"It is easier to teach a procedure or a standard than elegance, humility, and education"

4 min reading time

Published on 19/10/23 - Updated on 19/10/23


Giampaolo Ottazzi joins Arsenale and Orient Express to open the first two Orient Express Hotels in the world in Rome and Venice.

Could you share with us your journey in the hospitality industry?

It has been a long journey! I started in 1983 at the Hotel Splendido in Portofino, privately owned at that time. I was a bellboy! My role mainly consisted in answering the phone, collecting mail from the village, buying newspapers, and cleaning the lobby… Since then, I have been incredibly lucky – I have had the great pleasure of having opportunities in exceptional 5 star hotels, which has allowed me to develop a deep knowledge of the luxury hospitality market and its clientele. The past 40 years have been made up of different challenges in marketing, sales, and operations roles. In the beginning, it was only to take on roles in seasonal hotels in Italy and Europe to learn foreign languages. After all, in all of the different Italian regions, from the north (for example, Villa d’Este on Lake Como), to the south (Hotel Caruso in Ravello), to central Italy (Villa La Massa in Florence and Hotel Continental in Siena), all the way to the East (Hotel Cipriani in Venice). 

In 2021, I came to Rome because this historic city was missing in my “Italian journey” and I wanted to experience it. 

I fell in love with the Eternal City and, after my time at the Hotel de Russie, which  I managed from Summer 2021 to Spring 2023, I was lucky enough to find this job opportunity with Orient Express and Arsenale which is, in a way , a crowning achievement of my career which permits me to strategically position two beautiful hotels in two cities that I know very well: Rome and Venice.

How did you end-up working on that opening?

At this point of my career I was looking for a more strategic and regional role in hospitality… Arsenale and Orient Express gave me this great opportunity, privilege and responsibility to open and position two hotels in two major touristic cities of Italy: Orient Express La Minerva in Rome (which can be considered the most historic hotel in Rome) and Orient Express Palazzo Donà Giovannelli in Venice – the Venetian Palace has some of the most beautiful interiors that I have ever seen in Venice. 

What attracted you in the Orient Express challenge and brand?

First and foremost, the people. Since my first interview in Paris at the Accor offices to my meeting with Arsenale, I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with very nice people who have great empathy and kindness. With this, also in mind the idea to create the best hotel service in the most beautiful location, starting from the people –  the people are first and foremost the wealth of a hospitality Brand. Next, to challenge and position the legendary Orient Express brand in Italy with two beautiful Hotels in two important cities.

What are your next steps for the opening?

My next steps are to make sure that the spaces designed by the architects and interior designers allow my team members to operate at their best, in order to deliver the utmost and absolute best service to our guests. The next is to choose the most beautiful, creative and unique means and materials to make guests feel pampered in a luxurious and exclusive but comfortable environment. The final step is to select each team member by their character first, and their professionalism just after. As I always say, it is easier to teach a procedure or a standard than to teach elegance, humility, and education.

You have been working in the area for several years and it is often referred to as a place where there is over tourism, what is your opinion on that topic?

This is true, for both Venice and Rome (but also for Lake Como, Florence, and Amalfi Coast) – which are all destinations referred to as places with too much tourism. I think that we have the possibility to extend the seasonality of both destinations and preserve the authentic local experience by working with local authorities to improve how the historic centre is accessed, to better manage mass tourism. 



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