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A strategic merger to enhance customer experience

Thierry Montocchio, CEO of Rogers Hospitality

Island Living and Veranda Leisure and Hospitality (VLH), respectively the leisure and hospitality divisions of the Rogers Group, are now a single entity called ‘Rogers Hospitality’. What are the reasons for this merger and what is at stake? Thierry Montocchio, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rogers Hospitality, explains.

How did this “marriage” between Island living and VLH come about?

Rogers has been active in the tourism sector in Mauritius for over 70 years, but our activities in this sector were not grouped in the same company. Now they are unified, sharing the “Rogers Hospitality” brand. By bringing our offerings under one umbrella, we can offer a truly comprehensive package that sets us apart from the competition, and in the process, enhances the customer experience. So, there was everything to gain.

Was the pandemic a deciding factor?

This unification was already planned before the health crisis hit, but we took advantage of the border closure to reinvent ourselves. The absence of customers was an opportunity – the perfect time to innovate. This change is also an act of faith in the future: the travel and tourism industries will bloom once again.

What do you define as a “complete offering”?

Rogers Hospitality offers a combination of accommodation, hotels, leisure activities, and restaurants. In each of these areas, we focus on variety. Take the first two: Heritage offers five-star resorts, while Veranda has three- and four-star hotels. For business travellers, we have the Voilà Hotel. Then we have Kaz’alala and the Heritage villas, which provide two further types of accommodation experience, based on the home-stay concept and luxury respectively. On the leisure side, we can point to catamaran trips, discovering the Bel Ombre Nature Reserve, the Seven Coloured Earths Geopark, Chamarel, Case Noyale… the list of experiences we have to offer is long and varied. When it comes to food, it’s the same: there are restaurants for gourmets, such as the Château de Bel Ombre, C Beach, Le Chamarel Restaurant, but we can also provide fast food at Ocean Basket, Domino’s Pizza, Savinia Bistrot or Moka’z. Our approach is to offer choice.

How will this merger improve the customer experience?

Firstly, the merger allows us to reach economies of scale and achieve greater efficiency. More importantly, it gives us the ability to tailor holidays to our customers. Behind all of this is the idea of truly experiencing what life is like on a tropical island. Mauritius is not only about the sea and the lagoon; at Bel Ombre, we are lucky enough to have both the sea and the land – everything you could need for an unforgettable stay. Deploying a wide range of tailor-made services is the rationale and the ambition behind this merger.

How can we offer a diversified and personalised range of services?

By maintaining our focus on each brand. The aim is not to be a ‘Jack-of-all-trades but master of none’, but to be precise and fully invested in each of our brands. We have structured ourselves to be as efficient and professional as possible at every point of sale.

This merger remains challenging. What were the trials and tribulations?

Getting employees from different corporate cultures to adhere to the same values is a challenge. The question was: how do you create team spirit? We worked on this for over a year. We got to know each other and began to understand each other. Now, we are ready; I feel the teams are enthusiastic and motivated.

Would you say that the ‘graft’ has taken?

It’s too early to say. It’s a long process, but we are well on our way. Communication has been a critical factor, we have talked, shared, and explained. Sometimes we had to reassure or demystify. We have learned a lot from each other: for example, where we saw that an operational system specific to Island Living or VLH was particularly effective, a decision was taken to replicate that system in other business units. Getting the best out of everyone for the benefit of all is the approach. This has given the teams a boost of positive energy and a desire to outdo themselves.

What do you expect from this merger in the short and medium-term?

In the short term, it is a matter of standing out from the competition thanks to a customer offer that sets us apart. The spirit of Rogers Hospitality is to offer the maximum range of things to do. We have been working hard on this since October 1st and the reopening of the borders. This approach is also reflected in ‘Now for Tomorrow’, our new sustainability programme. The programme focuses on the local and circular economy because that is what sustainability is all about. The Heritage brand now offers carbon neutral holidays, a first for Mauritius. We want to offer our clients more environmentally friendly travel solutions. Beyond that, we want them to see the difference in each experience.

What is a reasonable crisis exit scenario?

We can expect a return to normalcy around 2023-2024. Our strength at Rogers Hospitality has been our financial balance sheet. It was very healthy when the crisis started – we had much less debt than the rest of the industry, which allowed us to borrow to get through this period. Beyond 2024, we will certainly have other objectives for growth and consolidation of our brands, but for the moment, we are focusing on the next two years because it is complicated to look further ahead with any certainty. 

What new experiences do you have on offer?

One of our objectives is to make Bel Ombre a destination within a destination. The reference point for the Indian Ocean in terms of sustainability being applied to a whole region. To achieve this, we will offer a 360° experience. This means the sea and the beach, but not just these. Take coffee, for example; Agrïa is the only Mauritian company that produces it. Coffee grows in Chamarel, near our land. We are preparing a new experience that will be much more than a guided tour. The aim is to take the customer somewhere they would never previously have gone. We will share our culture, our history, and our landscapes with our customers. The idea is to start with a theme – in this case, coffee – which then becomes a creator of experiences.

If you had to define the roadmap for Rogers Hospitality in one sentence?

To help our customers discover a Mauritius that is richer in experiences and more emotionally charged.

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