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Posts from the ‘Investment’ Category

Bringing Rock Spa® experience to Swiss Alps

R&M treatment room

This October, Hard Rock Hotel Davos celebrated the opening of Rock Spa® Davos. The power of music was mixed with the beauty of location in the Swiss Alps to create an unforgettable experience for guests. This philosophy was fully reflected through the sights, sounds and other sensory experiences.

Combining spa, fitness, yoga and retail, the new Rock Spa® Davos offers a 360-degree approach to wellness, in keeping with Raison d’Etre’s philosophy to encourage guests to maximise their potential. The 945 sq. metre spa boasts a series of thermal experiences including a main pool, Kneipp Walk Pool, Whirl Pool, sauna, Hammam and Ice Room. As guests of the Hard Rock Hotel Davos celebration weekend, we enjoyed a varied choice of Body Rock® fun fitness activities ranging from functional training and cardio to the more unusual acrobatics and Rock Om® yoga rave. Words and expressions like “synchronicity”, “smooth operator”, “wrap mix” and “rhythm and pressure” acquired new meanings, completely transforming our experience. It is truly a unique place and unique experience.

Our collaboration with Hard Rock International began in December 2017. While building the residences we realized that the existing spa and pool was not consistent with the expectations of our potential guests, however due to the historical legacy of the building and all the architectural limitations to go with it, very limited changes to special allocation and zoning could be implemented during reconstruction. Furthermore, the budget was tight (as usual) and all parties involved were to bring to life a decent Spa complex that would fit the profile of the Hard Rock Hotel Davos at a reasonable investment cost. Our team designed and opened our first spa – Roman Holidays in 2006 as part of the massive reconstruction and refurbishment of St. Petersburg’s Park Inn by Radisson Pribaltiyskaya Hotel & Congress Center in 2006. [DISCLAIMER: a series of tragic incidents that had eventually caused Waterville and Roman Holidays its licence and led to suspension of operations had occurred long after we have divested that property.] And in 2014 we opened Luceo Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg, which quickly became a market leader in Russia and was consistently voted one of the best spas in Europe. We really had to call on the knowledge gained from all of our past experience to make the Rock Spa® not only work, but also ROCK!

The way I see it, a contemporary Spa should be not a cost, but a profit centre for a hotel. To achieve this, rather obviously, it has to be more than just a few treadmills, a pool, a massage parlor and a sauna. An efficient contemporary spa must offer its guests a sufficient number of versatile treatment rooms (for example, requests for couples treatment have recently increased significantly). There should be a good balance between dry and wet areas. The gym concept that has only a few cardio machines is gone – more and more guests demand Yoga, Pilates and free weights and body weight exercises. You can no longer surprise anyone with just a laps pool, it should additionally have different temperatures and water pressure systems. Now it is more about the experience itself, and not just about the usage of facilities. Modern sophisticated travelers have high expectations. And the hotel has to be ready to meet them, otherwise it would be close to impossible to develop a loyal base of returning guests, which is essential for a location such as Davos.

This is why Rock Spa® Davos developed a unique approach – the experience it created makes you enjoy your time. It is the place where travelers find pleasure during their stay.  As a result there is a stunning hexagon Jacuzzi pool (the idea of which, by the way, started with just a Woods Bagot’s suggestion of hexagon tiles  for decorating the hotel reception’s back wall).  There are Body Rock® fitness activities and Rock Om® – all to delight and rejuvenate guests.

I am also convinced that a modern hotel is not only about rooms, a breakfast area or spa. There is much more to it – and this is why various programmes are continually being developed for each specific location, which later become a signature for the region. For example, you can host a rock concert during the pre-World Economic Forum party.  Setting the tent over the open sky restaurant, you capture the zoning between a restaurant and bar area and you manage to have a dedicated space for the louder part of the event. Being involved in the Hard Rock Hotel Davos opening party, I was very pleased to experience this approach – during the evening programme there was a rock concert featuring American music star Big A who came straight from Mississippi. As Davos was hit by the first major snowfall of the season that weekend delivering more than 50 cm of fresh powder, the guests really needed to keep themselves warms in the improvised concert zone by standing close to each other and drinking Hard Rock Hotel signature cocktails.

Most likely, in the constant pursuit for profitability in public areas, such zone adaptations will become more popular. For example, during the Grand Opening Party of Hard Rock Cafe St. Petersburg at Nikolsky Ryady, the courtyard was converted seamlessly into a concert venue for 5,000+ guests.

All the Hotel’s achievements during 2018 (hosting one of the key breakfasts during the World Economic Forum 2018 at the end of January, being included in The Hospitality Industry Network’s Top Interior Design 2018 list, being awarded second best “Newcomer” Hotel of the year in Switzerland within “The 222 best hotels in Switzerland” ranking, and much more) demonstrate that the Hard Rock Hotel Davos is one of the desirable destinations for sophisticated tourists. Let’s wait for Rock Spa® Davos to join the list of awards.

From now on guests of Hard Rock Hotel Davos Rock Spa® will be the best judges to decide what was and was not achieved. And we will carry on and apply our experience in new and exciting projects, such as Antognolla Luxury Resort and Residences where more than 1,800 sq. meters need to be developed into a world leading spa. There is a lot of work to be done, so back to the drawing board!  Again…


8 tips for budding entrepreneurs

shutterstock_361396376Last week Saint Petersburg hosted its International Economic Forum (SPIEF) with its usual focus on SOEs, mega-deals and bilateral cooperation opportunities. However, the last day of the Forum happened to fall on the Russian National Entrepreneurs Day. Together with The Graduate School of Management of Saint Petersburg State University I was invited to moderate a brainstorming session with the some rather promising Generation Z entrepreneurs to help them develop a more realistic sense of the venture capital and private equity industry and what it offers. During the session, 12 participants had to collaborate to try to find answers to questions that ranged from the challenges of starting up a business, attracting investments, and building a team for success, while reconciling personal friendships and workplace relations. In the end, we came up with a sort of cheat-sheet to help Gen Z entrepreneurs overcome some of the common challenges associated with launching a new business. Read more

PE in Fashion and Demand Amongst The Top Sovereigns

The beginning is the most important part of the work.

   Plato, The Republic


It has always been a matter of personal choice how to kick off on the 1st (or maybe 2nd) of January after all the indulgences of the festive season: some go out for a brisk 20K Nordic ski run to build on their New Year’s resolution and some desperately search for aspirin and Alka-Seltzer to wrestle away a nudging hangover. Always has been – always will be. However, I find that the same is true for the financial industry. Often the early moves and statements by the industry’s heavyweights significantly define what to expect from the next 12 months.

Read more

A Russian alternative to Microsoft

Today’s great powers are rightly concerned that over 80 per cent of the world’s desktop computers run on an operating system primarily developed in one country, the US. Attempts by Europeans, Indians and the Chinese to develop their own operating systems (OS) are well recorded and have been less than successful to date. Leaving aside the point of copyright and royalties, it is interesting to note another attempt to break the American hold on the OS market, this time by the Russians. Read more

Bold Decisions and Fresh Opportunities: The future of UK-Russia tourism relations, post-Brexit


The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” 

– Marcel Proust 

As Britain begins to plan for a post-Brexit future, intense discussions about the economic implications of our looming divorce from the European Union (EU) have not subsided. My own interest in this topic naturally relates to post-Brexit economic relations between the UK and Russia, in all their guises. My previous post addressed some of the implications for business and trade moving forward. In this post, I want to focus specifically on the future prospects for tourism between the two countries, both in terms of the exchange of visitors and sector investment more broadly. Read more

Bringing Russia in from the Cold: Investment & Trade between Russia and the UK post-Brexit

Russia was widely hailed as one of the beneficiaries of the recent Brexit vote, but in reality, their position is much more nuanced, and the situation poses several advantages and disadvantages for the Russian economy. Read more

More ways to live whilst you are young


Previously I wrote a post in which I imagined offering advice to my 22-year-old self. To my surprise, but fittingly given the post’s observation that time flies, I now realise that this was over two years ago!

I feel that it is time for an update, especially now that summer has come and gone and we are in the closing days of October, a month that – in the UK at least – traditionally marks the beginning of the new academic year, when university campuses are bustling with new students, ready to embark upon the next exciting chapter of their lives.

My three suggestions from 2014 still stand. Indeed, if anything, global developments since I wrote the earlier piece have reinforced the importance to today’s young adults of a career-oriented education, diverse language skills and a willingness to try one’s hand at anything. Global shifts, including the rise of China and the continuing sense of economic and political crisis in Europe and the US (now arguably worse than it was even two years ago), mean that flexibility, an inquisitive mind and an insatiable appetite for learning remain the paramount qualities of the day. Read more

A Perilous Precedent

‘A precedent embalms a principle’ – Benjamin Disraeli

In the coming week, my native city of St Petersburg will host an international economic forum, the main purpose of which will be the promotion of Russia as an attractive prospect for outside investment.

SPIEF will be held in the new convention centre ‘Expoforum’ whilst this year’s delegates will be feverishly looking to get reservations at the top hotels. GHE, Four Seasons and W are hosting some of the most important sessions. Once again, the most prominent venue will be the Four Seasons Lions Palace hotel, located in the renovated palace of Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky. Next week this extraordinary hotel will be the essential focal point for some of most recognized Forbes and Fortune faces of the forum.

When Lion Palace opened it was a Read more

Magnets for Growth

“False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often long endure; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, as every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path towards error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened.”

Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871)

Crony capitalism is the subject of considerable and often misguided debate. It is an economic system where those who are inappropriately close to government officials are given unfair advantages, commonly in the form of financial incentives. As a person with a regulated European fund and yet on the receiving end of baseless allegations of crony capitalism, this is a topic I follow closely.

I am a frequent reader of The Economist, a publication which prides itself on its quality of research, but  I was very surprised by an article that I recently read which featured an updated ‘crony capitalism index’.  Read more

36.6°C – The ideal temperature for investment in Russia

We have heard mixed accounts of Russian businesses lately, and against this backdrop I was pleased to note some positive developments in the Russian pharmaceuticals industry.

According to a report from RBC, the US firm Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), the world’s largest network of pharmacies, has acquired a 15 per cent stake in the Russian pharmacy chain 36,6. This forms part of a wider deal, which also includes the acquisition by 36,6 of WBA’s distribution arm ‘Alliance Healthcare Russia’ Read more