Meet the Owners: Gianmario Russo of Bellevue Syrene, Sorrento, Italy

Nathalie Salas Nathalie Salas Uploaded

The Russo family of hotel entrepreneurs goes back three generations, to the time when Sorrento was still a relatively undiscovered travel destination.

Gianmario Russo, along with his family own and manage three luxury hotels, which include the Bellevue Syrene in Sorrento, Ville Treville in Positano, and also the Hilton Sorrento Palace, which has one of the largest convention centres in the South of Italy.  Their inbound travel agency, Russo Travel, also focuses very strongly in the MICE segment.

The UK market is a very attractive and profitable segment for your hotels. How have you managed to sustain its popularity?
Back in the 1970s, my father was one of the first Italian hotel owners to come to London and forge collaborations with UK travel agencies. None of the hotels that we owned at the time had swimming pools, but it was a required amenity if British travellers were going to be attracted to Sorrento as a travel destination.  Of course this would never happen today, but the travel agencies effectively became investors and paid us to have a swimming pool built.

It's now been over 30 years that you have had business relations with the UK travel industry. What knowledge has your family business developed from this?
Being one of the first to enter the UK market allowed us to create Russo Travel around the same time in the 1970s.  Our knowledge helped us to develop a very strong inbound tourism business, not only in Sorrento, but across the Gulf of Naples and southern Italy. When we bought an existing hotel in Sorrento in 1979, we added a convention centre, allowing us to expand to the MICE segment.  Naturally, this became a very important component of our inbound travel business.

Your hotel portfolio includes a very exclusive 50-room boutique hotel called Bellevue Syrene.  What made you go into the high-end luxury segment?
We purchased this hotel for an existing hotel owner in 1994. It was in a sorry state, and an extensive restoration was carried out. It originally had 75 rooms but five years ago, we reduced them to 50 in order to make the rooms bigger and more attractive to the niche clientele that we were aiming for.  Sorrento has always attracted affluent travellers, so we wanted the Belle Syrene to be very unique in design and location.  Our affiliation with Relais & Chateaux has also worked tremendously well for us in terms of marketing and brand image.  In the Winter season when the hotel is closed, we are able to move some of our staff to other Relais & Chateaux affiliated hotels. This opportunity allows them to gain a more diverse experience and to help the staff remain loyal to us at the same time.

Nathalie Salas is a writer for Perfect Boutique Hotel, a website dedicated to readers who have a passion for boutique and lifestyle hotels. She is a also a freelance consultant specialising in hospitality and tourism, helping small businesses improve their marketing and branding on an international level. Nathalie is British and lives in Asolo, Italy.

Follow her on Twitter: @perfectboutique

Video by Alfonso Tortora


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