Ermes De Megni: The Innovation Interview

Mr. Ermes De Megni, General Manager of Hotel Splendido & Splendido Mare by Orient Express in Portofino, Italy shares his thoughts and insights on how technology and innovation is impacting the hotel business.

Prior to commencing his career in the hotel business, Mr. De Megni earned a degree at the Ecole d’Hotellerie in Abano Terme, Italy followed by a masters degree from Luiss University in Rome in Hotel Management and Yeald Management.

After completing his studies, Mr. De Megni worked all over Europe as a Front Office Employee and in the Sales & Marketing Department at such distinguished hotels as The Westbury Hotel and Claridge Hotel in London, UK, Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Munich, Germany and the Grand Hotel Paris, France. While Mr. De Megni lived and worked in Germany and France he learned to speak German and French.

To improve his competences and desire to speak fluent English, Mr. De Megni moved to the United States to work in Sales & Marketing at the Mayfair Hotel in New York City and then as Assistant to the Food & Beverage Director at the Boca Raton Hotel & Club in Boca Raton, FL. His time in the States was followed by an eastern work experience at the Amanpuri Resort in Phuket, Thailand as a Food & Beverage Consultant.

When Mr. De Megni joined Hotel Splendido he began as a front office employee and worked his way up to General Manager, a position he has held since 2009.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Innovation means to me, speaking of course, of our Hotel, keeping the traditional Italian standards of hospitality, using new technologies without altering the ‘historical’ flair of our house. Tradition goes hand in hand with innovation.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

Speaking of the hotel business, I would say that innovation is needed particularly to speed up the reservation methods even though what we should not do is depersonalising the booking process.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

What I recommend to anyone of the staff is to be himself, honest, and respectful. The best advice received is to transmit the passion I have for my job to my team.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

This is difficult to answer. I could mention more than one, but probably the fact that our guests come back  year after year and we see their children grow up and then marry. The high fidelity to our house clearly indicates that our efforts to offer excellent service is in the right direction.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Both: physical for the library at home or at the hotel. Have you ever noticed that every book has its own distinct ”smell” ? Digital for travelers-how can we quit reading?

Mr. Philip Mengel, the Interim CEO of Orient-Express has gone through great effort to protect and enhance the Orient-Express brand since he was named to the position on May 15, 2012. What inspiration and advice have you received from Mr. Mengel?

I have received the advice to keep working like we do everyday always showing clients the fondness that we all have for our work.

What new technologies have exhibited the greatest impact on your business and best enhance your guest’s experience?

The Internet, Social Networks and the iPhone.

When we visited the hotel in July of 2010 we were impressed that the hotel offered complimentary wi-fi service. When and why did you start offering complimentary wi-fi to hotel guests?

It has been offered since 2003 in order to optimize the service for our guests.

Any plans to offer mobile check in? Or do you feel that this will depersonalize the guest experience?

In accordance with Italian Law we must require travel documents upon arrival. In the near future we will offer a mobile check-in service for the documents, but the warm welcome of our guests at the Front Desk and the personal escort will remain the same.

Guests return year after year as is commemorated in the Golden Book and the staff’s attention to detail is extraordinary. In fact, a staff member rescued us with an impromptu lesson on how to drive stick shift after we were became stuck on one of the famous winding roads of Portofino. How are you able to maintain this high degree of service year after year?

At the beginning of the season we conduct internal training sessions for all staff, both junior and senior. In addition, the wisdom shared from our invaluable department heads and all senior staff members who have been working at the Splendido for many years.

Sign up for IDEAS — Our weekly insight into innovation.