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Leading luxury hospitality

Audrey Simon
Audrey Simon • 10 min read
Leading luxury hospitality
Petar Krstic, CEO of Ultima Collection, plans to enhance the brand’s global presence
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While wanderlust offers travellers a chance to immerse themselves in diverse landscapes, cuisines, languages and traditions, the hospitality industry is grappling with numerous challenges, from shifting consumer preferences to security concerns to environmental sustainability.

Petar Krstic, CEO of Ultima Collection, is familiar with such challenges. His portfolio boasts 48 residences, chalets, private villas and luxury hotels spread across seven prestigious locales in Switzerland, France and Greece.

Before his tenure at Ultima Collection, Krstic had over two decades of leadership experience. Over the past six years, Krstic has made substantial contributions to Aman’s worldwide presence, with projects spanning Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States. Notably, he spearheaded the launch of Aman New York. He has also held leadership positions at establishments like Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Relais & Châteaux and Mandarin Oriental. His expertise in the luxury sector, combined with keen entrepreneurial insight, has deepened his comprehension of emerging trends and evolving demands within the hospitality and travel industry.

His passion for travel and hospitality has roots in his upbringing in Budapest, Hungary. Krstic reflects on his family’s sociable nature, recalling how his parents regularly hosted gatherings, cocktail parties, and elaborate meals from his earliest memories. He reminisces, “My sisters and I assumed various roles during these occasions, acting as hosts, servers, and bartenders, clad in white shirts and black bowties. This desire to bring people together and play the role of hosts has been ingrained in my sisters and me since childhood, and we carry on this tradition.”

Continuing the legacy, Krstic and his wife organise a weekly “spaghettata” in their own home — a four-hour lunch featuring a generous serving of pasta, typically paccheri amatriciana — as a testament to their enduring commitment to hospitality and connection.

With a wealth of experience in hospitality, Krstic has observed notable shifts in the industry. Over the past two decades, he has noticed a declining interest among young individuals in pursuing careers in hospitality — a trend that concerns him. “Finding talent is becoming increasingly challenging,” he remarks. “As an industry, we must collaborate to explore strategies for attracting talented young individuals to this captivating and dynamic profession of ours.”

See also: Setting a Standard

Krstic’s journey is compelling enough to entice individuals into the industry. Despite encountering numerous amusing and extraordinary situations, he finds that the most memorable moments aren’t necessarily the humorous or eccentric ones. Instead, it is the individuals he has encountered along the way who have left a lasting impression on him.

Reflecting on his experiences, he expresses, “I have crossed paths with countless individuals who have played pivotal roles in shaping my trajectory. As hoteliers, we are incredibly privileged to traverse the globe and engage with individuals as part of our profession.”

His interactions with people have equipped him well to lead his team. He emphasises the significance of authenticity and the courage to uphold principles because he believes they wield immense power. Ultimately, this fosters trust as teams grasp your values. Quoting his grandfather’s wisdom that “water always finds its level”, he underscores how true essence invariably surfaces, guiding individuals to their rightful place.

See also: Elevated experiences

These factors position Krstic as an ideal spokesperson on a range of hospitality topics, spanning from his past experiences to what constitutes a memorable experience for travellers.

What specific experiences or skills do you bring to Ultima Collection from your time with Aman, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Relais & Châteaux and Mandarin Oriental?
Every single one of my past experiences has contributed to who I am today. In fact, the more challenging that I perceived an experience at the time, the more I feel I learned from it today.
I have a passion for the work that we do. I love that we serve people and that we can bring people joy and create beautiful memories. This is so powerful.

Other than financial acumen and intimate knowledge of hospitality operations, I feel that I bring a deep understanding of the brand and how it is implemented across verticals and touchpoints. The brand needs to inform every facet of the business and experience, otherwise it is just a façade. I am incredibly excited about the work my team and I are doing in this regard. Stay tuned.

What challenges and opportunities do you foresee for Ultima Collection as it enters this new era under your guidance?
I feel that we are currently well-poised to become an even more significant global player in the villa and private residence space. The fact that we own all of our properties allows us to have total control of the experience and quality. This sets us apart from our competitors. Having said that, interest rates at the moment are still high and this is certainly a factor for us as developers and owners of a real estate portfolio.

What sets Ultima Collection apart from other luxury hotel groups?
The scope of facilities at our private estates is impressive. Our properties are in the world’s most sought-after destinations. However, above all, our people are our greatest asset. Their warmth and genuine care for our guests continue to impress me, over and over again.

Could you elaborate on Ultima Collection’s approach to creating unique experiences for the next generation of travellers?
The next generation of travellers is more and more looking for experiences that are authentic and not gimmicky. They are more cultured and curious and hence the experiences that we curate need to be intellectually fulfilling. On the other hand, life has changed more in the last 15 years than in the previous 70 or more, and hence we humans are also searching more and more for ways to return to those “simpler times”; I know that I am, in my personal life.

For more lifestyle, arts and fashion trends, click here for Options Section

How does Ultima Collection ensure that each property maintains its distinctive design while still reflecting the brand’s overarching identity?
Ultima Collection has found its niche in developing these one-of-a-kind ultra-luxury residential estates that have facilities that can rival many large resorts, and we deliver incredibly thoughtful and genuine service in these estates. These are quite literally homes. They might be grand, and impressive, but they are still homes. This is our identity. Yet, just like all of our homes, they each have a distinct feel, aura and spirit.

The architecture of each of our estates very much reflects its surroundings. Our property in Megève is a typical wood chalet from the Haute-Savoi region with slate highlights. However, our property in the south of France is quintessentially Mediterranean. Yet, their privacy, size, facilities, comfort and luxury are all on par with what one has come to expect from Ultima Collection.

How does Ultima Collection select its locations for new properties?
Our properties are located in the world’s most sought-after destinations. These are well-established and long-standing holiday destinations of the affluent, like Gstaad, Megève, Côte d’Azur and Courchevel. Our loyal guests also frequent St Tropez, Capri, Cap Ferrat, Paris and London and that is why we are looking for potential sites in these locations.

What sustainability initiatives does Ultima Collection undertake in its operations and properties?
Our properties prioritise environmental stewardship by implementing initiatives aimed at reducing their ecological footprint. This includes energy-efficient lighting and appliances, water conservation measures, waste reduction and recycling programs, and the use of environmentally friendly cleaning products.

Sustainability has become all of our duty but particularly we in the hospitality industry have an ever-greater responsibility. In fact, it is now a cornerstone of luxury hospitality. Ultima Collection is committed to integrating sustainable practices across its properties.

In the development of new properties or the renovation of existing ones, Ultima Collection places a strong emphasis on sustainable building and design practices. This involves incorporating eco-friendly materials, optimising natural light and ventilation, and employing innovative technologies to enhance energy efficiency and minimise environmental impact. Our properties strive to support local economies and communities by sourcing ingredients, products, and services from nearby suppliers and artisans. By promoting local businesses and engaging with community stakeholders, Ultima Collection fosters sustainable economic development and strengthens ties with the surrounding region.

Idyllic natural views and privacy go hand in hand at Ultima Collection. It is one of the many reasons guests escape to our alpine chalets and waterfront villas each year, and it is why we continue to be rooted in sustainability, focusing on the future. We endeavour to further raise awareness among guests about the importance of sustainability and environmental conservation. Through educational initiatives, interactive experiences, and informative materials, guests are encouraged to participate in eco-friendly practices and make conscious choices that contribute to sustainability both during their stay and beyond.

We began our partnership with One Tree Planted (a non-governmental organisation that restores forests and creates habitats for biodiversity while promoting a positive social impact around the world) in 2021, pledging to plant a tree for each night a guest stays with Ultima, and have already planted 10,000 trees across Europe each year in locations susceptible to deforestation, including Iceland, Scotland, Denmark and Italy.

Alongside rising sea levels and temperatures, plastic pollution is a major threat to our marine ecosystems and the exquisite creatures populating them. Our continued partnership with Oceanic Global will help to reverse the damage already done to our ocean, funding ocean clean-ups, which will help rid waters of plastic and other pollutants discarded by humans every day.

We have pledged to donate US$1 ($1.35) for each night a guest stays with Ultima removing 1kg of plastic from the ocean and donating a minimum of US$10,000 in 2023. We invite our guests to donate either US$100, US$500, US$1,000, or a value of their choice so they can also help to create healthier marine ecosystems and, ultimately, a happier planet.

Looking ahead, what do you envision for the future of the hospitality industry, and how do you see your role evolving within it?
The faster this world (and our lives) becomes the more will there be the need to disconnect from that and reconnect with family and friends in a mindful manner. I see the role of hospitality becoming increasingly important for our overall balance or sanity.

Connecting with nature, I feel, will also become increasingly vital to our well-being. Our ability to offer guests this connection to mother nature with unique experiences is something I look forward to as I look to the future.

Expansion plans

Barely into his new role Petar Krstic, CEO of Ultima Collection, already has the next 12 months mapped out

Spring 2024: Ultima Geneva Quai Wilson
Situated on the southwest shore of Lac Leman, Ultima Geneva Quai Wilson is a unique lakeside city break featuring a modern collection of five private full-floor apartments representing the epitome of style in the heart of Geneva.

Summer 2024: Ultima Gstaad Promenade
Ultima Gstaad Promenade is a private sanctuary boasting an abundance of space over four floors, with eight-bedroom suites and a self-contained guest house with one bedroom, two expansive living rooms with a full wrap-around balcony and a mesmerising open fireplace.

Winter 2025: Ultima Geneva Cologny
Situated in the greenery of Cologny, Geneva’s most exclusive enclave, Ultima Geneva Cologny comprises two spectacular lakeside villas that embody sleek, sophisticated design and elevated contemporary living on a grand scale.
The company has a strong presence in mountain/winter destinations so for the next few acquisitions or developments, Krstic would like to focus more on seaside or summer locations. They are currently exploring potential projects in St Tropez, Cap Ferrat and Capri.

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