Get ready to be inspired by this exclusive interview with Erik Ussene, the visionary CEO of São Vicente – Alfama Hotel! We’re excited to dive deep into Erik’s background, explore his innovative approach to hospitality, and gain valuable insights into the industry. Prepare to be wowed by Erik’s passion and expertise in creating a truly exceptional hotel that perfectly captures the essence of its surroundings.
LLA: As the CEO of São Vicente – Alfama Hotel, can you tell us about your journey and how you came to be in this position?
EU: First of all, let me begin by saying that it is an honor for TRIUS Hotels to be recognized by LLA with this prestigious award. This recognition validates our efforts and serves as motivation for the future.
TRIUS Hotels was established in 2018 as a result of a family-owned hotel business and the determination of the younger generation to professionalize and expand this sector of the family enterprise.
We, the younger generation, can confidently say that we practically grew up in our family’s hotels, gaining an innate understanding of the ins and outs of the hospitality business from a young age. This upbringing naturally led us to pursue studies in hospitality and return home, not as mere observers, but as active managers of the hotels.
São Vicente Alfama by TRIUS Hotels is a culmination of our knowledge and insights into the evolving trends in the hospitality industry.
LLA: São Vicente – Alfama Hotel has been recognized as the Best Luxury Boutique Hotel in Lisbon by the Luxury Lifestyle Awards. What do you think sets your hotel apart from others in the industry?
EU: Nowadays, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish ourselves from other players in the industry. This is especially true in Lisbon, Portugal, where there has been a significant surge in tourism, accompanied by a new concept of luxury for the most discerning customers.
Fortunately, at São Vicente Alfama Hotel, we have the privilege of being located in the heart of Lisbon’s Alfama neighborhood. We understood that these discerning customers desired an authentic local experience while still having an “oasis” to return to at the end of the day.
Our focus has been on providing extreme comfort through our top-notch amenities and delivering excellent service. We strive to ensure that you have nothing to worry about except enjoying the best city in the world, as recognized by numerous awards.
LLA: With the hotel’s focus on capturing the essence of the city’s vibrant culture and rich history, how do you balance traditional architecture and modern amenities to create a unique and unforgettable experience for your guests?
EU: That balance was a crucial aspect during the development of this project.
Our building, formerly known as the Ricardo Espirito Santo Silva’s Institute for Arts & Crafts, holds great significance.
We placed a strong emphasis on utilizing top-quality materials sourced from skilled professionals, primarily from factories in the northern region of Portugal, known for their world-class production and artisans. Our aim was to capture the essence of the city, evident in the hand-made local tiles that adorn our rooms, complemented by bathroom amenities from a Lisbon-based company with a century-long legacy. Furthermore, we proudly showcase a life-sized, hand-crafted statue of São Vicente, Lisbon’s patron saint, in the lobby.
All of these elements were meticulously balanced with exceptionally comfortable rooms that are larger than the average size and equipped with the latest in technology.
LLA: São Vicente – Alfama Hotel places a strong emphasis on wellness and balance. Can you tell us about the hotel’s approach to wellness and how it is integrated into the guest experience?
EU: Wellness played a crucial role in this project, but not in the conventional sense. It focused on the well-being aspect, emphasizing the significance of small yet impactful details. For instance, we always welcome our guests in the lobby with a freshly baked homemade cake or biscuits, complemented by Portuguese sparkling wine or Port wine.
Once you step into our rooms, you will discover an array of ingredients and instructions to create delightful cocktails from scratch. Furthermore, our Wellhouse offers a cozy fireplace during the winter months, where you can unwind and savor a glass of Port Wine at the end of your day.
There are many more surprises in store for our future guests, which I prefer to keep undisclosed, allowing them to experience and uncover them firsthand.
LLA: P.TISCO Food & Wine offers a unique dining experience with a focus on locally-sourced products and traditional Portuguese cuisine. What inspired the concept of the restaurant, and how has it been received by guests?
EU: We wanted to pay homage to the rich traditions of the city, especially the Alfama neighborhood. That’s why we chose to offer “petiscos,” which are small portion dishes meant to be shared. Our goal is to provide our guests with the opportunity to savor multiple dishes in our hidden terrace, tucked away from the hustle and bustle. To enhance the experience, we’ve carefully curated a selection of exquisite Portuguese wines that perfectly complement our menu.The response from our guests has been overwhelmingly positive, as our “petiscos” concept is ideal for any time of the day.
LLA: As a boutique hotel, São Vicente – Alfama Hotel offers a more personalized and intimate experience for guests. How do you ensure that each guest receives the attention and care they deserve during their stay?
EU: We have aligned the well-being aspect of your stay with exceptional care and attention to your different needs. It all begins with the check-in experience, where there is no “express” service offered here.
Upon arrival, you will be warmly greeted by one of our staff members who will guide you through the check-in process. As a part of our unique approach, we invite you to indulge in a glass of champagne or Port wine while engaging in a pleasant conversation. This serves as an opportunity for us to understand your specific requirements and travel plans, enabling us to recommend and even book various activities, local workshops, art experiences, gastronomic adventures, and much more.
By gathering this information, we gain valuable insights into the type of guest you are, allowing us to tailor our services to your individual needs.
LLA: Sustainability and eco-friendliness are becoming increasingly important in the hospitality industry. How does São Vicente – Alfama Hotel approach sustainability, and what steps have you taken to reduce your environmental impact?
EU: This project involves the reconversion of a historic building, where preserving its identity was paramount. However, we also prioritized the implementation of sustainable and eco-friendly systems, materials, and technology.
One notable example is our approach to minimizing food waste through our A La Carte breakfast system. Not only is it environmentally friendly, but it also ensures that our guests receive top-quality products and freshly made-to-order service.
In terms of technology, we have introduced a new lock system that allows guests to indicate their preference for privacy or room service through a panel in the room. This eliminates the need for paper usage or door hangers.
By incorporating sustainable practices into our products, establishing partnerships with local suppliers, implementing efficient water heating systems, and managing waste effectively, we are committed to both the environment and providing an exceptional experience for our guests. It truly is a win-win situation!
LLA: Finally, what do you see as the future of luxury hospitality, and how is São Vicente – Alfama Hotel adapting to meet the changing needs and expectations of guests?
EK: We envision the future of luxury hospitality to revolve primarily around personalized one-on-one guest service, technology, comfort, and sustainability. In a city like Lisbon, where space for new players in the market is extremely limited and new projects have fewer rooms, common areas, and service facilities, our focus will be on maximizing the time our guests spend with us and catering to their every need. We will utilize technology not to create distance, but to enhance our guests’ comfort during their stay.
Sustainability is not only reflected in the products we use but also in the services we offer. We forge partnerships with local small businesses and services, providing them with the opportunity to grow alongside the guests we bring into their neighborhoods. This ensures our guests have an authentic local experience with genuine local individuals, the finest products, and personalized service.
For us, this is the future of luxury hospitality, and we have dedicated ourselves to this vision from the outset of this remarkable project. We eagerly await your arrival to experience it firsthand, and we are confident that you will not be disappointed!