Fairmont is iconic, elegant and rich with heritage.

As the Chief Executive Officer of this prestigious luxury brand, Mark spearheads a remarkable portfolio of over 100 operational and upcoming hotels worldwide. With an impressive background, including an MBA in International Business from Oxford University and extensive senior management programs at Cornell University, New York, Mark's expertise is unparalleled.

Before his extraordinary journey with Fairmont, Mark served as the Chief Executive Officer for India, Middle East, Africa & Turkey at Accor. In this role, he flawlessly managed a diverse collection of over 520 hotels across more than 20 distinctive brands. Along the way, he made his mark in the industry and left an indelible impression.

Now, we have the privilege of sitting down with Mark, a familiar face to the Hotelintel.co community. Today's discussion revolves around his innovative approach to Leading the Evolution in Luxury. With his keen insights and industry prowess, we delve into the intricacies of taking luxury hospitality to new heights.

Join us as we unravel the mind of a visionary leader, unraveling the secrets to success in the ever-evolving world of luxury hospitality.

In your own words, what is 'Fairmont'? What does Fairmont mean for stakeholders and what does Fairmont mean for guests?

Fairmont is iconic, elegant and rich with heritage.

From the Savoy in London to the Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai or Makkah Clock Royal Tower, Fairmont is comprised of a distinctive collection of hotels that reflect our belief of providing world-class service to guests who appreciate unique locations.

What does Fairmont mean to guests? For us, it’s about helping to create lasting memories through unforgettable hospitality and experiences. It’s about unique architecture, expressive décor and thoughtful service. Our hotels have been a part of iconic events through history, from the UN Charter being drafted and signed in the Garden Room of Fairmont San Francisco in 1945 to John Lennon and Yoko Ono making history with their Bed-in for Peace at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal in 1969, the Fairmont brand has been a part of history since its inception in 1907.

For stakeholders, we are entrusted with the right expertise to meet the expectations of owners and partners in the way we manage assets. We conduct thorough market analysis before entering into a management agreement with an owner, starting with looking at the location as well as consulting a team of experts to confirm that a site will make a good Fairmont property.

If we look at our partners and owners, chances are they are long term partners with whom we have built trusted relationships - most of the time we expand our interests worldwide with partners, collaborating on several properties. And this applies to both our guests and our people, who are at the heart of the brand. The Fairmont employees are the ones allowing us to deliver our promise of turning moments into memories, to both our long term partners and guests.  We are committed to delivering unforgettable experiences, and making sure that guests leave wanting to come back.

How do you balance the demands of shareholders with the need to maintain the integrity and reputation of your luxury brand?

We choose our partners carefully. We make sure to align with partners that share our values and vision with regards to the brand. We make sure to remain on top of trends and be proactive with a pioneer approach in all aspects of our business. We are great listeners, always open to understanding our partners and not only making sure we meet their needs, but exceed their expectations.

How do you ensure that your brand remains exclusive and maintains its prestige while still expanding and reaching new markets?

We strike a delicate balance between expanding into new markets and maintaining the exclusivity and prestige of our brand. Our approach focuses on quality rather than quantity. When considering expansion opportunities, we prioritize the brand above all else. We carefully evaluate each potential location and partner to ensure they align with our values and contribute to a sustainable and exceptional guest experience. By taking a thoughtful and discerning approach, we can expand strategically while preserving the integrity of our luxury brand. This allows us to reach new markets without compromising the exclusivity and prestige that make Fairmont remarkable.

How do you approach innovation within the luxury industry while maintaining the core values and heritage of your brand?

At Fairmont, we hold our heritage close to heart while embracing innovation to meet the evolving demands of today's consumers and new generations. We understand the importance of preserving our core values while adapting to the ever-changing landscape. Digitalization is a key aspect we prioritize, harnessing technology to offer seamless and personalized experiences across all guest touchpoints, while still offering personalised support where needed. From online reservations to mobile check-ins, we ensure convenience is at the forefront of our digital strategy. We also recognize the growing emphasis on wellness and prioritize it as an essential element of the Fairmont experience. Our state-of-the-art spas, fitness centers, and mindful activities cater to our guests' holistic well-being, leaving them refreshed and rejuvenated. Golf is an integral part of our rich heritage, and we continue to invest in world-class golf courses and facilities. We provide exceptional golfing experiences that combine tradition with modern amenities, ensuring enthusiasts have unforgettable moments on the greens.

Sustainability is a key focus for us. We actively implement initiatives to reduce our environmental impact and promote responsible practices. From energy-efficient operations to locally sourced ingredients in our restaurants, we strive to create a positive impact on the planet and local communities. In 2023 specifically, we are utilizing smart weighing solutions to optimize operations and minimize food waste across our hotels with a goal of installing a minimum of one unit of an approved Food Waste Management system by the end of this year. Fairmont, along with Accor, has also announced a commitment to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. All of our hotels are required to report and continue to measure and optimise their carbon footprints.

By striking the right balance between tradition and innovation, we hope to create unique experiences that capture the essence of Fairmont, ensuring that each guest feels a genuine connection to our brand.

How do you attract and retain top talent in a highly competitive industry, and what qualities do you look for in potential employees?

In Asia, staffing was a challenge following the pandemic and, specifically, attracting front-of-house staff who are able to enhance the stay of international guests, while still understanding the local market and cultural nuances. Having said that, my personal belief is that hospitality is the best industry when it comes to hiring people as we can always find a role for someone - in the history of more than 100 years of Fairmont, it has been at the core of our operating philosophy. Our people are at the heart of what we do, so Talent & Acquisition is paramount to our agenda and we have recently welcomed Aline Barhouche as our Chief Talent & Culture Officer to lead global human resources strategy for the brand.

Aline will be working closely with another recent hire, Sahar Davodi, who will spearhead the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy for Fairmont. The brand has always been at the forefront of responsible practices and Sahar and her team will ensure our continued commitment to the sector. The top talent today want to work with companies who have strong ESG policies so Aline and Sahar will work closely together to ensure Fairmont is at the top of the game to retain the right talent.

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