Sebastian Wurst: Luxury hospitality must adapt and tailor its offering

Dominant trends impacting luxury hospitality, and also business in general, include sustainability, conscious consumption, and experiential components, Anassa Hotel General Manager Sebastian Wurst has suggested, indicating that luxury hospitality must therefore adapt to new conditions and tailor its offering to guest expectations.

In an interview with "Xenodochos", now in digital format and sent as part of the new year's first Cyprus Hotels Association monthly newsletter in a collaboration between the Association and IMH, Wurst also shares where he believes the hospitality sector is headed. He notes that the direction being followed by the industry now places emphasis on quality over quantity, something which as he points out, starts at the top before spreading to all segments.

The General Manager of the Anassa Hotel also reveals how he has found life in Cyprus, having moved here some nine years after two decades in bustling New York.

What key trends do you find prominent in hotel management, and what is your vision for the direction in which the landscape is heading?

The dominant trends that affect not only luxury hospitality but businesses in general are sustainability, conscious consumption, and experiential components. Luxury hospitality must adapt and tailor its offerings. For us that means the focus is on sustainability, reduce waste, offer high end products with minimal environmental impact and unique experiences that create memories and feel personal. Hospitality is generally headed for more quality and less quantity. This starts at the top end of the industry and will trickle down across all segments.

Let's delve into the history of Anassa Hotel, which has stood the test of time. How do you consistently ensure its ongoing success, and what valuable advice would you offer to fellow professionals in the industry?

The key factors are a defined concept, the quality of your team members and the service they provide and constant evolution. Anassa has a clear identity which is timeless and relaxed elegance with a sense of place. You should never strive to try and “be everything to all people” as you will lose your soul and what makes you unique. Evolving means watching the change in guests’ expectations and adopting those that are right for you.

In terms of staff development, how do you approach education within your team, and how pivotal do you believe it is to stay abreast of the latest trends in the hospitality industry?

Training and professional development are key to keeping your staff motivated. We decided to have many smaller training sessions rather than the big 2-day events which tend to overwhelm the team. The training needs to be tailored to the team members’ needs to be effective and you have an opportunity to identify each team member’s strengths and position them accordingly. As far as trends are concerned there is a generational change and today’s applicants are driven by more than only compensation.

When it comes to guest preferences, what are the most commonly requested amenities, and which services offered by your hotel tend to be the most popular?

Good quality amenities are a standard in luxury hospitality, so our guests tend to appreciate personal attention the most. We see more demand for personalized services such as private dinners, tailor-made excursions etc. The way we communicate with our guests keeps evolving. Nowadays they prefer to communicate via messaging apps rather than calling, for example. Undeniably our beach facilities and dining options are the most popular.

Reflecting on your own professional journey, what led you to pursue a career in hospitality?

I never wanted an “office job”. The hospitality industry guarantees that no day at work is the same and it never gets boring. I am a people person, so I enjoy interacting with our guests and team members and you learn something every day. It is also a great profession to work internationally.

Living in Paphos must offer a unique opportunity to appreciate the island’s natural beauty and climate. Have you been living here for many years? Recently? Tell us about life in Cyprus and perhaps how you balance work and time for family, hobbies, and so on.

Nine years ago I moved to Cyprus from New York where I had been living for almost 20 years. Suddenly living in the most secluded part of the island took some time to adapt for my partner and myself. However, we found the local community rather welcoming, which made for an easy transition, and we quickly found a circle of friends and felt at home. It is also important to be part of the local community and not live the “expat life”. Cyprus is rapidly developing which is interesting to watch. In our free time we still find new places to discover or simply enjoy the beautiful area we live in.

(This interview originally appeared in the Cyprus Hotels Association publication, “Xenodochos”)

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