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Although Monaco is the second smallest independent state on the planet, it’s conversely the second most densely populated nation as well. Further, it’s estimated that one-third of Monaco’s residents are millionaires, with the GPD per capita approximated at $165,420—the second highest globally! A well-known, exceptional and bustling tourist destination for both the jet set and the hoi polloi, people from around the world flock there for its weather, casinos and glamorous reputation. But just because Monaco is considered one of the most prestigious, fashionable destinations to visit doesn’t make it impervious to the impact of COVID-19. For these reasons, I was curious to see how the nation’s people and businesses have fared during the pandemic, making me particularly eager to speak with today’s guest.

In today’s episode, Serge Ethuin, the General Manager of the Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo shared a bit of his journey through the coronavirus crisis—from the trials and tribulations to the small victories as well. Serge, a true leader with over 35 years of hospitality experience under his handsome leather belt, had a few “firsts” in his long-time career to contend with during 2020—not just a pandemic, but also, the decision to shut down the hotel and inform 250 team members that the hotel would be closing. Endearingly referring to his team as “collaborators,” it’s exceedingly obvious that the Hotel Metropole truly views its staff as so much more—they’re considered family. Thus, the closure process—not so much technically, but rather, emotionally—was challenging, to say the least.

To ensure the both the well-being and peace of mind of their team members during these uncertain times—a preeminent priority for the Metropole—Serge and the hotel’s owners not only made the decision to keep every one of their employees on staff, but to use the downtime for “embellishments” (aka renovations). Both decisions are significantly poignant, reflecting the strong moral and ethical values of the family-owned proprietorship; values which were not only in evidence this year, but in years past as well.

Recognized by Conde Nast multiple times as one of the top hotels in the region, the Metropole’s goal has always been about talking to their customer’s heart rather than to the customer’s mind. As Serge puts it, it’s about the “emotional experience” that a guest has at their property. Technologically speaking, if one views the hotel as the hardware, the staff are definitely the software, and both coalesce together to create an emotional guest experience—one that inspires visitors to return time and time again.

Throughout 2020, Serge has kept this mentality at the forefront of every move and decision that’s been made. Yes, without question, the current travel climate has changed. So, in order to keep this emotional connection flowing, the property has remained a ‘staycation’ option for locals while they’ve continued to connect with their travel partners via virtual means. Why? Well, as much as this year has been about adapting, it’s also been about staying connected—in essence, remaining top-of-mind for when travel restrictions loosen up again. And moving forward, the emphasis on the emotional guest experience will be a heavy focus for the property, something that we can all agree is at the true heart of hospitality.

Additionally, with so many COVID-driven shifts requiring rapid, significant decisions, humility and malleability have taken on new importance. For example, the Metropole Monte-Carlo was one of the first hotels in the region to eliminate cancellation fees.

Since this interview, the Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo has closed its doors to the public for the second time. So, as we all look forward to a time when we can travel again, they will be busy completing their property embellishment project with plans to reopen to the public slated for April 2021. A stunning destination with an extraordinary history, learning more about how the Metropole has managed and adjusted during the pandemic—basing decisions both upon their employees’ welfare and the continuing overall guest experience—certainly reveals incredible character; not just Serge’s, but that of the ownership as well. I know I’m looking forward to returning to Monte Carlo—not only to see all the beautiful enhancements The Metropole has in store for its guests—but also, to enjoy what we all miss so much about travel: the emotional experience.

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