Riccardo Pilati, of Hotel Principe di Savoia, talks to Sydney PauldenIf you think of the top hotels in cities such as London, Rome, Los Angeles, Paris, Geneva and Milan you will almost always include in your list members of Dorchester Collection. There are ten of these and they refer to themselves as ‘Iconic properties in iconic places’.
The Milan member is the Hotel Principe di Savoia and ITCM was able to interview its Senior Director of Sales on his recent visit to London.
He is Riccardo Pilati and there is no one better to provide information not only about the hotel but also what Milan has to offer as a destination. Riccardo has been at Principe di Savoia for eight years and has great experience of upmarket groups visiting Milan for meetings, incentives and a mix of both.
Milan is an international centre for fashion; it is an important European financial centre; it is less than half an hour’s drive from the beautiful landscape of Lake Como; and it is a big attraction for many aficionados of Italian cuisine.
‘Dorchester Collection’, Riccardo emphasises, ‘comprises the highest quality properties, but each member is very much a representative of its local culture and traditions. Guests at Principe di Savoia are very aware that they are in Italy and enjoy the finest Italian design and Mediterranean cuisine.
‘Corporate and association meetings are an important component of our business, but we benefit from a wide range of markets, including leisure and corporate contracts. The hotel has 301 rooms and many of the events are residential. We recently allocated 220 rooms to one event and we welcome very many smaller events through the year.
‘We have eleven function spaces that can be configured to suit all types of requirements and we can seat up to 450 theatre style.’
The hotel has a high proportion of suites. There are 44 in all and the Presidential Suite, at 500sqm, is amongst the largest in Europe. ‘It has its own private pool’, Riccardo adds.
Not surprisingly, the hotel is a frequent choice for diplomatic visitors to Milan. Number One source of business from outside Italy, including events, is the UK. ‘There is a close relationship between Milan and the City of London’, explains Riccardo, ‘and we host many meetings in the banking, financial and insurance sectors’.
France and Germany are the next main sources of guests and the hotel is also currently benefitting from Expo Milan 2015. This is a hugely successful event being staged from May to the end of October, with 20 million visitors expected from a total of 140 countries. Its theme is ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’.
Small groups are often able to enjoy cooking classes as part of a leisure or incentive programme. ‘They learn how to make traditional Milanese dishes such as Saffron Risotto with Osso Buco.’
explains Riccardo. ‘Ladies can also enjoy shopping with personal guides; and it can be arranged for them to experience make-up treatments just as if they were famous models. Men often take the opportunity during a visit to Milan to have the finest Italian suits made to measure. Another popular attraction is either to attend a performance of Italian opera at La Scala Milan or even a guided tour back stage at the world famous theatre. Then there is the opportunity to see the Monza F1 circuit. And of course everyone wishes, at least once in their lifetime, to visit Il Duomo, the Milan Cathedral at the heart of the city. The hotel is always able to introduce group organisers to local DMCs who can create a leisure programme to suit their tastes and the time available.’
Travellers from China are beginning to arrive in Milan in greater numbers, but according to Riccardo they are eager to buy designer goods and expensive wines, but are not yet choosing to stay in the top flight hotels. However, that could change, as Dorchester Collection now has sales offices in Beijing and Shanghai.
Working together, the hotels in the Collection are able to mount effective sales strategies. Twice a year, for example, the sales directors of four or five of the properties travel round the UK, meeting key event planners. A sales mission could consist, say, of one person from a London hotel plus others from Milan, Rome, Paris and Geneva. This is a formidable sales team.