Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” Horst
Schulze first heard this motto which would later become
Ritz-Carlton’s slogan under his direction while still a teenager
working as a busboy in Germany. The hotel’s maitre d’ coined the
phrase, and Schulze so admired the maitre d’ for the way he treated
all travelers, and was respected by the most affluent guests, that
he did a school report on the hotel worker. German-born Schulze who
would later become a major architect of The Ritz-Carlton Group and
help catapult the company into a multi-billion-dollar brand may
have started his hospitality career at the ground floor, but it
afforded him a unique perspective on the business he revolutionized
during his tenure at Ritz. Now, at this later stage in his career,
67-year-old Schulze aims to once again transform the hospitality
At the Ritz
After rising through the ranks at Hyatt and Hilton,
Schulze worked at The Ritz-Carlton Group for nearly two decades,
eventually serving as president and COO of the brand. When he
resigned from Ritz-Carlton in 2001, Schulze was responsible for
Ritz-Carlton operations worldwide.
“Horst was there from the inception,” said John Drake, former head
of the advertising agency at Ritz. “The Ritz-Carlton product was
accomplished under his supervision.”
In addition to Ritz-Carlton receiving a slew of awards during his
tenure (including the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in
1992 and 1999), Schulze and his team were responsible for growing
The Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Residences from three hotels in 1983 to
54 properties worldwide, building revenues from $69 million to $2
billion and spawning industry imitators.
Even with his success at Ritz, Schulze opted to leave the company
after it was purchased by Marriott in the early ’90s to develop a
“As Horst would say, he had painted that canvas and was ready to
take on something new,” said Drake, who, along with about a dozen
key Ritz executives, followed Schulze’s lead.
Schulze’s plan was to target a new kind of luxury traveler,
inspiring his award-winning team at Ritz to leave the company with
the opportunity to do something different.
“I saw it happening 15 years ago our customers changed,” said
Schulze. “This customer doesn’t want it better, they want it
In 2002, Schulze and his Ritz recruits founded the West Paces
Hotel Group to create and operate a brand of hotels to target
travelers seeking service beyond the typical five-star
After extensive research in the U.S. and international markets,
Schulze saw that existing five-star brands had left a niche open at
the upper reaches of luxury travel. These customers weren’t just
interested in a posh room with exquisite surroundings, but for
their dollar, they wanted to invest in top-notch services, like
restaurants and spa services (typically offered by larger hotel
chains), combined with a more customized stay and customer care
often found in boutique hotels.
“We want to take very good care of the privileged travelers,” said
Drake, “by aligning the experience to customers’ personal needs and
Last year, as president and CEO of West Paces, Schulze announced
the launch of two new hotel brands both aim to appeal to
well-traveled guests with a commitment to customer service. First
to debut in July 2005, Solis Hotels caters to a more
business-focused market and will offer 200- to 400-room properties
in key gateway cities.
The properties will also offer clients gourmet restaurants and
state-of-the-art spas, along with off-the-beaten-path activities,
including shopping excursions and arts and culinary experiences.
But the Solis brand touts excellent customer service over luxe
touches, like marble tile or oriental rugs, said Schulze.
“Solis is a 4½-star brand. It has pleasant surroundings, and has
the reliable service of a five-star without the five-star
finishes,” Schulze said. “It has to be the cleanest, friendliest
and most reliable. That’s Solis.”
Solis initially plans to debut a Chicago property this fall,
offering guestrooms and condos, and come 2008, two more Solis
properties are slated to open, including one in Frankfurt, Germany,
as well as a resort in Bal Harbour, Fla. (see sidebar).
While West Paces will run Solis, Schulze seems to have put his
professional heart and soul into another brand of hotel.
“[Capella Hotels & Resorts],” he said, “that’s my top brand;
my dream brand.”
Capella Hotels & Resorts was designed to take selling
service to the next level in the leisure travel market beyond the
traditional five-star hotel and even Solis. Quite simply, Schulze
and his team intend to make Capella the finest hotel brand in the
“Frankly, there’s a little bit of selfishness here,” said Schulze.
“At this point in my career, I will not compromise this brand. This
brand will be pure 100 percent customer-driven.”
Along with hand-picked destinations, Capella promises the benefits
of the finest boutique hotels, including superb architecture and
interior design, privacy, individualized service and attention to
detail combined with the amenities of the larger luxury hotel and
resort chains. This new customer, according to Capella officials,
wants the privacy and care of a small, boutique hotel paired with
the variety of options including dining and spa services offered by
top hotels with larger infrastructures.
“Boutique hotels can be boring,” said Bob Warman, COO of the West
Paces Hotel Group, adding that Capella guests have the choice to do
more if and when they choose like they would at larger, five-star
And for Capella, choice is key.
“Luxury hotels today require their guests to choose in advance the
type of experience they will enjoy,” Schulze said. “The hotel’s
style and service determine that experience. It’s time for the
customer to determine the experience. Capella will be focused on
choice and we will offer choices that no other hotel in the world
As far as clients choose, Schulze cites anything from dietary
needs to how many pillows a guest prefers on his bed. To target the
new luxury-market niche, the emphasis will be on selling
“If you want to go rollerblading in the park, that should be my
business to help you,” he said. “If you want to have champagne at
midnight with your girlfriend at the top of the Empire State
Building, I don’t know if I can do that, but I’m sure as hell going
“And that’s the type of service and attention you can rely on,” he
added. “I’m excited about it because it puts & purity and honor
in our profession. That’s what I want to do.”
To meet the needs of each customer, Capella properties are
committed to offering 100 rooms or fewer, so that even at 90
percent occupancy, the staff will likely only have about 30 guests
coming and going on any given day.
While pricing has yet to be determined, expect a Capella room rate
to be comparable to the cost of a suite in a five-star hotel. So
far, Capella has announced the launch of five resorts: two in
Ireland, one in Austria, one in Germany and one in Mexico all are
set to debut in the next two years. Other locations, including
those in major U.S. destinations, will be announced in the
In addition to a customized experience, the destination of a
Capella property is key. Each resort will be designed to showcase
its hand-picked surroundings ranging from desert, mountain or
For example, clients reach Capella in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, via
the only privately owned tunnel in the country, which stretches
some 1,000 feet through a mountainside to offer guests a sense of
seclusion. The resort, which will open in 2008, will sit on 24
mountainside and oceanfront acres at the point where the Pacific
Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez, near the legendary rock formations
known as Land’s End.
Capella’s European additions include converted castles. Schloss
Velden, a southern lakeside chateau in the town of Velden in
southern Austria, was first built in 1590 and will reopen in the
summer of 2007 with 109 suites and junior suites, 50 private
residences, two world-class restaurants and an E’Spa-designed spa,
as well as an adjacent beach club and marina on the shores of Lake
Dunboy Castle, in Ireland, will reopen later this year as an
82-suite resort featuring a wine bar, cigar terrace and a spa with
eight treatment rooms. Other perks include helicopter service to
Waterville Golf Links. Castlemartyr, also a restored Irish castle,
later this year will boast 106 guestrooms, a Library Bar, Billiards
Room, three meeting rooms, spa and an 18-hole, Ron Kirby-designed
golf course. In 2007, Capella also plans to reopen the German
luxury hotel Breidenbacher Hof as part of a mixed-use development,
which will consist of a 100-room hotel, restaurants, high-end
retailers, some offices and residential apartments.
While Capella’s name was drawn from a star in the
constellation Auriga, the Charioteer, Schulze finds it difficult to
give the brand a star rating.
“I hate it when people speak about stars. Who gave you six stars?
What is that?” Schulze said. “I couldn’t rate Capella. It’s for the
individual who is confident and wants something that’s
Regardless of stars, Schulze and his team realize that Capella’s
success depends on the travel agent as agents have the ability to
reach the privileged traveler.
“Clearly, I know my best supplier is the travel agent,” said
Schulze. “I think [travel agents] have done something really
beautiful by reinventing themselves.”
Indeed, and even at this late stage in his career, Schulze knows
all about reinvention.
As for the future of Capella, in the next three to five years,
Schulze plans to open about 20 hotels baring the brand’s name about
a third of the properties will be in the U.S. But he gives
attention to detail priority over expansion.
“I’m very involved this time,” said Schulze. “To be honest,
[Capella] is the last painting. It has to be a great painting.”
While the West Paces Hotel Group hasn’t committed to all its hotel
locations or opening dates, here’s the most recent information
about what’s to come.
To open fall of this year, Solis Chicago Hotel and Condominiums,
located one block west of Chicago’s famed Michigan Avenue, offers
skyline and river views, as well as 437 guestrooms and suites, a
signature restaurant, fitness and spa facilities and conference and
meeting space. www.solischicago.com
Solis will launch Sunny Isles Solis Resort, Spa & Residences,
in 2008. Set along a stretch of beach north of Bal Harbour, Fla.,
the resort will be Solis’ premiere oceanfront property. Sunny Isles
will feature 139 guestrooms and 130 residential units which are now
available for ownership as well as a full-service spa, meeting
facilities and a signature restaurant.
Solis Hotel, Frankfurt, in Germany, is a 348-room hotel that
comprises a block of urban redevelopment near the city’s cultural
attractions, including the Museum Mile. Slated to open in 2008, the
property will feature a full-service spa, a gourmet restaurant and
other dining options and a selection of meeting and ballroom
Solis will offer travel agents 10 percent commission.
Capella Pedregal Cabo San Lucas will open in Cabo San Lucas,
Mexico, in spring of 2008. The property will encompass 24
mountainside and oceanfront acres where the Pacific meets the Sea
of Cortez. The 66-room resort will be complemented by 31 shared
ownership residences (Capella Residences) and 20 private,
full-ownership casonas (Capella Casonas) starting at about $2
million. Along with a spa and fitness facility, guests can dine in
several different restaurants. A 25-minute drive from Los Cabos
International Airport, the resort is set near the Cabo Marina and
within walking distance to the shops, dining and entertainment of
Cabo San Lucas village. www.capellacabo.com
Capella also plans to reopen Schloss Velden, or “Chateau Velden,”
a historic lakeside hotel located in the Alpine basin of southern
Austria in the town of Velden. The hotel is scheduled to reopen in
the summer of 2007, with 109 suites and junior suites, 50 private
residences, two restaurants and a spa, as well as an adjacent beach
club and marina on the shores of Lake Worther. A legendary luxury
hotel for nearly a century, Schloss Velden was first a castle
dating back some 400 years and has hosted monarchs and Hollywood
royalty alike. Often referred to as the “Monte Carlo” of Austria,
Velden features access to attractions that range from skiing to
Alpine hiking, boating, swimming, horseback riding, dining and
Capella also plans in late 2007 to reopen Breidenbacher Hof, in
Dusseldorf, Germany, as part of a mixed-use development. The
nine-story building will consist of a 100-room luxury hotel,
restaurants, high-end retailers, as well as some offices and
Capella Resort & Spa, Castlemartyr, an Irish castle dating
back to the 12th century, will start hosting clients this year. The
restored retreat boasts 106 guestrooms, a bar and billiards room,
three meeting rooms, spa and an 18-hole Ron Kirby-designed golf
course. Carriage tours of the grounds will showcase several
historic sites. The resort is set among Castlemartyr village’s
woodlands, lakes and gardens.
Set to open this year, Capella Resort & Spa, Dunboy Castle,
will be made over into an 82-suite resort featuring a wine bar,
cigar terrace and a spa. Other perks include helicopter service to
Waterville Golf Links. The castle was first built in the 15th
century in the village of Castletownbere, Ireland.
Capella will offer agent commissions.