Long-Time Monte Carlo Hotel Owner SBM Moves Into French Alps With Ski Resort Acquisition9 January 2024
Monaco Mainstay Grows Hotel Portfolio, and More International Acquisitions Could Follow
One of Monte Carlo's most longstanding hotel owner-operators is growing its portfolio beyond Monaco.
Founded in 1863, Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer owns four hotels in Monte Carlo, the largest “quartier" or neighborhood of Monaco, an independent city-state in southeast France along the French Riviera on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Monaco is the second smallest country in the world at 2 square kilometers or 0.8 square miles, about four times larger than the smallest nation, Vatican City.
The Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer's hotel portfolio includes the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel. (Terence Baker)
The company's four properties in Monte Carlo are the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo, Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel and Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort. In October, SBM — as the Monegasque firm is often referred — acquired the 78-room Le Palace des Neiges in Courchevel 1850, a luxury ski village in the French Alps in eastern France.
SBM is a publicly traded company owned by Paris-based lifestyle firm LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which also owns global hotel firm Belmond.
While not being far from Monaco — some 120 miles as the crow flies — the acquired hotel is the first international outing for a firm founded 160 years ago.
Le Palace des Neiges — translated in English as The Snow Palace — will be renovated this year and will remain operated by the Alp’Azur Group until the end of the current winter skiing season, said Pascal Camia, SBM’s chief international development officer of casinos, hotels and restaurants.
Camia, who is also a former general manager at the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo, said SBM's acquisition of the French hotel was an obvious choice for the firm, despite it not having moved internationally in its 16-decade history.
“[We] invented in 1863 a new way of life, the resort concept, a long time before it became a popular model in the industry,” he said. “Since then, the company has always adapted itself, its offer, as well as the client experience to society and clientele changes.”
Camia mentioned SBM's innovative ideas such as starting gaming in Monaco when it was illegal in France and more recently developing branded, residential and retail real estate and private, high-end residences — notably Monte-Carlo Opera House.
He added that every idea and innovation is aimed at continuing and redefining LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s legend and that of its hotels and other offerings.
Camia said that acquiring Le Palace des Neiges marks a historic move for SBM. He added Chairman and CEO Stéphane Valeri has emphasized foreign expansion as one of the firm’s strategic pillars.
“[It is] a move made at the perfect time. … Courchevel’s destination positioning, clientele and reputation perfectly matching with [that of] SBM,” Camia said. “This is a complementary destination, which will allow us to offer more opportunities for our customers and collaborators.
“Furthermore, we will be at the heart of the future winter 2030 Olympic Games,” Camia added.
The International Olympic Committee has said its preferred host for the 2030 Winter Olympic Games is the French Alps, although that decision has not yet been rubber-stamped.
SBM is considering other destinations for additional hotel acquisition opportunities, some a great deal farther from Monaco, Camia said. These will not be solely in France or in French overseas territories, but also in places such as the budding tourism centers of the Middle East.
“The roadmap … is very clear: to develop our activities in the destinations where our clients stay, live or go for vacation. Therefore, we did our first development in Courchevel, and we are looking at Saint Barthélemy [St. Barts], Dubai, Miami and Saint-Tropez.”
Of SBM's four hotels in Monaco, perhaps the most famous is the 278-room Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo, which is classified as a national monument and has a lobby designed by Gustave Eiffel. Its 99-room Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo — which reopened in 2019 following a four-year, $280 million renovation — sits above a famed wine cellar whose priceless bottles were hidden from the Nazi invasion during World War II by a huge, thick wall of empty bottles.
In addition to its four hotels, SBM also owns two casinos, 30 restaurants and bars and several wellness and spa centers.
Camia said Le Palace des Neiges complements SBM’s portfolio of “refined experiences for discerning clientele …. a portfolio and a range of experience that have always been adapted to societal changes and clientele evolutions. The change is actually an adaptation, and it is still ongoing.”
SBM has invested a great deal of capital into Monte Carlo and Monaco, too, Camia said.
“We have just unveiled the new Café de Paris Brasserie, and we will open the Amazonico Monte-Carlo restaurant on the building rooftop in April 2024. New projects are in the pipeline,” he said.
Camia added SBM has been around long enough for its hoteliers to appreciate the necessity of taking time to weigh any new opportunity, whether that be for a hotel, restaurant or gaming activity.
Such thinking will allow its SBM's Monte Carlo guests and customers to continue experiencing a grand life and memorable experiences all year, not just in the more pleasant months of a Mediterranean climate, Camia said.