Luxury & Poverty. Told & Untold Stories.

Pierre Gervois portrait 2018 - Shot by Jason 2

Pierre Gervois, President of Gervois Hotel Rating, New York City 2018 (Photo: Shots by Jason)

For the past thirteen years, I have worked as a media entrepreneur and producer, serving the luxury industry in Paris, Shanghai and New York City, producing luxury digital publications for the very affluent Chinese global traveler. I have managed international teams of marketers, editors, bloggers, photographers and community managers to build successful communications campaigns in more than twenty countries for a variety of clients, private and governmental organizations, willing to attract High Net Worth Chinese travelers to their country, region or hotel.

I have met outstanding individuals in the luxury goods and luxury travel industry, incredibly skilled artisans who are making beautiful objects with their hands and heart, innovative entrepreneurs who are breaking the rules and reinventing luxury, and countless hotel executives who warmly welcome their guests in the new generation of boutique hotels.

I have learned to understand the new generation of affluent Chinese outbound tourists, what they really wanted (vs what the travel industry assumed they want to do), and how they felt routinely disrespected in Europe or in America, dismissed as second-class travelers by the luxury travel and hospitality industry.

I published several luxury lifestyle and travel magazines in Shanghai and New York City (including the acclaimed STC magazine) and featured more than five hundred luxury lifestyle stories, working with very talented journalists, and in particular Elaine Ke, Managing Editor of the STC magazine.

I have given speeches and lectures about international luxury travel marketing at Universities and at corporate events and always felt grateful for the opportunity to exchange ideas with students and fellow professionals.

It has been a rich professional and personal experience. Thank you to all of the wonderful people I have met over these years, from the clients who trusted me to the great individuals who composed my team, and without whom I would not have achieved such successes.

I have lived in New York City for the past five years, and now consider it my true hometown. NYC is by far my favorite city in the World, for one reason: the entire world meets here, in this city created and run by immigrants, bringing their ideas, cultures, languages and foods in this happy melting pot.

As the Founder and Publisher of Gervois magazine, I have seen wealthy individuals buying very expensive jewelry, watches, apartments, as a result of the marketing campaigns my company has created and it’s a good thing: that means more jobs in the jewelry, watchmaking, retail, and real estate, and potentially more money for philanthropic causes.

I have also seen hard working Americans with not enough money to feed their families, dads and moms without a job having a hard time to come back home and face their children, individuals discriminated for their race, gender or sexual orientation, and courageous immigrants -from China and all over the World- struggling to fully embrace the American dream.

I know we are, as business professionals and entrepreneurs, supposed to remove our emotions out of the equation and always think in terms of return on investment, business credibility, and project an emotionless and politically correct image of ourselves. This is specially true in the luxury industry where talking about social issues, hunger, poverty or racial discrimination is largely taboo.

I cannot change the World alone, and there are in New York City hundreds of very talented and very experienced philanthropists, activists, social entrepreneurs and dedicated elected officials.

As a privileged media entrepreneur fully conscious of my privilege, I decided that the best course of action for me, although modest and certainly limited in scope, was to help to create awareness about issues that really matter to me.

One year ago, our production company launched an indie, experimental YouTube channel Legit News based out of our Brooklyn studio. The first program we created was named The Face of America, an interview series.

Since October 2017, I had the pleasure to interview outstanding individuals from diverse backgrounds, who came to our recording studio to tell their own stories and share with us how they were working to make America a better place, one small step at a time.

We have explored multiple aspects of American society: social discriminations, race relations, LGBTQ issues, 2nd amendment, poverty, religious issues and women’s empowerment.

This interview series has changed me profoundly.

What I never told to the first persons I have interviewed is that I have no formal training in hard news journalism, and no experience in interviewing people. I was really scared when the camera was rolling and I had to conduct the interview. I was also ashamed of my strong foreign accent, and having sometimes to repeat questions as they were formulated in my imperfect English. (Most of my English vocabulary revolves around the luxury world, and I’m poorly linguistically equipped to talk about complex social issues).

I want to thank all the persons I have interviewed. They opened their heart, trusted me, and frequently went well beyond the context of a formal ten minutes interview. I felt sometimes I was not supposed to witness the incredibly intimate stories they were sharing with me, drifting away from the main topic of the interview.

I remain a proud media entrepreneur working in the luxury industry.

And I’m even prouder of sharing inspiring stories in The Face of America.

Pierre Gervois

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The new face of luxury travelers: Sophisticated, rejecting fake luxury, and tired of discriminations.

How to define the new trends in luxury travel? A new generation of wealthy individuals is evolving the concept of luxury travel. Luxury hotel marketing strategies must stay aligned with their customer base and think “outside the suite.”
Filip Boyen, CEO of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, comments: “Luxury travel used to be all about visiting certain destinations, being seen in the right place by the right people, and generally enjoying the high life in a more ostentatious manner, all while getting the exact same experience as everyone else. Luxury hotels reflected this, they were grand and provided people with a platform to enjoy themselves.”

A recent shift away from the hotel stay and towards the actual experience itself has caused luxury hotel marketing strategies to evolve quickly to meet the needs and expectations of their wealthy clientele.
Philippe Brown, founder at bespoke travel planners Brown and Hudson, explains, “With ideas like ‘Luxpedition’ we make challenging grand expeditions to the world’s most remote corners accessible to people who might otherwise be put off by arduous conditions. This has opened up a whole new market of mid-life crisis sufferers who would like to be Bear Grylls but want their comforts and moments of specific luxury.”
How then can the concept of luxury hotel marketing be adjusted accordingly to capture a market that still wants the luxury but also wants the unique experience too? The answer lies in staying true to the key luxury brand values of authenticity and quality, while also adding in the experience element as part of the holistic package.

Pierre Gervois, Founder of Gervois Hotel Rating, the New York based luxury hotel rating system for U.S. hotels added “ The new generation of wealthy travelers and guests are not like their parents, who were attracted by flashy hotels made to display the arrival in a new social status, but now are attentive to sophistication, refinement, and all the discreet details and signs of recognition of the new elite”

Albert Herrera, SVP of Global Product Partnerships at Virtuoso, says, “Authenticity has become a buzzword. It really does reflect the current trend of giving the guest something that is unique to that particular destination. Hotels started down the path of authenticity by offering a greater sense of place, especially with new builds. First it was apparent in the architecture and design, then with the furnishings and styling. From there, the concept has expanded to fully integrate local customs and cuisine, and provide the ability to fully explore or celebrate the culture.”
Herrera comments: “Hotels have done a great job of developing and partnering with their local communities to create experiences that highlight the destination. Whether it’s a morning run with the General Manager, sourcing the fresh catch of the day with the executive chef or even being an English teacher for a day to local schoolchildren, ‘living like a local’ is a trend that will continue.”
Another key feature of luxury hotel marketing is offering the ability to totally switch off from everyday life. Being immersed in a local culture and experiencing that life is one way to do this, but offering an out of this world experience is another.

Brown says: “We are regularly approached by clients who want to join our missions to explore the wreck of the Titanic and others looking to invest in a longer stay at the International Space Station, or to do something shorter with Virgin Galactic or with some of the other more interesting options.” Here the role of luxury hotel marketing is to offer the accommodation that supports the experience, maintaining the luxury while supporting the immersive element.
Personalization adds a great deal to this ethos. Today’s guests want their hotels to respond to them in a personalized and tailored way; they want to be recognized as an individual.

Gervois explains: “One of the issues in luxury hospitality in the last twenty years was the arrogance of staff, and the discriminatory practices on race, nationality, religion or gender identity, that went largely out of scrutiny and were tolerated by luxury hotel groups”.
“These unacceptable practices slowly start to be addressed, but we hear oftenly complaints from travelers who feel discriminated in the luxury hotel segment, and Gervois Hotel Rating fights to improve this issue with the industry.”, Gervois added.
However, this point applies both ways. Luxury hotel marketing should also take into consideration how the personality of the owners, management, and their staff contributes to the overall feel and experience of the hotel. This ties in well with the desire for authenticity and having a real experience.
Boyen explains: “Hotels are becoming more aware that their offerings need to go beyond that of the suites, butler, concierge – the hardware. Hotels just need to be themselves. They need to be mindful of the things that make them interesting to guests – be it their location, history, owner or vision – and not try to conform to fit in with any expectations of what a luxury hotel ‘should’ be.”
Ultimately, the way a wealthy traveller defines their ideal experience remains highly personal. Accordingly, best practice for today’s luxury hotel marketing experts is to leverage market research on their target clientele, as well as individual research on high-spending VIP guests, in order to understand their preferences and create a memorable experience–  both inside and outside the suite.

Hotel Rating Systems: Evolve or disappear (Forbes might be near the end)

AAA- Forbes - Gervois Hotel ratings systemsHow guests choose their hotels? International hotel ratings systems exist for a long period of time. Some are amalgamations of other ratings systems; some, like TripAdvisor, average out user ratings, and everyone know it’s partly fake. (Oops, it’s not politically correct, sorry guys); and then there’s the Forbes Travel Guide, which claims to be “the only independent, global rating system for luxury hotels, restaurants and spas.” The very old fashioned AAA ratings with the fading glory of their diamond ratings is another player. And the new Gervois Hotel Rating is the newest hotel rating system for U.S. hotels, founded in 2017.

There are a few things you should know about the Forbes Travel Guide. First and surprisingly, Forbes doesn’t own it. The publisher licenses its name to this independent entity. Secondly, unlike many other ratings systems, a team of full-time professional mystery shoppers inspects every rated hotel listed in the Forbes Travel Guide. Thirdly, a growing part of millennials don’t really trust Forbes Travel Guide. And that’s problematic for the future.

Additionally, the same company offers consulting services to hotels. According to the Forbes Travel Guide LinkedIn profile, “We also provide the hospitality industry with learning tools and programs that deliver insight into the star rating process and expert guidance on connecting with guests most effectively.” And that’s a big issue for ratings independence.

Forbes Travel Guide evolved out of Mobil Guides, which had been around since 1958. In 2006, Jeffrey T. Arnold, the founder of WebMD, bought the publication, and in 2009, renamed it Forbes Travel Guide.
In recent years the publication has undergone another change. “We stopped measuring one and two-star hotels and replaced the three-star category with a recommended option,” Chief Executive Gerard J. Inzerillo said.Thus, the guide turned its focus to upper-upscale and luxury products. “A four-star rating,” in the words of Inzerillo, “is what we consider the Olympic gold medal or the Oscar. They are extremely difficult to earn. Meanwhile, we are very stingy on the five-star rating.”
He compares five-star properties to Michael Phelps, Meryl Streep or Robert DeNiro: hotels that not only demonstrate excellence, but do so over a span of time. Among Forbes Travel Guide’s perennial five-star hotels with “relentless, seamless commitment to the highest guest standard” are The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado, the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong(one of several Mandarin Oriental hotels on the list), and Portrait Roma-Lungarno Collection, Rome. Places like The Langham in Sydney and L’Auberge in Carmel only get four stars. “The most beautiful hotel isn’t the best hotel, because the best distinguishes itself with emotional connectivity, not how much marble it has,” Inzerillo said.

Emotion is precisely how the Gervois Hotel Rating is working: This New York City based hotel rating system started in 2017 with 80 U.S. properties, and has 120 rated properties in 2018 (200 in 2019). With a more flexible and accurate sytem based on a 100 points scale, it primarily targets sophisticated, diverse and affluent American travelers. And it might well be the future of hotel ratings.

The  Forbes Travel Guide guide benchmark service standards (check-in process, room service) on factors such as courtesy and manners; graciousness, thoughtfulness and sense of personalized service. Meanwhile, it rates the physical aspects of the hotel on factors ranging from cleanliness and condition to guest comfort and convenience. But these factors remain very technical and analytical.  A true hotel experience is about feelings, emotions, and the desire to come back with your loved ones.  Not about the size of the closets or around the clock room service that nobody really uses.

Source: Article by L. Powell in SKIFT / Forbes Travel Guide / AAA / Gervois Hotel Rating / Travel+Leisure / E.K.

Pierre Gervois to speak at UnfoldBrics event in Dubai on March 20th, 2018

Conjoining the world of Art with Architecture and Culture, UNFOLD Art XChange entices the world’s premier private bankers, financial institutions, government authorities, public art agencies, spatial designers, real estate and hospitality professionals with insights, opportunities and new partnerships as well as attracts corporate collectors, private and public institutions worldwide through a series of Art Talks that will run from the 19th to 22nd of March to coincide with Dubai Art Week.

Pierre Gervois, Founder and President of Gervois Hotel Rating, the disruptive hotel rating system that makes Forbes stars and AAA diamonds look old fashioned and tacky, will deliver a speech about the importance of re-assessing the standards of hotel rating, in particular for the new generation of sophisticated travelers who are not impressed anymore by the mere lobby’s size or a 24h room service, but rather by elegance in decoration, truly warm service, and sustainability.

 

GERVOIS magazine has been selected to be the new preferred travel publication of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club

GERVOIS magazine has been selected to be the new preferred global travel publication of the prestigious Shanghai Travelers’ Club, and is now distributed to its members.

GERVOIS magazine is proud to follow the steps of the iconic STC magazine, the Club’s own iconic travel magazine that has been published from 2008 to 2017.

Founded in Shanghai in 2008, the Shanghai Travelers’ Club is China’s most exclusive international luxury travel club for discerning Chinese global entrepreneurs and executives seeking experiential & authentic travel discoveries.

Its 12,000+ members have an average annual income of US$580K, travel overseas on average four times per year, and spend on average US$63,500 per year during their travels. 23% of them have invested in real estate internationally. Excluding their real estate investment abroad, they collectively spend & invest more than US$700M per year in travel related expenses.

As the vast majority of Chinese high net worth individuals who travel frequently overseas is now speaking Engligh fluently, the Shanghai Travelers’ Club members felt the need to partner with an English language luxury travel magazine.

The club has selected GERVOIS magazine for its acclaimed editorial content, featuring exceptional hotels, men’s fashion styling ideas, art investment, real estate investment, and their iconic travel photoshoots made by the New York based famous travel photographer EFDLT studio, Director of Photography.

Starting with the Spring 2018 issue, released on March 16th, GERVOIS magazine will proudly partner for the years to come with the Shanghai Travelers’ Club and invite its Chinese members to travel and discover the United States and the World in style.

More informations about GERVOIS magazine:
http://www.gervoisrating.com/shanghai-travelers-club/

More informations about EFDLT studio, Director of Photography:
http://www.efdltstudio.com/
https://www.instagram.com/efdltstudio/

As 50% of wealthy Chinese are ready to leave the country, U.S. real estate sector is getting ready

According to a recent survey, Chinese high net worth individuals (HNWIs) – defined as people with US$1.5 million or more in investible assets – more than 50 percent are either planning to, or are considering, emigrating from China.
According to Bain Consulting and China Merchants Bank, there areWealthy Chinese investors- Kushner investments around 1.6 million Chinese with investible assets of $1.5 million or more, up from 180,000 in 2006. (Note: Ask anyone who’s familiar with China and they’ll likely tell you the real figure is far higher than that.)

For Chinese people looking to leave China, the U.S. and Canada are the most popular destinations, followed by the U.K. and Australia.
Cities on the west coast of the U.S. are the preferred emigration destinations for the Chinese. These cities are of course closest to China, increasingly served with regular direct flights and have substantial existing Chinese communities.
If half of U.S. millionaires were looking at leaving the country, clearly we’d want to know why. Education and environment are the primary factors motivating rich Chinese people to leave China.

Chinese political and military elites have long spurned local higher education, instead sending their offspring to study at prestigious western universities for a better education than what’s available at home. The daughter of Chinese President Xi Jinping, for example, studied at Harvard University in the U.S. For reference, in the Times Higher Education 2017 World University Rankings, the first Chinese university is ranked 29th.
Clean air and water, safe food and an open-minded education are attractive to anyone – and especially wealthy Chinese.
In addition, some 84 percent of participants cited the depreciation of the Chinese yuan as a key concern and driver for looking to move and buy real estate abroad.
But there are other reasons that push the wealthy to look overseas. The reality is in China, if you cross the authorities, everything can get pretty bad for you, and quickly. You’ll notice that the top 10 cities listed in the table above are all found in countries with open and transparent rule of law – which is lacking in China.
An overseas exit plan provides an insurance policy, should a swift departure ever need to be made.

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According to Pierre Gervois, Founder of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club, an international travel club for Chinese elites, and Publisher of the STC magazine, “Contrary to what Europeans and American analysts think, HNWI Chinese are perfectly aware of China’s economic situation. The myth of a growing and successful China has been carefully entertained by the Chinese government in order to maximize Foreign Direct Investments (FDA’s), but the Chinese elite had never been naive. They know for fifteen year that this growth is not sustainable and it might be time to leave the boat for them and their close family.”

Property prices on the west coast of the U.S. have been boosted, in part, by continued buying by people from China. There have been numerous reports over the years of open houses being completely dominated by Chinese-speaking viewers, and even tour groups focusing on acquiring real estate.
And Chinese students will continue to flock to the U.S., with some 60 percent of all overseas students in the U.S. now hailing from China. Again, Mum and Dad will often buy real estate, along with a degree for junior.
What’s the easiest way for a wealthy Chinese individual to get a green card? Well, as the sister of U.S. President Trump’s son-in-law and special advisor, Jared Kushner, told an audience of Chinese investors in May in Beijing, you just need to invest in a bit of Kushner family real estate development.

The EB-5 visa programme allows for overseas investors to put US$500,000 in projects that create at least 10 jobs (in areas of high unemployment), or a million dollars in other areas, and in return apply for permanent residency in the U.S.
Jared Kushner, prior to his White House role, raised US$50 million from Chinese EB-5 investors for a Trump-branded apartment complex in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Not surprisingly, this has been hugely popular with wealthy Chinese. Around 85 percent of the visas have gone to Chinese, and there is a backlog of more than 20,000 applications.
Although the EB-5 program is likely to be altered or at least reviewed, the U.S. looks set to remain a popular destination for Chinese money for the foreseeable future.

Source: Stansburry Churchouse Research / Business Insider Blog / Tama Churchouse / Chinese Tourists in America Blog

Dunhill, Burberry & Saint Laurent are closing stores in China: The Chinese dream is over for luxury brands.

Dunhill advertisementChina has recorded the most number of closures of luxury stores between July 2016 and July 2017, the latest report by the investment research and management company Bernstein shows. The report, titled “Store Wars,” based its findings on Bernstein’s tracking of about 7,000 stores referring to 36 luxury brands including big names such as Burberry, Saint Laurent, and Céline. Burberry and Dunhill had the most store closures in China of all the brands during that period.
China has seen 62 net closures of luxury brand stores during the surveyed period, the largest number observed by Bernstein among all significant geographies. The firm viewed the trend as a revision of the over-expansion, in previous years, of luxury brands into the Chinese market.

The rapid development of the country’s luxury industry fueled by affluent Chinese consumers has given luxury brands unrealistic projections of retail sales in the past. This over-estimation, according to Bernstein, has led them to aggressively open retail stores in China that exceeds consumers’ real purchasing power. The same situation occurs in the Middle East region, another area where luxury consumption is rising fast.
Globally, the number of the net store openings by luxury brands has also for the first time run into the negative territory. The report said most brands have more or less closed some of their stores in the department stores, a traditional channel that accounts for about one-third of these brands’ global sales.

Chinese consumers have demonstrated some remarkedly different purchasing behaviours from that of the West. According to Pierre Gervois, a leading expert about wealthy Chinese travelers’ shopping behavior, and founder of the prestigious STC magazine “Western luxury brands have been warned since 2010 that their projections about affluent Chinese consumers were grossly exaggerated.” “Brands refused to acknowledge that their future Chinese customers would buy in overseas stores  rather than in domestic stores, both for tax reasons but also because of the poor customer service in their Chinese stores”, Gervois added.

Another distinguishing habit that sets Chinese luxury consumers apart from Westerners is their huge interest in buying luxury items online. Over the past year, an increasing number of luxury brands have embraced the e-commerce marketplace and launched stores with the country’s top two players, Alibaba and JD. Moreover, big names like Louis Vuitton and Gucci even opened their own Chinese e-commerce stores to ensure their offerings meet the expectations of Chinese consumers. And then there’s the nature of luxury itself, the meaning of which is different to younger consumers from what it was to their forebears.

Another concern that Western brands cannot officially recognize in China, is that a growing part of affluent millennials Chinese are moving from government-censored social media (WeChat, Weibo…) to Facebook and Twitter throughout an increasing use of VPN’s. That makes much less relevant their communications campaigns on Chinese networks.

Source:  Chinese Tourists in America Blog / JingDaily Blog / Jenny Zhang / Ryan Yu