AHL INSIDER

Aurélie Ponce

General Manager at Maison Villeroy

Aurélie Ponce

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We had the pleasure of catching up with Aurélie Ponce, General manager at Maison Villeroy, about her career, love for hospitality, the changes she saw in the industry, and her advice to the next generation of hoteliers.

With a career spanning two decades, Aurélie had served her dues in Paris’ most prestigious Hotels, the Ritz Paris– where she trained then was hired permanently and at the iconic Hotel de Crillon– as the director of F&B, lastly her tenure at Maison Villeroy, a private mansion nestled on a residential street in Paris’ sought after ‘Golden Triangle.’ The property houses a private members club, Michelin-star restaurant Trente-trois by chef Sébastien Sanjou, the charming Bar Jean Goujon, a spa, discreet apartments, and guest rooms.  

“I come from the South of France, where conviviality and family are the foundations and core values– My Mediterranean roots are essential to my personality. I need to talk with people, discover things, move, and reunite people!” Aurélie reflects on her passion for hospitality. 

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Aurélie, would you please tell us what you do and how you got here?

As a General Manager, the first mission is to create the strongest team and run the hotel as best we can — guest satisfaction is the key, but employee fulfillment is also an important goal. My role is to organize the operations and inspire the team to allow them to give the best service to the guest. As we say in French, it’s the role of “Maitresse de Maison,” someone who welcomes guests into her house as if it was mine to make them feel at home as well.

In 2006, I obtained a master’s degree in hospitality management, and my last training period was at the Ritz Paris, where I had the chance to be hired directly. I stayed there for more than 10 years before it closed for renovations and when it reopened. From intern to F&B assistant at the Ritz Paris, I discovered the world of luxury hospitality and fell in love with Paris. After that, I joined Hotel de Crillon as F&B director for more than 3 years, and it was a fantastic experience with nice projects and an amazing team. I left to run a hotel in the South of France where I only stayed for one season, I missed Paris so much, and now I’m back since November to Maison Villeroy, a luxury hotel, a real hidden gem in the center of Paris.

Why do you love your job?

In hospitality, we are generally passionate about our job; this is why it’s exciting, and we are lucky to meet people from all over the world. To organize unique and memorable events, talk with guests from varied backgrounds– and share human experiences with our teams– they are part of our life, considering the time we spend with them!

And mainly because we are in exceptional environments, decorations, luxury, and beauty are everywhere, which is very inspiring. 

Where did you get your sense of hospitality?

I think that my love for restaurants and travel is the first argument. I like trying new places, new concepts, and trends! Also, I come from the South of France, where conviviality and family are the foundations and core values — My Mediterranean roots are essential to my personality. I need to talk with people, discover things, move, and reunite people! 

Maison Villeroy's entrance in Paris' 8th arrondissement
Maison Villeroy's entrance in Paris' 8th arrondissement

What main differences do you see in hospitality today compared to when you started?

More and more luxurious places are opening around the world, and more and more guests are demanding and want to travel and spend more and more money on good things. However, the major difference is the “post covid” generation and way of thinking; We are facing new challenges with recruitment in our industry. People discovered a new life during the lockdown, and it’s quite hard to return to the former life! But we still hope that the world will return to normal one day, even if we need to keep in mind that some improvements need to be made regarding working conditions in the hospitality industry.

In which ways is technology helping you do your magic?

Thanks to technology, we can better prepare for the stay of our guests; we can remember their habits, set up what they like most, surprise them and facilitate all the administrative parts, and put them directly into their stay without wasting too much time.

The stunning stairway at Maison Villeroy
The stunning stairway at Maison Villeroy

If you could give hotel guests one piece of advice for their stay — and for life — what would it be?

Give the most helpful information to the hotel before your arrival to be sure they know you well and to be recognized — this is often the key to enjoying your stay somewhere. Feel recognized and allow them to anticipate a lot of things! And discuss with staff about their life in the city or place you stay. You will sometimes discover unexpected tips and local secrets instead of tourist places.

The most unexpected thing that ever happened to you at work?

There were many beautiful and crazy souvenirs in places such as the Ritz Paris, Hotel de Crillon, or Maison Villeroy… Crazy guest requests are tricky situations when two guests can’t see each other because the husband is here with someone else and the wife is on the way…

Women are still not as present as men in leadership roles in hospitality. What advice would you give to other women out there who may want to start this career today?

Absolutely no advice except to be yourself, be fair, be competent, and never think that you are less important than anyone else, man or woman!

Check out Maison Villeroy’s review by Emilie Fouilloux here

Bar Jean Goujon at Maison Villeroy
Bar Jean Goujon at Maison Villeroy
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