has 50 rooms and suites. Credit: Oetker Collection
With tours in Europe, the UK, Brazil and the Caribbean, Oetker Collection explores new areas where existing customers already have other luxury items. “Capri and Palm Beach are at the top of the list,” explains Gruenert. Italy is one of the most sought-after countries for international travel, and Capri is the perfect place to visit. His future list includes the A-list of Aspen, Saint Tropez, the Italian Sea and Rome.
He compares hotel development to “fine art” like a painting or a haute couture dress, which requires attention to detail and skill. “We try to translate that concept into a world of hospitality. So each hotel is very different, with its own DNA and philosophy.”
Linking them with brand values, which have been integrated since Rudolf August Oetker bought Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in 1941. Gruenert explains: “There are three principles: a strong family spirit, beauty and genuine kindness.” Today the Oetker family owns four of the group’s properties, and the rest are managed by the Oetker Collection.
Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc and Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa recently celebrated their 150th anniversary, and Gruenert explains: “It is always difficult to develop them so that they do not age, at the same time to respect their heritage. It is my job to force and not change that change, but take risks here and there.”
Keeping the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc new is the new Dior Spa Eden-Roc, which opened in April and offers unique treatments inspired by the area, led by the new Italian restaurant Giovanni in May, and 50 renovated suites. “If you get to a place like the Hotel du Cap, you have to do a lot to keep it going,” says Gruenert.
The Oetker Collection will open The Vineta Hotel in Palm Beach in late 2024 near Worth Avenue. Credit: Oetker Collection
Sponsors remain “very important business” at Gruenert, and when the Oetker Collection invited sponsors to announce at the Hotel La Palma two years ago, it resulted in 20% of the first season being booked during the week. “Our partners are excited that there is something new coming, and it’s a new partnership with a trusted partner.
“They don’t know exactly what it will look like. But they know what to expect, and what will be best for their customers. ” Gruenert hopes that the opening will help promote the brand to more people in the existing markets, with 35% of visitors from North America and 10% from the UK.
Sustainability is another priority for Gruenert, whose motto is that “luxury hotels should be good corporate citizens.” Along with a strong CSR strategy, every hotel excels in its efforts. Jumby Bay Island is installing solar panels and leading a conservation effort for hawksbill sea turtles on the island, while Eden Rock – St Barths is partnering with local organizations to restore the island’s coral reefs. Many hotels have their own gardens, hydroponics areas and vegetable gardens.
Five years ago, Oetker Collection launched an annual customer survey to monitor the performance of its suppliers, which has led to improvements among suppliers. “We have a certain power to change things. “Marketers want to work with us, and we have to tell them what they need,” explains Gruenert.
His goal is to reach carbon neutrality, which he admits “doesn’t happen easily”, but he is optimistic, adding: “I believe that being sustainable – including all aspects of society – is the sum of many small things.”