James Clark talks to Nicolas Chatillion, CEO of Les Etincelles, about the history and ethos of the company.
Nicolas describes himself as an ex-banker who joined up with his business partner Guerlain Chicherit, an ex-freeride skier, to create Les Etincelles.
Where did the idea start?
I was a banker in previous life and appointed general secretary in 2009 tasked with developing the snow economy. When Geurlain approached me with this business I saw that there was huge potential in the idea. I believe there are a lot of opportunities in this business as there is a lot of offers that can be better with a simpler and efficient way to improve the service to the clients. This idea was something I saw as a good opportunity, so we looked more closely at the idea as I was keen to become an ambassador.
How did Les Etincelles come to creation?
Les Etincelles was developed over four years with my partner Guerlain. Our desire was to offer luxury accommodation at High Altitude where there is guaranteed Snow conditions throughout the season. We have chalets, apartments and hotels within our collection and its key for us that our clients can be assured of skiing whenever they visit during the season.
Where did the name come from?
Les Etincelles means Sparkle in English and encompasses what the brand offers
What did you decide to do differently?
I saw the huge potential in this area with a range of options, but a lack of businesses taking a client-driven approach. I felt there was more of a pure product approach to entice customers, but on arrival I found there needed to be a bigger client approach and that is what we focus on.
How do you make the approach more directed to the client?
In a number of ways. For example, our Hotels have dedicated check-in staff who are mobile and can take care of all your needs the moment you arrive. In our chalets we have check-in directly in the chalet where all initial needs can be taken care of and it ensures a more personal approach with less hassle for the client.
What about once the client is checked in?
We try to reduce wasted time points as much as possible. This can involve reducing the time spent gathering ski equipment in the mornings and afternoons as we have staff to help with that, even putting your boots on. We also negate the need for our clients to que for lift tickets as we can arrange those and reduced queuing time for our clients where possible. As an example, something that takes 20-25 minutes we want to reduce to five minutes. This could be collecting something, getting all equipment ready or anything else that our clients need assistance with to increase time they can spend on their holiday.
What is the most important part of the concept?
Simply to guarantee snow is a very key aspect for us. We need to ensure that our luxury clients are guaranteed that snow conditions will be the best available. With climate change and reducing snow conditions it’s important for us to have accommodations in areas where the snow is more guaranteed. Alongside the Luxury element, this is a really key part of our business.
Are there opportunities to partner with brands on your services?
Yes, we want to ensure our clients have everything they need. If companies want our clients to have their products accessible to them we are open to this. An example could be footwear post skiing, jackets for wearing in the evening or anything else that would make our clients feel special while giving brands the opportunity to have luxury clients experiencing their products.
You mentioned the check in services, can you highlight how that would work in a Hotel differently?
The best example would be the Voulez Vous hotel which is directly in competition with other high end hotels, but we take it a step further. You can find more information about this hotel and what is offered on our website VoulezVous Hotel Tignes le Lac – Site officiel (etincelles.com)’
What is your target customer base & from which countries?
Our UK customer base is around 35-50 per cent depending on the area. The French customer base is similar with the remainder being from Holland or other markets like the US and UAE.
What ultimately makes Les Entincelles a top luxury provider for clients to consider?
Essentially everything we have discussed, but we also have some exciting new marketing plans coming that highlight this even further. Service, snow sure, client experience and top accommodations are some of the key reasons why Les Etincelles is a key consideration for our target clients.
You recently had a London Launch event on June 13, how was that received?
Very good, it was a great evening meeting press, investors and other partners. We met a lot of B2B players, hotels, holiday companies and intermediaries who are working on the premium and luxury market. We are keen to have these players as partners with us and to highlight how Luxury skiing isn’t just available in places like Val D’isere.