Jerome Serot graduated from Vatel in Lyon in 1994. He founded his first company in 1999 and his second one in 2004: The Marketing Factors, recently rebranded as SmarteHotels, specialized in optimization of centralized Global Distribution Systems for reservations e-distribution and booking engines for independent luxury hotels. SmarteHotels’ headquarters are located in San Antonio, Texas and there are three branch offices in New York, Minneapolis and in Spain.
What is your current position?
I’m what people would refer to as a true entrepreneur. I’m the CEO and founder of SmarteHotels, a company targeting independent hotels and small hotel chains that are trying to optimize their systems and booking engines.
What did you do before attending Vatel?
I majored in economy and science in high school and then enrolled in Vatel.
Because of a trip to Thailand! A long stay at the Bangkok Mandarin Oriental Hotel after I graduated from high school. Life in this palace fascinated me. When I came back to France, I started looking for the best school to study hotel and tourist management. That was Vatel.
What do you remember the most about when you attended Vatel? A story to tell?
I have too many anecdotes to tell. I had the opportunity to be a part of the Vatelien team that organized the integration week-end for new students. We went to the city of Arles in the south of France, in the Bouches-du-Rhone region. This is a great memory.
Could you tell us about something that was done or said while you were attending Vatel (either in your theoretical and practical courses or during an internship) that still influences you today in your professional life?
When I was doing an internship in England, at Knutsford Chersire to be exact, the hotel manager told me, “what’s most important is not what you actually say, but what the other person understands.” I can say that I apply this each and every day, and that it has helped my in my job.
What have you done since you graduated? What opportunities have you had?
After I graduated, I joined the events department at the Lutetia Hotel in Paris. This is a four-star luxury hotel in the Latin Quarter in Paris that belongs to the Concorde Hotels & Resorts Group. This first job allowed me to lead the opening of the first Marriott in Paris on the Champs Elysees. It still is the only five-star hotel on the “most beautiful avenue in the world.”
Then I left for New York to open a DMC (Destination Management Company). These destination management companies, also known as “receptive agencies” are specialized in local tourism: transportation, accommodations, restaurants, activities, trips, logistics, linguistic assistance, etc.
Then in 1999, I founded my first company in New York, “Private Entrance Collection,” specialized in Sales & Marketing for luxury trips and representation of hotels on the New York market. Life then took me to Dallas and San Antonio, Texas, where, in 2002, I was the Sales and Marketing Manager for La Mansion Del Rio and Watermark Hotel, that was being opened.
Always pushed by my entrepreneurial ambitions, in 2004 I founded a new company in San Antonio: “The Marketing Factors,” a company proposing a multitude of services in sales and marketing for independent hotels, and which also represents Hotels & Preference in the USA. “TMF” has recently changed its visual identity and even name and has now been rebranded as “Smartehotels.”
“Vatel made me more open-minded and allowed me to meet people who contributed to making me who I am today.”
Aurélie Ponce - Operations manager for the Cheval Blanc Paris Hotel / 2006 Alumnus
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