As pent-up demand for travel continues to build, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts is getting ready. The luxury brand will nearly double its resort portfolio by 2024, unveiling nine new properties in destinations that include Bermuda, Aruba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Marrakech.
The company is evolving to meet the needs of today’s traveler with the help of George Fleck, who joined St. Regis in September as its vice president and global brand leader. Fleck oversees the brand’s nearly 50 hotels and resorts throughout the world, leading all efforts around service, design and marketing. Born in Germany, Fleck began his career with parent company Marriott International in 2016, after spending nearly 15 years with Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
Forbes Travel Guide caught up with Fleck while he was at The St. Regis Bermuda Resort to help the new property prepare for its May debut. He shared what to expect at the Bermuda hotel, some changes in store for the brand’s future and the iconic St. Regis hotels everyone should visit.
Has the pandemic prompted any long-term changes within the St. Regis brand?
The pandemic has certainly challenged the hospitality industry around the world to reflect on what comes next for our guests, as we have seen their needs and desires shift. While there are some short-term adjustments we are making at St. Regis to ensure our guests feel as safe and comfortable as possible, we remain keenly focused on the long term through continued brand evolution and global growth.
MORE FOR YOU
This past year has reminded us all the value of meaningful travel experiences and just how much we love exploring new destinations. We are excited to welcome guests back to our hotels around the world and remain deeply passionate about delivering on our brand promise to help them “Live Exquisite.”
In that spirit, many of our hotels and resorts have implemented innovative guest experiences, such as the Yurt Village at The St. Regis Deer Valley, or in a glamorous take on Toronto’s famed sweet treat the king’s cake, The St. Regis Toronto’s pastry chef Gerald Tan created the queen’s cake [a 14-layer lemon cake with blueberry and lavender buttercream] to go. We hope that we can continue to inspire optimism as we all begin to travel again.
How do you see luxury service evolving as a result of these times?
While it is still too early to predict the lasting impact of these timeson luxury service, we do think there are some changes that are here to stay. Personalization and a sense of craftsmanship have become even more important, with luxury travelers wanting more exclusive and intimate experiences on property, including food and beverage and spa treatments.
Additionally, the pandemic has accelerated the use of digital and mobile platforms, so we expect technology will continue to play an increasingly important role in how we communicate and engage with our guests — creating meaningful content which speaks to our guests’ passion for highly authentic and immersive experiences.
What is your vision for the brand?
Having worked in hospitality for more than 20 years and having had such admiration for St. Regis, the opportunity to lead such a celebrated brand has been a true honor. When I first joined the brand, I spent a great deal of time immersing myself in our rich legacy and talking with our leaders and hosts around the world. With a glamorous history dating back more than a century, St. Regis is truly a crown jewel in Marriott International’s brand portfolio.
My vision is to set us on the path of evolution from iconic hospitality brand to a true global luxury icon. We have an exciting pipeline of openings that are set to help us achieve this vision, along with benchmarks to further elevate the guest experience.
Through our sophisticated design, signature butler service with a modern lens, and our beloved traditions like the Bloody Mary, St. Regis is perfectly positioned to join the highest echelon of the world’s most emblematic brands in the luxury category. The future has never been brighter for St. Regis.
Will these traditions — butler service, Bloody Marys and evening rituals that often feature a unique a champagne sabering — change?
These rituals represent the very foundation of the St. Regis brand, serving as a way for us to honor our legacy, dating back to 1904 with the opening of The St. Regis New York by John Jacob Astor IV. But it’s more important than ever before to modernize these traditions to ensure they remain relevant for today’s luxury traveler.
For example, every St. Regis property has its own version of the Bloody Mary, a cocktail first invented at The St. Regis New York’s famed King Cole Bar in 1934. While we still serve up the classic “Red Snapper,” we encourage our bartenders globally to create a version inspired by each unique destination. Later this year, we plan to celebrate this tradition with a brand-new book which highlights our recipes from around the world.
We are also in the process of evolving our signature butler service to make the unique role of the butler a more powerful piece of the St. Regis guest experience. The notion of impeccable service was of the utmost importance to the Astor family, and we continue to look for new and innovative ways to modernize this pillar for our guests today.
Is Bermuda is your first post-lockdown trip?
Joining the extraordinary team at The St. Regis Bermuda Resort as they prepare to open will mark my very first business trip since 2020. It feels wonderful to be back on the road, personally training and interacting with our incredible St. Regis hosts. This opening marks a historic moment for the brand, and I am thrilled to have the privilege to be part of it.
What are your favorite parts of The St. Regis Bermuda Resort?
First and foremost, the location! It truly represents the finest address — with the resort spanning Achilles Bay in the historic town of St. George, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with sweeping views of St. Catherine’s Beach and Fort St. Catherine.
The property’s design is also exceptional, drawing inspiration from the local geography and Bermudian traditions. The stone formations around the resort are incorporated in the interiors through texture and patterns while Bermuda’s colorful island fashion and prints are translated through the use of saturated colors and geometry throughout the property. I love that it feels like you are experiencing the island through the glamorous St. Regis lens — a truly enchanted escape.
This resort is also going to be a haven for leisure seekers. Besides two gorgeous pools that offer plenty of opportunities to relax, the resort includes the historic Five Forts golf course and will also boast a casino outfitted with asalon privé for an ultra-glamorous night out.
What other St. Regis openings are you looking forward to?
I am particularly excited for the opening of The St. Regis Chicago, which is slated to debut at the end of 2021. The property was designed by Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang, and is stunning architecturally. It is truly the new best address in the Windy City and will be a skyline-defining icon. We are thrilled to be opening our doors in this vibrant destination.
The St. Regis Kanai Resort in Riviera Maya is another property that I am particularly excited about, marking our third hotel in Mexico and located within the lush mangrove forests of the Riviera Maya. The resort has an unexpected and avant-garde design that affords every guest room a stunning view of the surrounding crystal-clear waters.
What are some must-visit St. Regis properties?
All of our Houses of Astor are so special, bringing to life their destinations in the most glamorous of ways. But I must start with our flagship hotel. The St. Regis New York is where our story begins and remains one of the grande dames of the luxury hospitality industry. I recommend ordering a Red Snapper, the original Bloody Mary, in the hotel’s famed King Cole Bar before stepping out onto the corner of Fifth Avenue for an afternoon of shopping or an evening on Broadway as the city reopens.
The St. Regis Cairo is also at the top of my list! This hotel opened earlier this year in this enchanted destination, and I can’t wait to visit in person. The hotel is just a short distance away from the Nile, the Khan el-Khalili bazaar and the pyramids, and incorporates the wonders of Cairo with arabesque lanterns, latticework-covered windows and reflecting pools.
What is your favorite part of a St. Regis stay?
My favorite part of staying with St. Regis begins with our hosts, who offer genuine warmth and impeccable service in each of hotels around the world, and specifically our St. Regis butler service, which truly sets the experience apart.
Of course, I also take the time to enjoy our beloved rituals — there is nothing better than sipping a Bloody Mary poolside at one of our glamorous resorts or enjoying glass of champagne freshly sabered by a St. Regis butler in the world’s most coveted destinations. Whether in Aspen, Mallorca, Venice or Hong Kong, knowing that these experiences await tremendously inspires me.
Where are you excited to visit once travel fully opens up?
Italy is my absolutely favorite country in Europe to visit, and I have so many fond travel memories of Rome and Florence, specifically.
With two spectacular St. Regis hotels in these iconic cities, which truly embody our brand’s promise to live exquisite, as well as our glamorous hotel in Venice, it is a destination I am very much longing to return to once European destinations open up this summer and beyond.