top 5 things to learn from rosewood and its ceo sonia cheng

November 15, 2023

In a late October 2023 interview with the Financial Times, Sonia Cheng, the CEO of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, shares remarkable insights and gives a lesson in state-of-the-art value-based management, not only valid for the hospitality sector. This interview resonates very well with my recent trend outlook, which puts “unique property conversion to differentiate” on the agenda of the hospitality industry. To a large extent, Rosewood properties and developments are conversions, like their latest opening in Munich, which formerly hosted a bank.

About Rosewood

With a growth of 47% in bookings and a 60% growth in revenue since 2019, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts is without any doubt a pacemaker in the luxury hospitality market. With 40 properties in 20 countries in operation and a pipeline of 28 hotels to come, this hotel group shows a strong momentum in the marketplace.

Now let’s get into details, where I am adding my two cents from an advisory perspective to extract recommended actions.

Hotel de Crillon, Paris
Top 1: Develop a purpose-led vision

Rosewood has the aspiration to become a platform for connecting people in communities, which enriches the places that Rosewood operates in. This strategic north star is key to improve the corporate commitment and gives orientation to customers and partners as well. In addition, this vision creates the basis for integrating other lines of business perfectly well, like the “Rosewood Residences”, the “Asaya” spa brand or the “Carlyle & Co” members club.

Furthermore, Rosewood’s “sense of place” tagline is a powerful statement, that summarizes the Rosewood mission perfectly well to create authentic spaces and experiences which need to resonate well with the hotel surroundings.

Top 2: Learn from other industries

For Sonia Cheng, it is key to learn from other industries to elevate the Rosewood brand. Inspiration comes especially from the fashion and retail industry, whose lifestyle factors infuse the brand ecosystem of Rosewood. A recent collaboration with the fashion retailer “The Webster” started in July 2023 with pop-up stores in Rosewood’s US properties and continued with co-hosting a fashion week celebration in Rosewood’s Hotel de Crillon in Paris and with developing a digital gift guide for the holiday season to come. In addition to the increasing brand awareness, many supreme touchpoints were created.

Lobby of Rosewood Paris
Top 3: Get involved in key details

Sonia Cheng, who neither went through a formal hospitality education nor had significant hospitality experience before becoming the CEO of the hotel family business in 2009, loves to challenge the design of a hotel and has developed a remarkable instinct in site selections and conversions. These examples underline that she is an engaged leader to constantly challenge the team by her executive presence.

Top 4: Create touch points to harvest opportunities

Having a lot of projects and initiatives in parallel is not a threat for Rosewood. In contrary, it is important for Rosewood’s success. Initiatives like the “kids learning retreats” to enhance family travel, the creation of “Rosewood Residences” (which are the result of frequent hotel guest requests) and the new “Carlyle & Co” member’s club all create remarkable touchpoints. Taking these touchpoints seriously, automatically results in the generation of new business opportunities.

Bar of Rosewood Paris
Top 5: Think sustainability from the beginning

To make sustainability initiatives a success, it is key to already include them in the planning and development phase. Sustainability in infrastructure is one thing, but another thing is making sustainability a key part of experiences, as the main personas of Rosewood are socially and environmentally conscious. Rosewood’s ESG initiative “Rosewood Impacts” is fueled with expertise from different existing policies, all dating back years ago. The question whether sustainability in HR operations is fully integrated (e.g. sustainable contract and payment policies), was not addressed in the interview.

More information:

If you like to learn more about shaping your business vision and brand value, how to add more relevant touchpoints to your business model and if you are thinking of putting holistic sustainability on your agenda, please reach out (


Sonia Cheng: ‘The key is to design a hotel that doesn’t feel like a hotel’, Financial Times, 25 October 2023:

“the future of hospitality: discoveries in 2023 with impact“, Detlef Schmidt, 14 October 2023:

All photo credits are with Detlef Schmidt, Location: Hotel de Crillon, Paris, 2021/2022