At first glance, actress Brie Larson and Faena Hotel Miami Beach don’t appear to have much in common. But dig into the credits a little deeper and you learn that these two have accomplished a feat in their respective fields that most never have — win their industry’s top prize the very first time they were nominated.
Much like Larson’s “Best Actress” Oscar nod last year in Room, the elegant, 169-room Miami hotel impressively took home the coveted Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award on February 22 after only opening to the public in December 2015. Now, that’s a fairytale that not even the top Hollywood screenwriter could have penned any better.
Speaking of Tinseltown, many of those who know Faena Hotel Miami Beach do so because of the marquee names attached to the project. Visionary movie director Baz Luhrmann and his wife, four-time Academy Award winner Catherine Martin, collaborated with real estate developer Alan Faena and his business partner Len Blavatnik — the same duo behind Four-Star Faena Hotel Buenos Aires — to help Faena’s colorful idea of reviving Miami’s glamour days come to life. (The hotel is merely a part of the larger, $1.2 billion Faena District utopia.) The finished resort, this display of red-and-white patterns, bold furnishings and thorough service, is a theatrical production worthy of the ovations it his garnered thus far.
General manager Nicole Sinclair is the show’s director. She puts players in the right position every day, ensuring that guests’ experiences are nothing short of magical. Between recent takes, we spoke to Sinclair about what it’s like to work in such a spirited environment. Of course, she had nothing but kind words for her supporting cast. But Sinclair also talked about the hotel’s arduous hiring process and its keys to consistency.
No one knows how the future will play out, but if Faena Hotel Miami Beach can deliver a Five-Star performance in its debut year, we can’t help but get excited for what’s to come in the sequel.
You are making your debut in Forbes Travel Guide’s ratings as a Five-Star property. How does that feel?
I think it’s one of the most momentous and amazing feelings that I have ever had in my career. It brought such pride to all of us. I think knowing how important Forbes is to the hotel community and how well respected that it is in the world hotel community [means a lot].
But for us being an independent hotel, and for us to earn that honor in our first year, it honestly brought tears to a lot of our eyes. It’s a lot of hard work and it feels wonderful to get that recognition.
General managers often say that success starts and ends with the staff. How have you all been able to hire so many of the right people?
I would definitely agree with everyone that you’ve spoken to that it does begin and end with the team. I think, for us, we knew that the most critical component in being able to deliver a fine experience was finding the right people to bring that to life.
For us, I would say that we first laid that groundwork of what the employee culture was going to be years before we ever started to recruit. We created that environment that would celebrate employees’ individuality and give them the opportunity to reach their potential.
We found those wonderful gems around the world who wanted to be a part of shaping a new style of luxury hospitality. We looked locally, nationally and internationally. It took us three years to put together the team that we have today.
You just used the term “luxury hospitality.” How would you define that?
For us, what are guests are looking for is an immersive experience. There are some spectacular hotels built around the world that have been standing for generations. For us, it means they’re looking to get away from it all and immerse themselves in something different. They want to be taken care of.
To have that emotional connection, whether it’s with a team member or some of the design elements around the hotel, giving that emotional connection and giving it in a way that’s easy for them [to recognize]. Travelers, be it for business or for leisure, are looking for it to be consistent and easy.
Is this consistency and ease what separates you from other properties in South Florida?
I think that it does. I think we’re looking to create unique and special moments for our guests, for example, for our beach experience at Faena Beach Club, we clean guests’ feet with [water in] a red teapot so your beach chair doesn’t get all sandy.
I think those small details that are unexpected do set us apart. I think a lot of what we’ve gotten from our Forbes Travel Guide partnership is listening and looking for those cues. And hiring people who, in their heart of hearts, like to serve people, please others and go above and beyond to make sure they leave with that feeling that it was a little bit different.
What are going to be some of the biggest challenges to ensure you remain a Five-Star next year?
It’s going to be consistency. I think it really taps into the human element and making sure that our training and onboarding is consistent and thoughtful and that we listen to our guests and turn that into action for them. No matter what level of hotel you’re talking about, that’s really what the customers are looking for.
When travelers checkout after a stay at Faena Hotel Miami Beach, what do you want them to say about your property?
I want them to say that we had the most genuinely helpful team that you’ve ever met anywhere in the world. [I want them] to say that the culinary experience was spectacular. [I want them] to say they were able to listen to live music in our Living Room every night of the week with dancing [that harks] back to that glamorous heyday of Miami Beach.
[I want them] to get to see a show in our theater, Faena Theater, which is based on the grand opera houses of Europe. We’ve hosted concerts from Bon Jovi all the way down to our very own cabaret and dinner show called C’est Rouge! I think that you will leave with that feeling that you were able to have so many different experiences all under one roof.
And you recently hosted Madonna, correct?
We did, at the Faena Forum, which is our arts and cultural center. In December, she hosted her Raising Malawi fundraiser, which was just amazing. She raised almost $2 million for her foundation. It was a great way to christen the opening of our arts center. It was a thrill for all of our team and the city of Miami.
This week, we revealed our 2017 Forbes Travel Guide Star Ratings. Click here to see the complete list of winners.