Monte-Carlo, the glamorous quarter of the Principality of Monaco, is renowned for many things: Formula One Grand Prix, a harbour full of expensive yachts and glitzy casinos to name a few. Yet, few of us realise that this ‘petit coin’ of the Côte d’Azur is also home to an enviably successful hospitality business that has been in operation since 1863.
Société des Bains de Mer (SBM) may not be a name familiar to those outside Monaco, but the hotels, restaurants and other businesses it runs, such as Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, Alain Ducasse’s three-Michelin starred restaurant Le Louis XV and Casino Monte-Carlo, certainly will be.
In fact, it was SBM’s world-famous casino that provided the foundation to what has become a 360-degree hospitality and leisure company, which today counts four hotels, more than 30 restaurants and bars, four spas, four casinos and over 50 banqueting and conference rooms among its portfolio.
“The casino attracted gamblers from around the world and so the owners (Francois and Marie Blanc) decided to build somewhere for them to stay as there was nothing here. That is how Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo came to be born,” explains Julia Burg, SBM’s senior press relations manager UK, USA, Brazil & Latam.
The Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, which last year saw the completion of a £220m four-year revamp, was never going to be a simply a place for weary gamblers to rest their heads. Blanc commissioned some of France’s top designers to build the 83-suite and 126-bedroom property a stone’s throw from the casino and its elaborate, luxurious style has helped it become an iconic figure in the hotel world.
Today, the hotel attracts well-heeled guests from around the globe who want to stay in its opulent suites, such as it’s ‘rooftop villa’, aka the roomy two-bedroom Prince Rainier III Suite, complete with infinity pool; use it as a base from which to view the Grand Prix, or simply soak up the sun in luxurious surroundings.
Blanc’s vision of luxury Hôtel de Paris was a blueprint for the rest of the company, but by adding a hotel he also instilled an ethos within the business which contributes to a large part of its success today: To continually meet – and exceed – the needs of its customers.
Four years after Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo opened its doors to guests, Blanc opened restaurant Café Divan (now occupied by the famous Bar Americain) where customers would dine, but also debate and be entertained when they needed a break from the roulette table.
Since then, an impressive number of hospitality and events businesses have been added, each one designed to either cater for a new market, or help provide additional services for existing guests.
Over the next 150 years, SBM, which is 60% government-owned, added three more hotels providing an additional 650 rooms (Belle Epoque beauty Hôtel Hermitage, Monte-Carlo Beach and Monte-Carlo Bay) a sports club; a beach club with Olympic-sized swimming pool; three other casinos; a nightclub; 30 restaurants and bars and multiple event spaces.
Now, the company’s newest addition – conference facility One Monte-Carlo – has been created to ‘give a new dimension’ to SBM’s business tourism and events and provide state-of-the-art facilities for the organisers of the 300-plus events the company hosts each year.
Opening last month in the heart of the new One Monte-Carlo district alongside Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo and Hôtel Hermitage, the underground centre boasts nine rooms, including the illustrious Salle des Arts, a 300-capacity conference room built as an exact replica of the former Sporting d’Hiver, which previously stood on the same site.
A modern facility which has stayed respectful of its past, One Monte-Carlo, will also enable SBM to better cater for a growing number of MICE customers who can use the facility to launch a new product, or hold a conference while also treating delegates to a sumptuous banquet prepared by their brigade of chefs or a visit to the Thermes Marins spa, with its heated seawater pool.
But while One Monte-Carlo provides more facilities for corporate customers and continues SBM’s evolution as a business, it also helps ‘unite’ the company’s entire proposition, both physically and metaphorically, says its head of press relations Sylvie Cristin, who regards its arrival as part of the company’s strategic vision to ‘make Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer the most exclusive destination in Europe’.
Centrally located, the new conference facility is within walking distance of both Hôtel de Paris and Hôtel Hermitage, as well as the casino, spa and many of SBM’s restaurants and bars, so delegates can quickly reach rooms to freshen up before evening drinks receptions, or relax in the spa after a long day.
Other outlets, including the modern four star hotel Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort, sports club and legendary nightclub Jimmyz can be easily reached via a shuttle bus. Guests need only to flash their room key card to gain access to SBM’s facilities in Monte-Carlo so they “feel like they are in a resort,” says Burg.
The balance of comprehensive conferencing facilities with a plethora of luxury hospitality and leisure businesses therefore allows event organisers to provide delegates with somewhere for work and play. The fact the backdrop is the most prestigious spot on the French Riviera is the cherry on the cake.
“By choosing to hold their conference in Monaco, businesses show they are giving their employees something special, that they are really treating them,” says Cristin.
While SBM has certainly grown its business to meet the needs of its customers, the addition of new sites has also meant that its biggest asset – its staff, are also given room to grow and develop.
With multiple businesses under the same umbrella, SBM’s 4,000 employees have greater choice and chance of progression. At Monaco’s largest employer spa managers graduate to hotel general managers, while chefs can work in the centralised production facility at One Monte-Carlo where fresh bread and pastries for the hotels’ breakfast buffets are made, in banqueting, or under a Michelin-starred chef if they prefer.
With boundless opportunities, tax perks and the prestige which comes with working for a company with such a history, it’s unsurprising that many staff remain working with the group for many years. No-doubt also helped by the fact that employees are given access to training once a year.
SBM, of course benefits from being situated in Monte-Carlo where the sun shines 300 days a year, and the streets are spotless and safe, but the company’s continual evolution and that drive to continue to offer more for its customers and take care of its staff makes it a unique business and one worthy of achieving its vision to become ‘the most exclusive destination in Europe’.
H&C News would like to thank Société des Bains de Mer for the opportunity to experience their hospitality, we enjoyed visiting what we have no doubt will become… ‘the most exclusive destination in Europe’.