Leaders in Luxury: Horst Schulze

For Horst Schulze, president and CEO of West Paces Hotel Group, the parent company of Capella Hotels and Resorts, travel is more than a luxury— it is a necessity. “Luxury is anything that you don’t need,” says the renowned hotelier. “We need travel in order to sustain ourselves as human beings,” he says. “Besides work and our day-to-day routines, we need something else in our lives.”


After building his reputation with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Horst Schulze founded Capella Hotels and Resorts

Schulze, our Leaders in Luxury honoree in the Hotels category, made his name at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, where he served as vice chairman from 2001 to 2002, after serving as president and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Group starting in 1988.

The luxury market has been Schulze’s special niche, and he is continuing that with the high-end Capella properties. Capella offers the unique benefits of the finest boutique hotels, including superb architecture and interior design, privacy, individualized service and attention to detail—combined with the amenities of the world’s great luxury hotels and resorts. Since the opening of its first property in May 2007—Schloss Velden, a Capella Hotel, in Velden, Austria— Schulze and company have opened the Briedenbacher Hof in Germany and in December will open the Capella Ixtapa in Mexico. Properties in Telluride, CO, Cabo San Lucas, the Riviera Maya, Singapore and Ireland’s Beara Peninsula are scheduled to open in 2009.

Schulze notes that even in this economy, there is a need for high-end resort travel. “People are willing to spend more money on a sure thing,” he says. “They don’t want to waste their money on a risky vacation. Too many people call themselves ‘luxury’ these days.”

In a difficult economy, Schulze acknowledges that strategies have to be changed, “but objectives, motives and values do not change; the objective of creating excellence does not change.”

A Tradition of High Standards

At Ritz-Carlton, under Schulze’s leadership, the Group was awarded the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in both 1992 and 1999—the first and only hotel company to win even one such award. In addition, Ritz-Carlton was continuously voted “best hotel company in the world” by trade publications.

Upon joining Ritz-Carlton as a charter member and vice president of operations in 1983, Schulze created the operating and service standards that have become world-famous. He was appointed executive vice president in 1987, and president and COO in 1988. When he left to form the West Paces Hotel Group, he was responsible for the $2 billion Ritz-Carlton operations worldwide.

Prior to his long tenure with Ritz-Carlton, Schulze spent nine years with Hyatt Hotels Corp., where he was a hotel general manager, regional vice president and corporate vice president. Before that, he worked for Hilton Hotels.

Schulze defines luxury as being “defect-free.” “A luxury vacation,” he says, “is one in which everything works.”

“Service is critical,” he asserts. “It must be individualized and excellent. You are creating something exceptional for customers, and it is critical to gear everything around the individual. While guests are seeking all of the amenities of a big resort, they also want that individualization and privacy.”

In addition, he notes, “it’s important for the hotel to connect the guest to the destination. The hotel should consider itself the expert on the destination.

“Luxury needs to be reliable,” Schulze adds. “The customer must be able to count on the company’s name.” Without a doubt, Capella Hotels and Resorts, under Horst Schulze’s guidance, is a company that travelers can rely on.


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