Hospitality Design - July 2011 - 69
interview: richard kessler
By Stacy Shoemaker Rauen
taking care of business
Richard Kessler, chairman and CEO of the Kessler Collection, is on a serious expansion mission. In the past two years, he has doubled his Bohemian brand offerings with the opening of the Tudor lodge-style Grand Bohemian Hotel at Biltmore Village in Asheville, North Carolina, and his second property in Savannah, the 275-room Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront. He’s not stopping there: two more are planned in the next two years for Atlanta and St. Petersburg, Florida, with hopes for more. “We’ve got ﬁve or six locations that we really want to be in,” he says. “As soon as this money market straightens out, we’ll be into those markets.” At the same time, he has invested big bucks in renovating his existing properties, and for more exposure, he is adding all of his 4-Star properties to Marriott’s Autograph Collection. Here, he discusses the exuberant guest, building hotels for his art collection, and creating that indescribable feeling. HD: How would you describe the Bohemian brand? RK: It’s a brand that is built around a very clear cultural message where music, art, color, great food, and art galleries all come together to create a real cultural experience. And frankly, there’s no other brand out there today doing that, pulling all those parts together. It’s grounded in the classic idea of the Bohemia of the 15th century, which really was centered on Prague and Vienna. That part of the world in the 1500s was known to be the height of culture for that region for centuries. And it was all about art, the music, plays, and opera. Now, that being said, we add the American HD: Two new openings are on the horizon. How do you choose the best locations for the brand? RK: We like to put hotels where people want to go, not necessarily where they have to go, which means the leisure traveler is very important to us because they truly are looking for an experience. They want to feel something—they don’t want to be put in a cardboard, vanilla box. The other thing that we’re ﬁnding very interesting is the twist to it. The Bohemian name has to do with freedom, and being free, and feeling free. It has to do with the touch of revolution, and reinventing yourself, which was obviously a big movement back in the ’60s. We try to take this classic Bohemian way and then we put the American twist on it that gives it that contemporary, funky, edgy feel of freedom on top of it. You get this energy created between the classic and the contemporary. People realize it when they walk into one of the Bohemian hotels, because you can feel the tension between the two. To create that in the cultural sense, art is extremely important for carrying the message all the way through, in setting the tone. Colors are very important. We use a lot of red, purple, and gold, which give it a little bit of that baroque feel. In addition to that, we bring in contemporary paintings and contemporary music.
Above, from left: A rendering of the façade of the planned Grand Bohemian Hotel in Atlanta; the lobby of the Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront.