Le Bijou is revolutionizing travel by transforming prime-location residential apartments into the hotel experience of the future.
Madeleine Fallegger, Co-Founder of Le Bijou in an interview with the Swiss Entrepreneurs Magazine.
In real estate, "Bijou" is used to describe a race and precious property. In turn, Le Bijou selects the very best apartments and furnishes them in accordance to Swiss contemporary design, providing the service and look of a premium hotel.
Swiss Entrepreneurs Magazine: Le Bijou is such an exciting idea. How did you come up with this concept and how did you take it from idea to execution?
Madeleine Fallegger: The idea for this new kind of high-end hospitality experience was born in 2010. We were watching the rise of both sharing platforms, such as Airbnb, Uber etc, and smart technologies, and we thought we could combine them to create a new kind of travel experience that improved on the traditional high-end hotel model: the hotel 2.0.
The aim was to create the most personalized and innovative luxury hotel alternative in the world. We took the Airbnb model of private apartments and combined it with the five-star services of a premium hotel. However, we wanted to be able to provide the same exceptional standard of service at every apartment, wherever it was in the world. So, we developed ‘James’, our digital butler, and the Le Bijou app. James is backed by an international team of concierge staff, who can provide recommendations and services at all of our destinations, while the app makes it say to personalize the interior environment, order anything and get in touch with us whenever you want. The technology learns from interactions, ensuring that each stay is truly tailored to you.
Eight years passed quickly and here we are, managing around 40 properties in Switzerland with rave reviews from guests and press alike. Part of this success is our dedication to our dream. We firmly believe that the hotel industry needs to improve and that interactive technology and a commitment to service and quality are at the heart of this.
Swiss Entrepreneurs Magazine: Le Bijou is about reinventing the hotel experience. How do you think this fits in with the future of hospitality and travel?
Madeleine Fallegger: The way we travel is changing. Guests are looking for more than just the traditional hotel model, they want an experience that feels authentic; that provides them with a truly local, personalized experience - but without sacrificing service and style. We are providing the space and privacy of an apartment with the integrated services of a hotel, digitized to seamlessly integrate into a 21st-century lifestyle.
Each stay is really personalized- from the restaurant or event recommendations to the food and drinks we can stock an apartment with, to the services we provide. It’s all designed around a specific guest and how they want to experience Le Bijou. And it seems to be working, Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, has called us the “The most elegant, personalized hotel in the world” and this is a man who stays in over 100 hotels every year!
Swiss Entrepreneurs Magazine: Le Bijou involves transforming existing apartments into hotel rooms. How do you identify potential premises and begin the acquisition process?
Madeleine Fallegger: Firstly, we want to provide our guests with the best addresses in the world’s top cities. This means that location is key. We closely monitor the real estate market in defined target cities, working with real estate agents and intermediaries to ensure we have the best pick of what’s on offer - often before it reaches the market.
Once we find a property that meets our criteria for location, ambiance, and aesthetics, we then manage the upgrading process, working with renowned interior designers and architects to implement our award-winning chalet-chic style and integrate our innovative technology. Once an apartment is up and running, our automated management system runs the day-to-day business, ensuring a consistently excellent customer experience without the overheads of a traditional hotel.
We also offer an upgrade service to property owners looking to maximize the revenue from their rental apartments - renovating the apartment in our signature style, integrating our technology, and managing the rental process. It’s an attractive offer for property owners, as it gives their apartment the backing of a brand with a strong track record (occupancy of 92% and growing), and occupancy risk and revenue are spread over a much larger group of customers than traditional residential letting.
Madeleine Fallegger, Le Bijou in an interview with the Swiss Entrepreneurs Magazine
Swiss Entrepreneurs Magazine: Le Bijou locations are spread out across Switzerland. Are you planning to expand your operations internationally?
Madeleine Fallegger: We currently operate around 40 properties in Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Lucerne, Berne, and Zug. Our plan is to expand internationally, but we want to grow carefully in order to preserve the brand integrity. Le Bijou is all about the quality of the product and service, so we are committed to securing only those properties that fully meet our exacting criteria and will allow us to continue to provide the very best to our guests.
With that in mind, our focus is on classic destinations: Paris, London, Hong Kong and New York. Places that our guests are traveling to and where we think we can maximize their experience.
Swiss Entrepreneurs Magazine: You founded Le Bijou with your partner Alexander Hübner and Renato Steiner. What are the different skills that you all bring to the business?
Madeleine Fallegger: Alexander is the creative visionary and performs the role of CEO. With Renato Steiner, CTO, we have a proven digital expert who can bring our innovation to life. I am the sales manager and manage our sales team, specifically in the events and acquisition of new properties. Our guests expect a lot from us, and this requires a certain level of perfectionism and commitment.
I believe that we complement each other well, which is part of our success. This core team is also supported by over 40 talented individuals in interior design, fitting, CGI, soft and hardware development, marketing and support, all of whom have helped to make Le Bijou what it is today.
Swiss Entrepreneurs Magazine: Has gender been an issue for you as an entrepreneur? Do you get the same recognition as your 2 male co-founders?
Madeleine Fallegger: I sometimes feel that I need to adopt a stereotypically male attitude toward business, meaning that I need to be competitive, aggressive and sometimes overly harsh. But I believe that remaining true to yourself and finding your own voice are the keys to rising above preconceived expectations. The three of us are very different people but work in a synergistic way, so we get the recognition we deserve.
Source: Swiss Entrepreneurs Magazine - go to the website
Photos of selected Le Bijou Apartments: