According to Nielsen, the Luxury industry is supposed to grow by 6.4% in the incoming five years. While global brands will make their way through the current crisis, luxury experiences are growing every year. Indeed, luxury customers are willing to pay the price, but they want something unique, something that will take them away from their daily lives. While people think this is just a matter of money, true talents are at work to make each second a truly perfect moment. Meet Chris Adams, founder and CEO of the Ellis Adams Group. For years, Mr Adams has developed a true passion and know-how for luxury hospitality, and today he is a leading voice in his domain. Here is his exclusive interview for LuxuryActivist.com.
LuxuryActivist (LA): Dear Mr Adams, you have developed a true passion for luxury, not for a single product or brand but a true lifestyle. Where this passion came from? What were your initial inspirations?
Chris Adams (CA): Working for Ritz Carlton was my introduction to luxury and my introduction to hospitality in general. They did such a phenomenal job of really helping you understand the culture of what luxury was and what Ritz Carlton stood for. It just resonated with me. I think growing up in a household, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, I had families on both my mom’s and my dad’s side who were some of the most welcoming people you’d ever meet. I can’t ever remember a time being at their homes where there weren’t multiple people. Sometimes we didn’t know half of them staying there, on long road trips, having dinner- they were just unbelievably welcoming.
I realized, later on, that’s really who taught me hospitality. As time went on, and I spent more time in the luxury segment of hospitality, I understood that luxury was a feeling. It all came back to how you made people feel. That’s what true luxury is. There have been several studies on understanding consumers’ behaviour patterns in that luxury space and how you feel different. You start to stand differently; you walk differently from being in that luxury segment because that’s how it makes you feel. I preach to my team, and it’s a huge focus for us. Never forget how we make people feel because that is the true essence of what luxury actually is. It’s the combination of growing up in that environment and Ritz Carlton being my initiation into a luxury that is the foundation that established who I am and who our brand is today.
LA: Why luxury hospitality became something so important for luxury customers? What makes your approach so unique?
CA: I think luxury hospitality goes back to what I was talking about – it’s about how people feel. When you talk about luxury hospitality and the hotel segment, establishing a hotel was to take care of people and give them a place away from home while travelling on journeys in-between stop points. We can’t forget that it’s the people business. It’s not all about spreadsheets, but it’s still a business, and we have to ensure we’re fiscally responsible and good stewards. But at the end of the day, it’s still a people business, and we have to make sure of that, especially in the luxury segment where people are paying a higher price point to obtain that luxury feel.
That perceived value is beyond important, especially now in a post-Covid environment (and I’m calling it a post-Covid environment now that things are trying to get back to normal). The price point that people are paying has to be equivalent to the experience that we’re delivering. When you’re talking about a luxury experience that people are paying, sometimes an astronomical amount of money to stay in luxury branded hotel, we have to ensure that what we’re delivering to them is equivalent to that price point.
When a consumer checks in to this amazing resort, they walk into the guest room and around the different outlets, such as the property’s amenities. The details that go into that space and how our team members make those consumers feel are so important because their feeling gives value to the dollar they are spending. That’s what luxury hospitality is. People walk away feeling that the dollars they spent are equivalent to the experience that they are getting.
LA: The Ellis Adams Group current project list is dynamic and constantly growing, with over 100 active ventures underway worldwide. What is the secret of such success?
CA: We’ve never forgotten why we do what we do, and that is to impact people, whether it’s a guest going to a hotel or eating at a restaurant we’ve designed or had a cocktail at a bar or a menu. It’s about how we’re making them feel. Are we really thinking about their experience?
Our clients know how passionate we are about thinking through those details and making sure that we deliver a space for them that is equivalent to the experience they’re charging for. We are adamant about storytelling and ensuring everything we do, from the branding before arrival, the arrival experience. Then once you’re on sight, all of those have to work together and tell the same story. That story has to make you feel something amazing. No matter who the client is or what the price point is, our focus is always on making sure that our client and their consumers feel exactly the story we’re telling.
LA: When a customer comes with a project, what are the key first questions you will ask and what makes a great project?
CA: The first questions we ask are really trying to get inside their head to figure out their long-term vision and expectations. A lot of times, people fail because there are different interpretations of what you call success. If my version of success is reaching the number ten, and your version is reaching the number twelve, then there’s a huge disconnect of what we both feel is a success. In designing a project or developing something, I need to know where you are and exactly what your interpretation is of what your vision is supposed to be to make sure we can exceed those expectations.
I never want to assume what your goals are or your intent because that’s a recipe for disaster- what we think you want vs what you actually want are two different things. I used to say all the time hypothetically, someone would ask me to grab them a colour, and I would grab them the most beautiful red you could find. And I come back, and they look at me and go, “Yeah, that’s nice, but I really wanted blue.” And I say, “Well then, just tell me you want blue, don’t tell me you want a colour.” And I think in this situation, it’s my job to get inside my client’s head and really figure out what their expectations and visions are so we can come back and exceed what they were hoping to see.
LA: What is the project you are most proud of? And Why?
CA: I’m most proud of what our team has established within our organization. I say that it has nothing to do with me and has everything to do with them. Over the course of the past few years, the evolution of our brand- with everything that has occurred globally with the pandemic, with how the consumer is changing at a rapid rate, with the technology being introduced- the fact that our team continues to be so malleable and allows themselves to be fluid with every project we do as a brand by looking for new opportunities as we continue to evolve and change.
It has been so refreshing and humbling and exhilarating to watch our team grow and look for those opportunities to continue to evolve our brand. Literally, every single day is something new and exciting that they’re pushing the envelope on. For somebody who is leading the organization that can sit back like a proud parent as the team continues to flourish, there’s nothing better than watching them exceed expectations and push past goals they had for themselves and create things out of nothing that they didn’t see before. Giving them that whiteboard open palette to do what they do and be creative is amazing to watch and experience, and makes it very easy to get up every day and look forward to what’s to come.
LA: What kind of project you dream to have in the future?
CA: We are in the works right now in developing our own hotel brand that’s going to hopefully pretty soon launch and break ground. We couldn’t be more excited for that opportunity that we’re getting to do that. We believe that with everything inside of us, everything that we’ve been able to do and create for our clients, we’re now going to be able to do on another level, internally within our own team and continue to expand within the market and in that area. Launching this hotel is exciting. If there’s not an element of fear in what you’re doing as an entrepreneur, then you’re not pushing the envelope enough. So there’s a piece of it that always has you on the edge of making sure you’re always dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s to minimize your mistakes. It’s a big jump, and we’re super excited about all of that.
It’s crazy. We’ve had 20 years of opening hotels globally, being a part of the design process, and then operating, especially in the food and beverages space. This is our chance to basically take everything that we’ve learned- the good, the bad, and the ugly – and put it in one single project that we think is exactly where the luxury lifestyle is today and where it’s going. It’s fun right now, that’s for sure.
LA: Tell us something about yourself that not so many people know, and it would be worth mentioning?
CA: I grew up in the entertainment industry. That was my lifeblood and what I thought I always was going to do. I was on the music side. Up until my late teens, early 20s, that’s all I knew. When I transitioned into hospitality and design, I found the hospitality industry was the closest thing to the entertainment industry. You have your ultra-creative, and it’s a lot of showmanship. You’re on stage. If you’re a bartender, you’re literally a performer. You’re there to engage people and make them feel things and have them excited for their experience, and it’s really no different than being an artist on stage. Whether you’re having a good day or a bad day, you have to put on a show for those who are in your space. If you’re in the hotel business, it’s the same thing. You can’t take off good and bad days.
It was an effortless transition for me on the creative side. The same way you would write music or songs or whatever it be, you start to fall in love with that process long before anyone else gets to. In hospitality, creating concepts, designs, menus, it’s the same process. You start to fall in love with something during that creation phase before anyone else gets to see it or experience it. It’s been an exciting but easy transition going from one to the other.
LA: What can we wish you for in the future?
CA: I’m very grateful for any wishes thrown our way. I would say continued passion for what we do and the opportunities to let us do it. As long as we’re holding our end of the bargain, that’s all we can ask for. The opportunity that we’re about to embark on with this hotel development, that’s a big wish right there. People’s good wishes, feelings, and thoughts being pushed our way as we go through that process are welcomed, that’s for sure.
We wish Mr Adams all the best for the future and that his incoming projects continue to bring memorable moments to customers worldwide.
Information sourced by the author for luxuryactivist.com. All content is copyrighted with no reproduction rights available. Images are for illustration purposes only. Images are courtesy of the Ellis Adams Group.