Luxepitality Meets: Marcello Cicalo

Corporate Director of Sales and Marketing Italian Hospitality Collection

Tell us a bit about your background and what your job involves?

I started my career in hospitality by chance over 20 years ago in Sardinia, with a Hotel Group named Delphina Hotels & Resorts. I then went on to head up the sales & marketing for Forte Village Resort, and then Director of Sales at the beautiful Rome Cavalieri, part of the luxury brand of Hilton, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. I was thinking of continuing my journey in the hospitality industry outside of Italy, probably in Middle East, but then in early 2015 I could not resist to the opportunity to work on the creation of a new Italian hotel group: Italian Hospitality Collection. That’s how I joined IHC as Corporate Director of Sales and Marketing.

My previous experiences have been very useful to me in this new role. Moving from a large company such as Hilton to a small start-up (that’s what IHC was when I joined) requires flexibility, a strong problem-solving approach, as well as the ability to organize and create new complex projects from scratch. My job now moves from coordinating different teams such as marketing, PR, revenue, sales in different countries to leading larger projects likes CRM implementation for the group, or being involved in several task force (from digital to spa & wellness to new products) and the launch of new hotels like Le Massif, our new ski resort in the Courmayeur Italian Alps

How many properties does the Italian Hospitality Collection have, which one is your favourite and why?

We currently have 5 hotels. Three in Tuscany (Fonteverde, Bagni di Pisa and Grotta Giusti), one in Sardinia (Chia Laguna) and our new jewel Le Massif, a luxury ski resort. It is very hard to say which is my favourite. I am very much attached to Sardinia, as I was born there and my kids are totally crazy for Chia Laguna. When I go there with my family, we feel free and relaxed and the kids are simply in love with the area.

But I also love our Tuscany Hotel, Fonteverde with the incredible views over Val d’Orcia.

Grotta Giusti and its thermal grotto, the largest in Europe, gives me the feeling of going back in time. The thermal lake is really a life time experience and on top of this the aperitif in Grotta Giusti in my all-time favourite!

In summer time, during the end of July I always go to Bagni di Pisa for a few days to attend one of the most beautiful events I have been to, the Andrea Bocelli concert in Lajatico. At Bagni di Pisa we have a special VIP package for this event which is simply unique, including a post-concert dinner at Andrea Bocelli’s villa. Bagni di Pisa really gives me the idea of travelling back at the time of the Grand Duke of Tuscany (1745). This was his summer residency and I love to stay in the Grand Duke’s suite in Bagni di Pisa.

To be honest I really cannot wait for the opening of our first brand-new ski resort Le Massif, on the 22nd of December. We have been working so hard on this project for the past 2 years and we are all so excited! Who knows may be Le Massif will be my favourite place to be! For the moment I love to experience each and every one of them.

IHC have just opened a beautiful property in Courmayeur, what makes this property special?

Le Massif, is our brand-new ski resort in the Italian Alps, Courmayeur. Just in front of the Mont Blanc, on the Italian side. It really is a unique concept as the hotel Le Massif is in the very centre of Courmayeur, walking distance to the shopping area and just in front of the cable car. It’s a Fantastic location!

La Loge du Massif, the chalet is right on the ski slopes and has an incredible cuisine, ski room with heated lockers and kids club. These two locations (Le Massif and La Loge du Massif) create a unique concept of hospitality, where guests will just have to relax, and enjoy the incredible scenery. We will take special attention to children under 13 years old, offering an all-inclusive formula to them. Le Massif is currently the only Italian ski resort part of The Leading Hotels of The World.

What can we expect from the group in the near future?

IHC will keep focusing on Italian hospitality and the concept of “passion” which is at the base of many examples of what people consider the iconic sign of hospitality. Passion is what makes people go to the next level. IHC is also currently working on a refurbishment plan of our existing portfolio as well as scouting key areas in Italy for new acquisitions.

Boutique and independent Hotels have had a great resurgence around the world and their popularity seems to be ever increasing. What do you think are the main reasons for this trend?

I believe that the interest for independent hotels is at the base of the desire to discover local culture and the desire to stay “out of standardisation”. An independent hotel or a small hotel group are able to focus more on local experiences as are by nature more flexible than a large international brand. This trend is actually even more evident in luxury hospitality.

The basic concept of “hospitality” which is “roof+bed+food” has evolved over decades. Hospitality means emotions, memory, local culture, fulfilment of a dream or a desire. Sometimes the desire was even not there before entering the hotel.

IHC has received the Signum Virtutis, the seal of excellence from the Seven Stars Luxury Hospitality and Lifestyle Awards for Seven Stars Family Resort, Seven Stars Boutique Hotel Group 2 years in a row as well as for the Spa sector this year. How does it feel to win such a prestigious and highly exclusive accolade and how do you use these to promote your business?

Well, these are recognitions that we are all very proud of and are the result of the daily work of our team members working at property level. Chia Laguna is an incredible resort where 70% of our guests are families with children. I have seen guests coming back to Chia for the 15th year in a row and hug a team member at the front desk having tears of happiness in their eyes. I have seen children crying when they have to leave Chia as it really feels like a big wonderful family. This I think shows the passion and love the team members at Chia Laguna have put in to their daily work.

The awards received in the spa sector are the result of the high standards and care we provide specialising in wellness, detox and thermal treatments. We have many special guests coming back over years as they see great results after completing “Equilibrium”, our wellness and detox program.

We feel honoured and off course extremely satisfied by the awards as these are in line with our commitment to excellence in the luxury hospitality sector.

Please tell us 5 things that you never travel without?

  • My Iphone
  • My notebook
  • Running equipment
  • Apple ear plug
  • A nice book to read, when I am lucky to have the time for it!

What are your 3 favourite destinations in the world and why?

a. Italy: it is not only the country where I was born, but having travelled around the world I can say that it really is one of the best destinations in our planet: culture, food, people and passion are what makes it a fantastic place not only for holidays but also to live.

b. Thailand: I am very much linked to some areas of Phuket and Kho Samui as I have been there quite a few times. In the past I was able to stay there with my family for over a month, which allowed us to discover the beautiful areas and the culture. We feel at home every time we go.

c. Japan: I love this country because of the incredible mix of contrasts that you see when you stay there. Modernity and tradition are mixed together in an incredible way. Perfection is at the base of life. You can see it everywhere in the cuisine, furniture, clothing and gardens.

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