Philippe Zuber, chief executive of luxury resort operator Kerzner International, got his start in the hotel business early, attending hotel management school after graduating from high school.
“It’s safe to say that hospitality is really in my soul,” says Zuber, 51, who lives in Dubai.
After working at Hyatt International and then Emaar Hospitality Group in Dubai, managing brands such as Armani and Address Hotels, Zuber joined Kerzner, which is also based in Dubai and owns One&Only Resorts and Private Homes, Atlantis, and new Rare Finds Hotels & Stations and SIRO brands.
Rare Finds, a collection of distinct luxury resorts, will launch next year with the reopening of Babs Al Shams Desert Resort in Dubai, and SIRO, a wellness-focused brand, will open its first property in Montenegro next year. next.
“We base our approach on creating bespoke and unforgettable experiences by ensuring that every interaction provided by our colleagues stands out for its heartfelt nature,” says Zuber.
Zuber recently shared travel tips and some of his favorite places and things with penta.
My favorite place in the world is… Rodrigues Island in Mauritius. The small volcanic island is the best place to recharge your batteries [surrounded by] incredible landscapes of tropical flora and fauna. Considered one of the most isolated inhabited islands in the world, Rodrigues is the most relaxing place in the world.
The place that inspires me the most is… whenever I travel I always try to spend time enjoying a sidewalk cafe. I love being immersed in local cultures and neighborhood places. In a café, I feel like I’m part of the daily life of the locals and feel the pulse of the city in such a short time. My passion as a hotelier started from there, observing how hospitality can become an integral part of the destination. Sit down for an hour at Café Bonaparte, Place Saint Germain in Paris, and you will never forget it. The terrace has this incredible energy and so much to observe and absorb. It seems like everyone in the city passes by and stops there.
The one thing I can’t live without in my home is… configuration of my hi-fi system and turntable for vinyl records. Music is a big part of my life and I can’t wait to wind down with a record at the end of the day.
When I travel, I always bring… my Louis Vuitton Keepall bag. It’s the perfect travel companion to hold everything you need for a successful trip, from sunglasses to scarves, plus all the necessary chargers.
My traveling uniform is… a hooded cashmere zip-up cardigan is essential. It’s comfortable yet stylish too. For a chic look, I love Berluti, for something a little more offbeat, Zadig & Voltaire.
The first thing I do when I check into a hotel is… open the windows, observe the local landscape and make sure the patio furniture is comfortable.
If I had to buy a work of art, it would be by… (South Korean painter) Lee Ufan. I discovered his work while living and working in South Korea and feel a special connection to his art. I’m into contemporary art and I really like Mark Rothko and Pierre Soulages, but Lee Ufan’s minimalist art is really something that resonates with me. When you appreciate and understand South Korean culture, it’s even more powerful. I was lucky enough to work in a hotel with an original painting of him right outside my desk.
The best book I’ve read in the last year is… Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes. It’s a commentary on modern Paris and its politics, full of fascinating characters – a memorable and thought-provoking read.
My favorite drink is… I am French, so I almost never say no to French wines. My favorite is Bordeaux, but my passion for wines in general extends to all types and I enjoy trying different varietals and blends from each place I visit.
One of my passions that few people know about is… I am passionate about supporting organic farming because I believe in better and more sustainable ways to produce quality vegetables and fruit. I sponsor the conversion of conventional farmland to organic farming in Lyon, France. The farm produces the most amazing fresh tasting vegetables. This is a small contribution overall, but it makes a difference and is very much needed in today’s environment.
The only trip I’ve done that I’d like to do again… there are so many and it’s hard to choose just one. My last trip was to visit One&Only Gorilla’s Nest in Rwanda with my family and my mother, a perfect multi-generational trip. It was everything you could want for a vacation…emotional, adventurous, beautiful, delicious and memorable. But if I could take another trip with my family tomorrow, it would be Japan. It’s the family destination that everyone loves so much – Japan never disappoints.
What wakes me up in the morning is… coffee and reading French newspapers – always Le Figaro – followed by morning yoga.
The restaurant in my hometown that I like to take a visitor to is… my favorite restaurant in Dubai is Nobu at Atlantis, The Palm. As a family, we always look forward to dining there.
One person who inspired me to do what I do is… (French cook)
Alain Ducasse. I have always been inspired by him. His recent interview on the Generation Do it Yourself podcast is incredible. Alain Ducasse has pushed the world of hospitality so much by being humble, creative, avant-garde and always so generous in the dissemination of his knowledge. For example, in the cookbook world, he was the first to share his recipes and techniques with a wider audience in such style.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.