Hotel kingpin JP Oliver tells Zak Smith about his glamorous lifestyle and why The Confidante will be an exciting new chapter in Miami.
For jet-setters and adventurers, celebrities and luxury travel junkies, picking the right holiday destination is everything, and when it comes to ensuring that guests have the best possible experience, the hotel manager holds all the power. Hidden from most guests, the manager pulls the strings and sets the tone. With years of experience at the likes of The Delano South Beach, Mondrian Miami and The Shore Club, JP Oliver has seen it all.
A kingpin of the Miami hotel scene, JP Oliver, managing director and general manager of The Confidante, Miami’s latest luxury outpost, was keen to explain just what it means to run a luxury hotel. ‘It’s great fun, particularly in such a cosmopolitan, international city like Miami. Really, it’s all about communication, between yourself and guests, understanding what people want from a holiday, and ensuring that you can anticipate the needs of individuals in a world where everyone’s desires have become more immediate.’
As a hospitality heavyweight in a city whose lifeblood is tourism, Oliver has his finger on the pulse, and I was eager to find out the latest trends in luxury hospitality.
In the past few years, he says the industry has seen a ‘clear reversal away from ostentation’, moving towards the ‘back to basics’ approach: ‘You can call it “farm to table” when talking about the culinary world, but really, hotels are appreciating that they need to focus on the basics of making people as comfortable as possible, with as many touch points as possible.’
Having run some of America’s most luxurious debauch venues, Oliver has had his fair share of rock and roll moments, and dealing with celebrities is just one part of the challenge.
‘I have had plenty moments I couldn’t share! But whether its dealing with George Clooney, Samuel L Jackson or Leonardo di Caprio, you become accustomed to all the paparazzi attention.’ He says many hotels nowadays are paying celebrities for visits to raise their profile, but he prefers to operate on merit: ‘It’s better to know that the celebrity actually wants to be there.’
The industry is prone to outrageous requests, and Oliver himself has received dozens over the years. ‘We once had to manage a pop-up Indian proposal for a wealthy entrepreneur- as requested, we sourced an elephant to walk down Miami beach so the guy could propose to his girlfriend, and had the elephant at the hotel ready to walk, only for the County Sheriff to prevent it from happening.’ Needless to say, the guest wasn’t impressed, he says, but his girlfriend still said yes!
Finally, having been around the Miami block, I was keen to find out what brought Oliver on board to another luxury hospitality challenge with The Confidante?
‘I wanted a fresh challenge, where the ethos was back to basics for luxury travel, all about the stay as opposed to the bricks and mortar. The vibe is warm and unpretentious, and it has the feel of a friend’s beach house, with an art deco design that reflects Miami Beach’s Golden Era, with amazing interior design by Martin Brudnizki.’ With top restaurants, fitness offerings and bars, he says it truly is an exciting new chapter for Miami.