Influencers

Serge Trigano | Founder Mama Shelter

What would you do with more time in a day? Maybe you’d see your loved ones more, watch more Netflix or get more sleep. Not many people would choose to be at work, would they? Serge Trigano says he would spend all of his extra time in his hotel. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that his passion, dedication, and sacrifices have led him to become a leading hospitality figure. His work ethic coincides with the idea that “nothing great was ever achieved without sacrifice.” We’re going to look into Serge Trigano’s hospitality life, how he started his innovative brand Mama Shelter, and three pieces of his ultimate career advice.

1. From One Family Empire to Another

In 1950, something began to stir up the travel and tourism industry. The concept of a totally inclusive vacation was brought to life by Gerard Blitz and Gilbert Trigano in the form of Club Med. The company became a unique market leader and a legendary family business over the years. In 1993, Serge Trigano took over his father’s position. However, these were times of tough competition and changes in the market which ultimately led to Trigano being dismissed four years later.

This was obviously a very difficult time for Trigano as Club Med was all that he had known:

"I’m born in hospitality. My father was the founder of Club Med so I lived in Club Med for almost 50 years..."

Yet again, he didn’t let this set back define him. Just over 10 years later, in 2008, Trigano followed in his father’s footsteps by developing a trailblazing concept of his own in the form of Mama Shelter. Not only this but he extended his family-friendly legacy in the hospitality industry by bringing his sons, Benjamin and Jérémie, into the business.

Working alongside his sons demonstrates how important togetherness is for Trigano. Likewise, it also allows him to offset the fact that he has had to give up time with his family in the past due to the demanding nature of the industry. This is what he calls “his biggest career sacrifice.”

On the other hand, Trigano saw the benefits of his hard work when he opened the first of his ultra-cool hotels in the historic Saint-Blaise neighborhood of East Paris. It proved to be a hit and showed that Mama knows best. Since then, 12 Mama Shelters have popped up in vibrant cities like Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, London, and Prague.

2. Mama Shelter: A Global Home Away from Home

Despite each hotel having individual design tweaks and links to its surroundings, they all have things in common. They’re affordable, modern, and comfortable places where you wish your stay would never end. You feel so at home thanks to the family of Mama Shelter staff, which is now nearly 800 strong. Each member of staff demonstrates the perfect balance of playfulness and professionalism. An extra Mama Shelter twist is that all hotels are located in up-and-coming areas, typically full of the hippest places and far from touristy areas.

One rule is clear at Mama Shelter, the aesthetics are important but nothing outweighs the service provided to the customer:

"The key success of Mama Shelter is the quality of the team and how nice they are with our customers"

When he refers to the quality of the team he is not only talking about the staff. He’s also highlighting a critical point, that you must invest in the right people when developing the initial concept of your brand. To do this, Trigano assembled a team of leading professionals to create Mama Shelter including the world-famous designer, Philippe Starck, and the elite chef, Alain Senderens.

Six years after opening the first Mama Shelter, one of the world’s largest hotel groups, Accor bought a stake in the company. This deal benefited both parties as it enabled Accor to add a leading boutique chain to its portfolio. For Mama Shelter, it allowed them to accelerate their international expansion plan which consists of opening hotels in Dubai, Lisbon, and Luxembourg by 2020 and reaching a total of 50 hotels by 2025.

3. Serge Trigano’s Bold Advice

All of our Hospitality Influencer articles have ended with three pieces of inspirational advice from our industry heavyweights. However, in this final episode, we found out that we might have been making a mistake all along! Serge Trigano boldly states that:

"You shouldn’t listen to advice, you have to make your own decisions…"

We love Trigano’s honest and fearless approach and fully agree when he follows up by saying that it’s vital that you “go on your own trip”. Yet again, we do believe that it can be beneficial to take some advice into consideration when planning your next steps. The outsider’s view of a situation can help you put things into perspective.

This first piece of advice is extremely simple but reiterates that without the basics, there’s nothing to build upon. Put simply, cleanliness is king.

"You can be fun, nice, sexy, everything you want but if your hotel is not clean, it’s a dead concept"

Moreover, this links back to what Paul Dubrule, co-founder of Accor said about if the doormat is dirty, he knows the rest of the hotel is as well. It creates a terrible impression on guests and can be hard to shake off.

Trigano wraps up his interview with a realistic and beautiful statement that is also the perfect way to bring season 1 of Hospitality Influencers to an end. He says that young hospitality talent should be proud of themselves as:

"They have picked the best industry in the world and if they love the customer, if they love what they do, they will have a fantastic life."

We fully agree. Hospitality is the most diverse, enjoyable, and fascinating industry on earth. And if you’re truly passionate about offering the highest level of service, you’ll have an unparalleled, lifelong career.

Enjoyed season 1? Click here to see all episodes and keep an eye out for season 2 👀