Relais & Chateaux Interview: Philippe Gombert (March 2015)

Posted on: March 23rd, 2015 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood
Philippe Gombert

Philippe Gombert, President Relais & Chateaux


For people who don’t know please briefly explain what is Relais & Chateaux?

Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of more than 530 of the finest charming hotels and gourmet restaurants managed by a family of independent owners, innkeepers and chefs that has set the standard for excellence in hospitality since 1954.

Together they open up new horizons for upscale hospitality by focusing on distinctive and personal experiences through which our guests are invited to experience the fine ‘Art of Living’ on all five continents.

Through each individual property, Relais & Châteaux wishes to convey a message of preservation of nature and biodiversity, World Heritage of cuisine and customs and to share the beauty and unique offerings of the local terroirs with the greater world.

How were the (very well organized) series of 2014 60th birthday celebration events?

I kept in mind the fantastic “Relais & Châteaux Fellow Chefs’ Lunch” which took place in Vonnas on May and which gathered more than 60 Relais & Châteaux Chefs from 10 different countries. It was the perfect opportunity to meet with those who made and still make our Association: the historical members, our chefs.

In the US 30 unique dinners paired 30 national chefs and 30 other Relais & Châteaux Chefs from all over the world to celebrate the “arts de vivre” that has inspired Relais & Châteaux since its beginning, for example Claude Bosi cooked with William Bradley at Addison in San Diego.

How would you summarize your personal vision for Relais & Chateaux into 2015 and beyond?

60 years later, Relais & Châteaux continues to stand globally for contemporary values, the values of discreet luxury, an increasingly sought-after rarity: authenticity, charm, inspired cuisine, the opportunity to discover flavors from throughout the world, the unique character of our properties, an art of living shared by enthusiasts, personal commitment, the promise of dreams to appeal to all travelers.

Relais & Châteaux is now a movement, our vision, my vision for a fairer, healthier and happier world that the Relais & Châteaux family will serve as a catalyst and inspiration, making this world better through Cuisine, Hospitality and our relentless pursuit for “l’Art de vivre.”

What is the selection process for a Relais & Chateaux property (I understand you have access to a team of experienced Hotel & Restaurant inspectors)

All application file are reviewed by the Network Commission and one or more anonymous quality audits.

Then, an interview with the President to check the commitment of the owner and the soul of the property, but also to ensure that the candidate intends to comply with the values of Relais & Châteaux.

Finally, the Board of Directors decides on the admission or rejection of applications on the basis of the documents in the application file, the anonymous quality audit carried out and the interview with the President.

What are the dynamics of the customer market, any changing needs for you to highlight to your Association?

Traveler wants to keep a deep memory of his journey, to discover a destination, not only for its landscape, but also through its products & terroirs, to meet people who shares passion of their life. All senses are required, and only the Arts of living can bright the 5 in the same place. Here is our mission and our ambition.

What is Club 5C? And what role will it play into the future?

The Club 5C’s members are friends of Relais & Châteaux from all over the world. The club regularly gains new members thanks to several recruitment drives, promoted with the help of exclusive partnership programs. There are now more than 10,000 members.

The club’s activities consist of organizing social gatherings and invitations to exclusive events, If these contacts are willing they receive regular communication materials, which showcase Relais & Châteaux’s products (such as the “Routes du Bonheur”), news about the brand (launch of the guide), the special operations organized, the packages offered, Relais & Châteaux’s destinations, exclusive events for Club 5C, the corporate retreat offering and the gift packages.

What role does the web, social networking, apps and the likes of trip advisor play with Relais & Chateaux going forward?

All these new media, which are accessible to so many people, are only tools which allow us to better talk about our values, to better describe the experiences that we offer every day to our guests, by expressing the diversity, the richness and the commitment of all our members throughout the world.

In order to exist tomorrow, we need to succeed in implementing a genuine digital revolution.

Relais & Châteaux plans for this year are mainly focus on a new strategy for print and web to offer to our guests the best way to discover our philosophy and our members.

I see Taste Of The WorldThe Travel JournalThe Vision and Manifesto Document. How are these tools to be used?

Taste of the World book is “A world of tastes for you to enjoy”. It’s a true invitation to travel in inviting readers to savor a region sometimes unknown or an unexpected scenery. It is our guide, an invitation to travel.  This publication wants to give pleasure, enchant and let the soul of the Relais & Châteaux properties sing.

The Travel Journal 2015 is a supplement to the Taste of the World. This annual in pocket format presents the Relais & Châteaux Association and its topical news: the new members, Trophies etc.

Relais & Châteaux Vision is our manifesto for tomorrow, expresses who we are today and what we stand for. It is the commitment we make to live in a better world.

Are you enjoying the role? And good luck for the future from fine dining guide.

I’m very pleased to have been chosen to embody our family and our diversity. Today with the Vision we want to defend the uniqueness and richness of our different cultures through cuisine and hospitality. It is such an honor to be ambassador of trying to make a better world.