INNOVATION DRIVES FASHION FORWARD

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Finally, Bulgari has found a golden treasure in its hometown Rome!

September 10,2020

The luxury jewelry brand BVLGARI, which was founded in Rome, Italy in 1884, will return to its hometown in 2022 to open the brand's tenth boutique hotel in this "Eternal City".

Although many luxury brands have diversified into high-end hotels, Bulgari has gone fully global with the concept. Following the opening of the first Bulgari hotel in Milan in 2014 with Marriott International, Inc., Bulgari has opened hotels and resorts in Bali, London, Beijing, Dubai and Shanghai. Three hotels in Moscow, Paris and Tokyo will also be unveiled in the next two years.

Mr. Jean-Christophe Babin, the global CEO of Bulgari, said in an exclusive interview with Luxe.CO last week that “if we can combine our experience in hotel management with jewelry, the brand’s understanding of emotional experience and service levels will be much stronger."

Officially opening in 2022, the new Bulgari Hotel will be located in Rome’s central area of ​​Piazza Augusto Imperatore, next to the Bulgari flagship store on Via dei Condotti. The surrounding landmark buildings include the Spanish Steps, Ara Pacis and the Mausoleum of Augustus.

The building that is being transformed into the hotel was built between 1936 and 1938. It is held by Edizione Properties, who completed tenancy negotiations with Bulgari with the assistance of CBRE Hotels. Italian architectural firm Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel will be responsible for the exterior repairs and interior design of the hotel.

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The following is the recorded interview:

"It's like opening a hotel in front of the gate of the Forbidden City in Beijing"

Luxe.CO: What is special about the location of this new hotel?

Jean-Christophe Babin: Just as China is the cradle of Eastern civilization; ancient Rome is the birthplace of Western civilization. When selecting the location for this hotel, our first principle was that it must be located in the heart of Rome, just like the Bulgari brand.

At that time, we investigated 15 alternative locations, and finally decided on this one, Piazza Augusto Imperatore, in line with the vision of the Bulgari brand, to realize our dream: "Not only to build the best hotel in Rome but the best hotel in the world."

We hope that when people discover this area, they will be completely immersed in the 2,000 years of culture, art, and architecture.

Luxe.CO: We heard that Bulgari has been preparing for this new hotel for a long time. Is there any special reason behind it?

Jean-Christophe Babin: Rome is an ancient city with a history of 2,700 years. Finding a historical building with a large area in the center of this ancient city and transforming it into a hotel are exceedingly difficult tasks.

We found this old building with an area of ​​26,000 square meters. At that time, many luxury goods companies took a fancy to it because the location is like opening a hotel in front of the gate of the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Therefore, we patiently waited for the building's contract permit and did a lot of hard work to finally win the building two years ago. In the transformation process, we will try our best to protect its historical features and cultural value and transform its interior into a hotel of the same high quality as other Bulgari hotels in the world.

Luxe.CO: We heard that the new hotel will set up a special reading room to display a large number of precious books on the history of jewelry. Please give us a specific introduction.

Jean-Christophe Babin: Yes, this reading room is divided into two areas. The private area is only open to invited guests, where you can gain an overview the entire city of Rome from a unique perspective. There is a bar in the public area to provide leisure and food for the public. We hope that this place can attract many local residents in the future.

Besides that, we have placed a lot of cultural and artistic books beside the bar in the reading room. The content is not limited to the Bulgari brand but includes everything that inspires Bulgari's design like Roman architecture, art, and so on. In the future, the room will be like a gathering place to stimulate cultural exploration where brand customers can meet local residents. Imagine when one travels to a country, it will be an unforgettable travel experience to be able to communicate deeply with the locals.

As a culture-driven luxury goods company, we have done a lot of work in the field of art and cultural restoration. We are currently repairing an Augustus statue, which will be displayed to the public for the first time after the hotel opens.

(Note: To celebrate the location of this hotel, Bulgari will fund the renovation of the lighting system of the Ara Pacis and provide support for other projects related to the renovation of the Piazza Augusto Imperatore.)

It is worth mentioning that the new hotel is equipped with a membership-based high-end spa, following the Roman bathing culture 2,000 years ago. This spa is decorated with Roman columns and sculptures, covering an area of ​​1,000 square meters. It’s said to be the only one in the center of Rome.

(Note: The construction of the large Roman baths began in the Augustus period. Afterward, the Thermae of Caracalla, according to historical records, could accommodate thousands of people bathing at the same time)

The hotel is "selling" emotions, which is a shortcut for guests to deeply understand the brand

According to the latest "TrueLuxury Global Consumer Insight" report released by the Boston Consulting Group:

  • 43% of respondents indicated that they are more willing to invest more in luxury experiences and reduce purchases of physical luxury goods than before COVID-19. Specifically, they prefer exclusive and secluded experiences, such as home design, health care and high-end dining, while the demand for experiences such as luxury cruise travel and high-end bars has decreased.
  • Italy is currently the most popular international travel destination.
  • 60% of the respondents said that they are looking forward to traveling for leisure again.

Luxe.CO: Many major luxury companies have opened hotels in quick succession, but Bulgari may be the only brand that has continuously opened hotels worldwide. What is the secret of Bulgari's success in expanding its hotel business?

Jean-Christophe Babin: The first hotel we opened was located in Milan, and some brands followed our example. Nowadays, competition among luxury brands in the hotel market is fierce, and this business also needs to be continuously promoted.

As early as the early 1990s, Bulgari's brand predecessors put forward this idea. Just as a boutique is called a brand temple, the building carries the spirit of the brand.

We hope that our guests can stay longer, and we hope to provide guests with a multi-dimensional experience to help them better understand the brand. What kind of place allows consumers the chance to stay longer in a large space? The answer is a hotel. Different functional areas such as bars, restaurants and fitness centers can be provided in a hotel, which is difficult to experience in an ordinary brand store. The hotel is a shortcut for guests to deeply understand the brand.

From the emotional dimension, the success of luxury brands is inseparable from emotional communication with customers. In a store, a customer can spend 2000 euros to buy a ring that can be kept forever. In a hotel, although they do not get any material feedback by spending 2000 euros per night, they are left with an unforgettable memory.

As a jewelry brand, I think we have a responsibility to do better than pure hotel brands If we can combine our experience in hotel management with jewelry, the brand’s understanding of emotional experience and service levels will be much stronger. Hotel management does not sell any products, but it is "selling" emotions.

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Luxe.CO: How can you create synergy between Bulgari Hotels and the brand?

Jean-Christophe Babin: Take high-end jewelry as an example. It is difficult to accurately find affluent target customers in overseas markets. Although the Internet can provide some help, it cannot provide their contact information. However, after many customers stay at a Bulgari Hotel for a week, they would be extremely interested in our range of offerings. When the brand invites them to participate in related activities, they are incredibly happy to participate and learn more about the products and the brand. Therefore, hotels are an important platform for us to reach potential customers.

Following the new hotel in Rome, we will announce the opening of two other hotels shortly after. The site is selected not only from a commercial point of view, but also to integrate local history, art and culture. Our long-term goal is to open 15 to 20 hotels worldwide, reaching 15 by 2025, and about 20 by 2030.

Luxe.CO: High-end hotels may indeed be the best platform for brands to reach customers. In addition to jewelry, there are diversified touchpoints such as furniture, home furnishing and art. As far as we know, the current suppliers of Bulgari Hotels are Italy's top lifestyle brands. So, does Bulgari have plans to expand its related products and brands, and even sell them in hotels?

Jean-Christophe Babin: The brand currently has five categories: jewelry, watches, leather goods, accessories and perfume. Besides these, the brand's hotel business has expanded rapidly. In each category, we have not yet reached the goal of a global leading brand:

  • In the jewelry category we are second in the world, and the goal is to be first in the world;
  • In the watch category, we are tenth in the world, and the goal is to be fifth in the world;
  • In perfume we are fifth in the world, and the goal is to be third in the world.

In China, we already have hotels in Beijing and Shanghai. Looking to the future, we hope to further enhance our leadership in various categories and gain a larger market share, which is the most important thing.

On this basis, as you said about going one step further, why not sell household products and so on? The Bulgari Hotel experience focuses on displaying the essence of the Italian lifestyle, but it should be noted that we currently have no plans to launch a Bulgari lifestyle brand. I think that in the short term, expanding categories will distract us from our core hotel business-focused emotional communication and service.

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The Chinese market has reached its best state in history, and online business is growing at a triple-digit rate

Luxe.CO: We are pleased to see that Italy's life and economy are quickly returning to normal in the post-epidemic period. Please briefly provide an overview of Bulgari’s current global operations.

Jean-Christophe Babin: Looking at the international market, most of our hotels are still closed. The Italian domestic market has improved, and COVID-19 is well under control. The hotel business is subject to the suspension of international flights, which mainly depends on the government's decision.

Although Bulgari's business in the global market has generally not resumed normal operations, we can say that we have reached the best state in history in the Chinese market. We are currently among the top three brands in the Chinese market, not only in jewelry but in the entire luxury goods sector. We are honored to be one of the top three.

However, the situation in other markets around the world is not so good. For example, the US market has been affected by the recent turmoil, and business operations are still subject to many restrictions. In the Latin American market, stores are still closed. In general, the rapid recovery of markets such as China and South Korea has to some extent made up for the losses caused by the closure of stores in other markets.

Luxe.CO: In the field of digital communication and e-commerce, is Bulgari accelerating its operations?

Jean-Christophe Babin: From a media perspective, digital communication accounts for 60% of our digital expenditures. Some markets are already in a highly digital state.

From a retail perspective, our digital retail is accelerating. Currently, Bulgari’s only online sales channels in China are WeChat boutiques and the official Chinese website.

We are not only accelerating investment to improve our online one-to-one shopping experience, but also accelerating the flow of traffic to the official website. Currently, we have newly launched official e-commerce services in eight countries around the world. It is expected that by the end of July 2020 e-commerce services will be launched in 21-22 countries.

Our e-commerce business in the Chinese market has achieved triple-digit growth. The United States is also an important e-commerce market. Also, starting in May and June, we have actively promoted e-commerce business in some emerging markets, such as South Korea, Mexico and Brazil.

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Luxe.CO: We look forward to the opening of the Bulgari Hotel in Rome, and believe that the business exchanges between Italy and China will become closer.

Jean-Christophe Babin: I personally like China very much. I miss China very much because of the COVID-19 restrictions. I hope that flights will resume as soon as possible. I will come to China at least twice by the end of this year.

Luxe.CO: Apart from Beijing and Shanghai, will Bulgari open more hotels in China?

Jean-Christophe Babin: China is already the only market where Bulgari currently has two hotels, and there can be no more (laughs).

About Bulgari Hotels & Resorts

Bulgari Hotels & Resorts was established in 2001 by the Italian architectural firm Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel.

Bulgari currently has a total of six hotels and resorts around the world, namely the Bulgari Hotel Milano, the Bulgari Resort Bali, the Bulgari Hotel London, the Bulgari Hotel Beijing, the Bulgari Resort Dubai and the Bulgari Hotel Shanghai.

From 2020 to 2022, another three new Bulgari hotels will be opened in Moscow, Paris, and Tokyo.

| Photo Credit: Bulgari

| Editor: Jun Liu & Elisa

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