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Modern Hotel Mavens: a focus on women in hospitality

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Once considered an ol’ boys club rife with suits and cigars, the modern hospitality landscape has opened wide to reveal a cast of strong women with big ideas.
Of course they were there all along, but no doubt there’s a movement taking place of visionary women leading the charge in innovative design and holistic hospitality concepts. Design Hotels™ has long championed the pioneers of these industries – the Originals and out-of-the-box thinkers who are changing the way we think about travel as a whole. And with the continued rise of women in leadership roles, as hoteliers, and as creative forces, Design Hotels™ celebrates three leading ladies within its own portfolio. From Melanie Hall’s inter-disciplinary design background that led her to Bali, Alexandra Efstathiadou’s ambition to save her childhood paradise in Greece, to Melissa Oliveira’s role as an ambassador for tourism in Brazil, learn about the paths that put these women on top of their game.

The Consummate Cosmopolitan
Melanie Hall, Founder and Designer, Luna2 private hotel and Luna2 studiotel, Bali, Indonesia
Having designed every aspect of Luna2 private hotel and Luna2 studiotel (right down to the furniture, carpets, interiors and the architecture of the latter property), Melanie Hall’s singular vision was born from the desire to create a one-of-a-kind experience, putting service and design at the forefront. With credentials gleaned from an international fashion background and from working extensively with Asian furnishing manufacturers, Hall’s signature style of “FUNked-up modernism” has come to represent a bold departure from the traditional Balinese experience.
Seeing a clear gap in the Asian market for high-end, avant-garde hotels with the height of personalized service, Hall created Luna2 private hotel in 2007, followed by Luna2 studiotel in 2013. Whimsically referencing modernism and 60’s pop art, the two properties reflect Hall’s expert eye for mixing colors, pattern, and textiles. “Our aim is to deliver a cosmic guest experience,” Hall says of her inspiration.
Hall got her start in London at Harrods and then moved on to become Polo Ralph Lauren’s Head of Visual Merchandising in the UK, before taking over as Calvin Klein’s Head of Creative for Asia Pacific in Hong Kong. She later relocated to Jakarta and started her own interior company, working alongside several of the country’s top architects, before launching Luna2 in Bali, and eventually going on to take the architectural reigns of Luna2 studiotel. With an affinity for fusing nostalgia, futurism, and a touch of humor, Hall’s unique design stamp can best be summarized by her ideology of “respecting the past, welcoming the future and having fun in the process.”

The Realized Dreamer
Alexandra Efstathiadou, Owner, Ekies All Senses Resort, Halkidiki, Greece
With little formal training in the traditional sense, the owner and Original behind Ekies All Senses Resort (recently voted one of Europe’s top 100 hotels by the German travel magazine GEO Saison), wove a passion for hospitality with a childhood dream to save a place where she had spent much of her youth. Without the conscious intention to enter the hospitality industry, it wasn’t until Efstathiadou had a business plan and a marketing strategy that she realized she had done so. After nine years of working with architects and interior designers, Efstathiadou had transformed her vision into a showpiece for her country’s culture, presenting Greece modernly through design and textiles.
As with life, the young hotelier sees her labor of love as an ongoing project. “You try things, some work, others don’t. You learn, adapt, and carry on,” says Efstathiadou of the process. Agreeing that formal training can help you prepare, she emphasizes that nothing beats the reality of an operational business. And for this, passion and intuition are the essential ingredients. “There’s probably no better way for me to put it: my motivations and challenges are the same thing – to be authentic in whatever we do.”

An Academic Approach
Melissa Oliveira, General Manager, Hotel Unique, São Paulo, Brazil
Seemingly born and bred for the hospitality industry, Melissa Oliveira pursued her passion early on. With an international education in hotel management, Oliveira began studying the profession when it was still relatively unknown in her native country of Brazil. Driven by a dream to engage with service professionals, learn languages and interact on a global level, Oliveira has seen the industry change since she entered it. “Women have gained momentum in this field,” says Olivera. “We still see more men in management positions, but this is changing.”
As the General Manager of Hotel Unique and part of the team since it was just a dream on paper, Oliveira embodies the youthful and dynamic spirit of the 95-room hotel. After years spent abroad honing her craft, Oliveira returned to her hometown of São Paulo in 2002 for the opening of Hotel Unique. Initially brought on board as the Food and Beverage Manager (and later made GM), she implemented the hotel’s entire culinary concept. As the president of the Brazilian Luxury Travel Association since 2011, Oliveira extends her reach beyond the hotel’s walls, promoting authentic and sophisticated Brazilian travel experiences to the international market. Taking it one step further, Oliveira found that her years providing city tips afforded her an insider knowledge that she translated into her popular blog melfernandes.com.br.

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