Comprising 11 hotels in 11 leading destinations, Rocco Forte Hotels is the Forte family. Each address exudes the Forte philosophy: open, intuitive service; airy, elegant design that speaks to its location; exceptional offerings in food, drink, spas and experiences; and a signature Anglo-Italian style, sophistication and warmth. Here, RLI sits down with company CEO Sir Rocco Forte to discuss the company’s upcoming expansion and what drives the business forward.

Over the last 22 years, Sir Rocco Forte and his family have built and nurtured a group of prestigious, iconic hotels, all of which rank regularly at the top of the world’s leading hospitality awards. Hotels in the portfolio include the famous Brown’s Hotel in London, the landmark Hotel de Russie in Rome and Hotel Astoria, a celebrated ART Nouveau building in the heart of St Petersburg.

With existing hotels in Belgium, Russia, the UK, Germany, Italy and the Middle East, the group’s expansion plans are the first stage of a longer-term strategy to extend its network of hotels across Europe and key destinations around the world. “It is the confidence in our brand that is driving the ambitious expansion plans that we have announced,” says Sir Rocco Forte, CEO of Rocco Forte Hotels. “We are interested in opening hotels in the best locations and are meticulous in ensuring that each has a distinct style and personality.”

The company has recently announced its fifth new property following the signing of the agreement to acquire the Grand Hotel Villa Igiea in Palermo, Sicily. This acquisition is a further step in the most ambitious expansion programme in the group’s history, with five new properties due to open in the next two years, bringing the Rocco Forte Hotels collection up from 11 to 16 properties. Four of the five new properties will open in Italy, these will be the Hotel de la Ville, Rome, which will open in May 2019, the Masseria Torre Maizza, Puglia, also opening in May, the Rocco Forte House, Rome, opening in September next year and the Grand Hotel Villa Igiea mentioned earlier will open in 2020. The fifth opening will take place in China; the Westbund Hotel in Shanghai will open next year.

“Alongside these forthcoming openings we are exploring all key destinations, particularly major cities such as Paris, Madrid and Venice, while New York is also a very interesting one we are looking at.”

What attracts the company to new properties is the location, history and of course the feel of the property, these are all very important factors when the business looks for new properties. The consensus is that Rocco Forte Hotels chooses landmarks with great personality and charm that reflect the personality of the brand.

“We work on really being the best insider experts of each location and offer exclusive or original experiences which really enhance the areas our hotels are in. We also keep updating and renovating our hotels, keeping them innovative and exciting over the course of many years,” says Forte.

The Rocco Forte family has been hoteliers for four generations and that expertise and care is reflected in its hotels and service, making them quite exceptional. Their guests feel recognised and truly cared for, as if they were a guest of the Rocco Forte family. So what does Forte believe have been the key drivers behind the company’s success to date? “We have made very good investments and our financial strategy has gone hand-in-hand with the particular level of care we take in welcoming and caring for our guests.”

Despite the hospitality market being in an economically challenging time at the moment, Forte believes that the five-star market is actually still performing very well, which he believes is very exciting given the ferocious competition each brand faces. While the Rocco Forte brand cannot compete with some of the largest brands around in sheer numbers, it makes up for this as a group with its personality and attention to detail.

“We are facing one of the most exciting times in the history of the brand, with five properties opening in the next two years, new residential villas being built in Sicily and a very positive outlook all round, so I am very much focused on the positives looking forward”

The company has embraced the rise of social media and utilises several channels to promote its hotels, with Forte in particular being astonished by the amount of high-quality business its social media channels bring in. “We have recently launched a new e-commerce channel in which our first item for sale is the most beautiful Pucci scarf, specifically designed for the partnership we have with the Pucci brand in our Florence hotel The Savoy,” explains Forte. Since its inception the company’s ethos has been its service with care, respect for individuality, heartfelt hospitality and family values.