Jean Philippe: “Barcelona needs to continuously re-invent itself”
Born and raised in Paris, Jean Philippe’s career allowed him to successively relocate to Brussels, Hong Kong, Marrakech, and now Barcelona. He moved into our city in October 2020, with his wife and their two children. He is the General Manager of Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, and has worked for the company, which manages 35 luxury hotels around the globe, 15 years.
Why did you choose Barcelona?
My wife and I always loved coming to Barcelona for a getaway weekend, and it was always on our list of favorite cities, amongst Tokyo and New York. We never imagined that the opportunity would arise, and of course, immediately ceased the chance to relocate.
What aspects of the city would you highlight as being positive?
It is a cosmopolitan city, with a rich demographic mix, people coming from all over the world, having decided to make Barcelona their home. Although large, the city feels of human size, with its villages and neighborhoods such as Gràcia, Sarriá, Poblenou… each having a different feel, a different culture…
What aspects of the city must be improved? How?
Barcelona should not rest on its laurels. The city needs to continuously re-invent itself, innovate, create, welcome, facilitate… A city is like a business, it is facing competition. Why organizing an event here rather than in another destination? Why implanting a company here rather than in another country? Why fighting if it can be easier somewhere else?
A city must remain attractive, and the competition is fierce.
Which are the city’s strengths that will allow it to overcome the COVID-19 crisis?
Barcelona will remain Barcelona. Its location. Its history. «Mar i montanya». Its food. It’s architecture. Its people. It will prevail. There are very motivated people in Barcelona, who are focused on innovation, on creation, on bringing and developing new industries, in positioning the city at the forefront. It is inspiring.
What other challenges do you think the city will face once the health crisis ends?
Some cities, some destinations, have positioned themselves as being more-opened, more welcoming, for many reasons: strategy, capability, typology, circumstances. In a competition, it is hard to play catch up. In my industry, Madrid, for example, has emerged from the crisis with 3 top luxury hotels, that were not there pre-Covid, Four Seasons, Rosewood Villa Magna, and of course Mandarin Oriental, Ritz Madrid. This has been extremely well welcomed and has repositioned the city in the luxury market and brought some attractivity to the city, to a certain market.
What do you expect from Barcelona in the coming years?
For the city to re-invent itself. But without forgetting its past. Becoming a modern city. Perhaps a model in sustainability, in the wider sense, in line with the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Which city do you feel as «your city»? What do you miss the most?
I lived 10 years in Hong Kong, and it became my city, for a time. My children were born there. It is a place with so much energy … it drains yours and replenishes it as fast. And all is easy, doing business, creating. It is a place where «work hard, play hard» takes all its meaning.
But Barcelona is quickly winning me over!
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