After acquiring three hotels in Wengen, Switzerland, in February, Challes-les-Eaux, France-based Beaumier appears to be hitting its stride under the ownership of KSL Capital Partners.
The three hotels are located in the center of the village with ski-in, ski-out capabilities and incredible views to the Jungfrau and the Lauterbrunnen-valley.
The deal marks the first purchase for Beaumier (formerly known as Les Hotels d’en Haut) outside of France and reflects the group’s desire to acquire high-quality assets across premier seasonal European leisure destinations. The pre-existing portfolio is already made up of eight hotels spread across France in the French Alps, Provence and the Côte d’Azur.
Beaumier CEO Eric Dardé says the mission today is to first grow to 15 to 20 hotels. “We moved out from France, and this is a big thing we’re very excited about,” Dardé said. “We will extend into Italy, Spain, Portugal, United Kingdom through acquisitions.”
Dardé said Beaumier would like to find a few new deals a year and having KSL as an owner gives his group an edge. “We can be quicker than many of our competitors – we have the capital,” he said. “Also, sellers here want to understand who they are working with, and people trust us. They can see the sum total years we have been doing this and how we care about the hotels. The strength we have is who we are.”
Another portfolio acquisition similar to the Wengen deal is possible, as well, Dardé added. In the meantime, it will focus on making a sizable investment to reposition the new assets from 3-star to 5-star.
Getting his groove back
That level of comfort wasn’t always there for Dardé, who spent many years with Accor and fell out of love with his work when he moved away from operations. So, he made a career change and began with Les Hotels d’en Haut when it had but one hotel. With an entrepreneurial mindset, the group grew to eight properties and Dardé said he found his passion for hospitality once again.
When KSL bought the group in 2019, Dardé, a bit reluctantly at first, decided to stay on and came to realize they were the right sponsor for the group. “They have an entrepreneurial mindset, and they know about leisure and tourism,” Dardé said. “They are really open minded. So, it makes my life very easy. And then, they have a lot of capital.”
Growth aside, Dardé is back operating hotels and doing so at a time of great challenge. Business has been up and down through the past winter and early spring, but if the rebound continues and COVID is kept at bay, summer business looks outstanding with occupancies that were projected to top 80% as the portfolio attracts business from its core markets of France, U.K., U.S. and Benelux. “We have twice more bookings [for summer] than we’ve had. People want to travel; they want a break.”
Fortunately, the Beaumier portfolio, which has an average rate of e650 across the portfolio, is set up to meet evolving demand attached to beautiful natural environments where guests can reconnect with themselves, family and friends. “When you come to us in Provence, you will discover Provence,” Dardé explained. “We only work with local producers, local architects to reflect the location.”
To take it a step further and keeping with trends and guest expectations, the Beaumier portfolio places great emphasis on truly connecting with its communities. “We are an integral part of the life of our small villages and the goal for us is for guest to simply have a good time, just relax, breathe, do some sport, and eat well.”
When asked about his biggest challenge, like so many others Dardé referenced labor. He said issues revolve around housing [the portfolio is predominantly seasonal] and lifestyle. “We have a duty to rethink how we make our industry attractive because in 30 year I’ve been working I don’t think the industry has looked after people very well,” he said. “Our people are looking at life differently than people like me 10-20 years ago… Money is not just the answer. People want a better lifestyle, flexibility and to be better appreciated… They want to share our values and share the way we look at the world.”
While the challenges remain, Dardé is refreshed and an eternal optimistic. “I wake up in the morning and my future is bright – whatever the challenges in front of us.”
Most importantly, he wants to make the vision written for Beaumier – from a teaching perspective, from a responsibility perspective – is realized. “And I want my guests to be refreshed when they leave, and my local communities cared for.”