David Stein launched his eponymous hotel group in 2001 after a career started in property development. He is about to open the Stein Group's first Russian property, Hotel Rodina, in Sochi overlooking the Black Sea. He talked to Emily Manson
Why Sochi? It's exciting because of its historical link to Stalin as well as being great exposure for our brand to the top people in Russia. Sochi has been a playground for Russia's rich and powerful for 200 years, and we want to capitalise on that. Being Russia's fist luxury boutique hotel is very exciting.
What different challenges does opening in Russia present? To bring our style of service to Russia, as we're warm and friendly rather than pretentious or flash. We want to expose the local market to our kind of style, but there will be a real learning curve about the definition of quality. Hopefully, like everyone else, they'll enjoy our honest and enthusiastic service. We have to stay true to our spirit, no matter where we are.
Why have you focused on mature markets when other hotel groups are targeting developing areas? We concentrated on the West to establish our brand. We needed a critical mass in the West, but now we're ready to expand into eastern and northern Europe. There's no reason not to go global.
What makes your group special? The brand is a unique collection of independent hotels, all in great locations. We also have a special warm, friendly and unpretentious service culture and a sophisticated food offering.
Where are you going next? We've got hotels under development in Spain, Italy and Ireland, and we are looking at several Eastern European projects.
What are the biggest challenges facing your business in the next few years? The key is selecting the right people more than training. We can train forever, but if people really want to do the job, they'll bond with guests and give great service. We move existing staff to new hotels and they bring their service ethic with them. The hotel school also helps, as we have 184 students that we can observe for a year and then take the cream of the crop. I would rather stay in a four-star property with five-star service than the other way around any day.
How do you try to support the environment? We are starting a foundation with partners, suppliers and guests to put money back into the areas where we have hotels. It has a feel-good factor for me, but also for everyone working in the hotels and the local community. The more connection we have with our community the better. It's good for our business.
What's your favourite European city? Usually the one I'm in. I'm like a cheap date: whoever's treating me best at the time, I like the most.