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As a Glion alumnus, Pascal Camia was delighted come back to campus to share his wisdom with our current students – and to tap into their ideas.

For the second in our series of guest lectures delivered by leading lights in the industry, Bachelor’s in Luxury Business students got a taste of the high-rolling life and a test of their entrepreneurial skills.

Chief International Development Officer (CIDO) at SBM (Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer) Pascal Camia took time out of his busy schedule to speak to BBA1 students in an hour-long session, during which he shared his experiences of hospitality and gaming gathered from a long, illustrious career in the Principality of Monaco.

SBM is the oldest operator of luxury properties in Monaco, with a portfolio including the Casino de Monte-Carlo, Hotel de Paris (where our first profiled guest lecturer, Olivier Thomas, is General Manager), Hotel Hermitage and more. A former Glion student himself, Pascal had already welcomed our students to some of those locations in Monaco for internships. Now he made the opposite journey to campus for his guest lecture.

From the students’ perspective, interaction with top professionals such as Pascal gives them practical insights and provides them with a platform to start building their professional connections. These lectures are designed to bridge the gap between students’ academic knowledge and the realities of the business world. They’re also intended to motivate and inspire students and – particularly on this occasion – challenge them to put what they have learned to the test.

Courchevel challenge

The primary objective of this guest lecture was to showcase how the internationalization of a brand happens and the kind of strategy a ‘heritage’ brand such as SBM can employ to that end. And in a departure from the standard guest lecture assignment, Pascal decided he would set students a task related to this theme. The idea was based on SBM’s purchase last year of the ‘Palace des Neiges’ in Courchevel 1850.

“We also want these lectures to help improve students’ transferable skills,” explains Joseph Karam, Associate Dean of the Bachelor’s in Luxury Business. “The challenge set by Pascal this time was a great way of developing their confidence and their ability to present their ideas in public.”

Acutely aware of the quality of Glion students and their enterprising outlook, Pascal took the opportunity afforded by the lecture to invite them to share ideas on how to differentiate his company’s new property from the surrounding competition.

“The main age group our brand interacts with is 40 to 60-year-olds. Our goal is to rejuvenate our brands, broaden their appeal to younger audiences and to target what the new generation wants. So I was particularly interested in getting Glion students’ perspectives on our business challenge in this exercise.”

Pascal Camia

“The main age group our brand interacts with is 40 to 60-year-olds,” he noted. “Our goal is to rejuvenate our brands, broaden their appeal to younger audiences and to target what the new generation wants. So I was particularly interested in getting Glion students’ perspectives on our business challenge in this exercise.”

Early career

Before presenting their ideas, students got to hear from Pascal about his time at Glion and his subsequent career in hospitality. They also learned about the history of SBM and the properties it manages in Monaco and elsewhere.

“I attended Glion in 1990 and chose the school because there was a short-term program of just nine months,” said Pascal. “I already had a Master’s in economics, so I didn’t want to spend another five or six semesters in education.

After graduation, Pascal became Food & Beverage Director at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, then Director of the Sporting Monte Carlo entertainment complex. Following that, he was Deputy General Manager in the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel before taking the position of General Manager at the Hotel Hermitage (pictured below), one of the leading hotels in Monaco and, indeed, the world.

Hotel Hermitage was a prestigious stopping point in Pascal Camia’s hospitality career.

“Then, after around four years there, the Chairman asked me to become Executive Vice-President of the group’s gaming activity with a goal of bringing it back into a growth phase,” he added. “While I didn’t know much about that side of the business because of my hotelier background, I thought I could transfer across some of my sales and marketing experience and my management skills from hotels.”

A global focus

Having then become SBM’s CIDO, Pascal’s initial goal was to export the group’s iconic brands such as Hotel de Paris, Hotel Hermitage and Casino de Monte-Carlo.

“This was not as easy as it sounds,” he told the students. “There are thousands of ‘Hotels de Paris’ around the world, so it’s quite a difficult brand to protect because it’s such a common name. What we do have in our favor is luxury and an acute understanding of what luxury customers want. And that’s emotion, inspiration and unforgettable experiences.”

Today in his role as CIDO, Pascal is continuing his efforts to reach new audiences for these premium brands around the world.

“Part of my remit is to find other growth areas,” he said. “Staying in the comfort of our two square kilometers in Monaco would make that difficult, so we have to focus more on what the contemporary world wants and needs.

“We’re targeting the destinations where our clients want to stay and where our brand fits. That’s why we have acquired the property in Courchevel despite there being a lot of competition in that resort. We see it as a place that not only complements our brand identity but also aligns with the desires and needs of the new audiences we want to attract.”

Concentrating on the customer

While strategic investment and the strength of brands clearly have a large role to play in the SBM group’s success, the biggest factor for Pascal is prioritizing customers.

“When you are working in the luxury industry, whether as in my case it’s in a casino or in hotels, the priority has to be the customer and their journey, which needs to be seamless,” he added.

“There can be a barrier between guests staying in our hotels and the casino, so you need to work hard to remove these and make sure customers can move easily between the two.

The casino is perhaps the most famous of all SBM’s operating assets.

“I had the opportunity to visit Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas for a few days and got to see every division of the casino. I came back with many best practices and tips about customer experience to take into our business; one of which was paying the jackpot without making the winner collect it from the cashier. We now bring their winnings to them so their customer experience is better.”

If there is one piece of advice Pascal has for students considering a career in the luxury industry, it is to keep customer focus at the top of their agenda.

“Anyone attracted by the prospect of working in the luxury industry has to realize they also have to work on themselves,” he told his audience. “In particular, that means improving their powers of empathy so they can always be putting their guests first.

“The thing that separates a luxury hotel from a very good one is the ability to inspire and deliver unforgettable experiences and you can only do that by having a deep understanding of what a guest needs.”

Photo credits

Hotel Hermitage – SBM
Casino Monte-Carlo – Arsi Sébastien/SBM

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