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Francesca Bortolotto Possati, the head of the luxurious Bauers Hotel Group in Venice, Italy is one of those women that some may consider a superhero. She has taken a familial hotel legacy to unimaginable lengths, she has raised two happy, successful children, and has maintained a level of privacy and dignity in her personal life that is often difficult to achieve. Francesca’s grandfather acquired the Bauers Hotel group in the 1930s, but it was Bortolotto Possati that bought out her family to execute her own vision and dream for the brand, creating some of the most significant hotels in Venice including Il Palazzo and L’Hotel on the Grand Canal and the Palladio Hotel & Spa and Villa F on the Giudecca. A Hotel Life gets the scoop on the Italian powerhouse and the present and future of her collection of pristine historic hotels.
What made you decide to take lead of the Bauers Hotel Group?
I was fortunate to have inherited the Bauers Hotel from my grandfather. The BAUER is one of the legendary Venetian hotels, and he was one of the most prominent entrepreneurs in Venice in the early 1900s. Therefore it was a tremendous honor for me to take on his legacy and bring the BAUER properties into the 21st century. During my childhood in Venice, the BAUER was my second home and my preparation for this role has been lifelong.
Hotel guests and professionals consistently rank your hotels among the best in the city, what do you consider to be the key to your success?
Success is a word I do not yet contemplate. Success is an every day job that requires consistency, maintains value, encourages people to follow rules, and promotes enthusiasm even for the small things. Success is experiencing pleasure every morning when you wake up and while you are tending to your business. I believe my greatest success is yet to come!
What do you believe is the most important quality a hotel should possess?
The fundamental characterizing difference between the BAUER properties and other luxury hotels in Venice is that it is personally owned and run. When dealing with such a specific and distinguished reality such as Venice, and when dealing with luxury in general, the character, the soul of space and a place is rooted in its history and the profound understanding of this makes a place special. We understand the relationship that runs between the city and the hotel, the understanding of what our clients may seek, and what we may offer. In consequence, all the details are chosen and placed with a special meaning and reason to be. The BAUER is a first step in revisiting a deeper way of living in Venice, taking a step back from the purely commercial tourist aspect that has in some ways, spoilt some of the magic of this very special place, making it more of an amusement park than a center of knowledge and history.
What have been your biggest challenges?
In today’s society, as far as the BAUER properties are concerned, human resources were probably the biggest challenge. Both in the upbringing and in the maintaining of qualified personnel, which will grow into the company, becoming a fundamental brick for constructing the future. It can take quite some time to find a professional team that knows how to work together and be respectful of everyone’s efforts and dedication, one that is focused on reaching the target and meeting deadlines. It is important to insist on the highest level of quality and to keep motivation high. This is probably a problem with deeper roots in the country’s system of hierarchy and approach towards the training of the newer generations and a sort of gap that has developed in between. Challenges are based on everyone’s efforts to meet goals and to achieve the most out of one’s commitments. In my particular case, I had an incredible asset, the BAUER Hotel. It was a “sleeping beauty” for many years, family assured, and very valuable to the history of Venice. It needed to be brought back to life. I was thrilled to take on this challenge. I became involved at the right time, with the necessary energy, motivation, and will. The family assets were passed to me from my grandfather. There had been nearly a 20-year gap when the hotel went without guidance or leadership. My mother never got involved in business and therefore the company was rather inert for a long time. In those days, a company could survive longer than it can today. Venice has been known throughout the centuries for its magnificent hotels and its superiority in the art of hospitality.
How is the hotel market in Venice different from other places in the world?
The difference in Venice today is that what works abroad often may not work here. Large, international hotel chains as well as smaller, standard properties will not maintain popularity in the long run in a unique city like Venice. You can accept a typical Venetian “locanda” (inn), but not a nondescript, mass-market hotel. I believe the BAUER represents this difference at the highest level.
You have two brilliant children that I have had the pleasure of meeting several times, do you think/hope either of them will get involved in the family business as you have?
It would be premature to forecast future generations results. I am always encouraging them to gain experience in many different fields in the eventuality to move back and make a choice.
You have been called “the best connected woman in town.” Tell us something about Venice that few people know.
There are a lot of worthwhile places to visit in Venice but the ones I would recommend are The St Mark’s Basilica with its many treasures, the Jewish Ghetto with 7 Synagogues Ca’ Rezzonico, Museum of 18th Century, Peggy Guggenheim Collectio with its mix of 20th century paintings and the civic museum, Museo Correr.
Living in Italy and having recently authored your own cookbook, how do you stay so thin?!
Healthy diet, regular exercise and a good sense of humor are the must ingredients to approach life.
If you weren’t involved in hotels what do you think you would have done?
My motto is: do what you like and like what you do!
What is your next project?
My main project now is concentrating on growing the BAUER’s collection of luxury hotels in a consistent manner. I am also strongly considering the possibility of expanding my concept of hospitality, both as a know-how of management high services as well as a designer. What I have created thus far could become history. On the other hand I hope that God may give me new strength to pursue new goals.
Of all your undeniable successes, what are you most proud of?
Even when the day is dark, the team needs a smiling and positive leader. If things get tough and odds are against you, try to find a single reason to think positively. Your positive and effective approach cannot change the past, but can improve the future by helping you learn from mistakes and experience. In this way you can get your team back on track with fresh motivation.
Who do you admire most in the hotel industry?
The Taj Group, Adrian Zeecha of Aman Resort, Robert Burns who started The Four Season Hotels.
What inspires you most?
I believe that inspiration is very much alive and constantly evolving in our lives and creativity is inspired by a mix of deep-rooted heritage and past experiences, reinforced by unexpected and seductive happenings and encounters. We are all proceeding on to a path that is continuously improving in order to reach an ideal vision. My strongest inspiration is actually based on how I feel when I first enter a new space or a new building - reaching for the perfect aura and true identity is what I am mostly interested in achieving. This is the start and from that moment on, I slowly conceive the final result. Changes should be proactive in order to escape repetition. It goes without saying that growing up in Venice has taught me to reach further and sometimes be provocative without being too transgressive. Venice provides the perfect crossroad of past and future in a most innovative way. I have been seduced by the place from birth and feel an unconditional love that forces me to involve all energies in sustaining the enchanting city. Every year, it is threatened by the gradual sinking of its islands. So, along with like–minded Venetian friends, I have become an entrepreneurial ambassador, fighting for cultural and sustainability projects.
What’s your favorite hotel amenity?
Eco-friendly amenities or any products that respect the environment plus a touch of fun, a touch of chic, and a touch of pleasure!
What is your favorite hotel in the world (other than your own)?
I have many favorite hotels, it depends on the occasion. I am also ready to discover new ones.
What should our readers know about you and your hotels that I have not asked here?
I do not do business lunches. It is awkward to be sharing a meal with somebody while you are discussing business.