Francisco Moser was certainly not the first teenager to fantasize about life as a rock star. Playing lead guitar for a garage band that could bang out a fair rendition of Jumping Jack Flash allowed him the thrill of being the center of attention. But it’s behind the scenes, as a hotelier, where this Lisbonian has made his most original "music". Recognizing that travel has a far longer shelf life than pop music, to say nothing of more opportunities for making a living, he put all his efforts into his other passion: hospitality.
“Also,” he explains, “my father said to me, ‘You should get a real job!’” Today, some 25 years later, that job—as the Managing Director for Discovery Hotel Management—has led him to shape his many properties with the passion of a scholar, the experience of a seasoned traveler, and the joy of a musician not afraid to improvise.
Well, we try very hard to be original. We want people to have experiences that are unique only to the areas they are visiting and the hotels that they are staying in. Otherwise, what’s the point of traveling? Indeed, for us, those experiences begin even before guests have unpacked because we work mainly with Portuguese designers and architects. How better to produce an authentic, localized feeling than to bring to life the vision of someone fully at home within a landscape. Architect Miguel Saraiva, for example, did stunning work for us creating Furnas Boutique Hotel, Thermal & Spa in the Azores, as did interior designer Nini Andrade Silva with Azor Hotel, which uses natural materials to beautifully connect the hotel to the island of São Miguel.
My inspirations often go hand-in-hand with hospitality. That is, I like to read books by and about people who look at the industry in a different way. There’s Danny Meyer—the great New York City restaurateur behind Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern. He is also the author of the famous book Setting the Table and an inspiration to all our DHM team. It’s a book that every hotelier should read—Meyer has not only developed original and successful Food & Beverage concepts, but he is constantly asking the question: “Whoever wrote this rule?” The point is, he is always challenging the standards. So at DHM we try to find different angles and be distinctive with our projects by asking this question at all times.
I also recently read a book by Isadore Sharp, the founder of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts who, in the 1970s and 1980s, brought to the industry great notions of luxury, architecture, and design—and management as well. I was fascinated by how he looked at the luxury hotel business in those years. Now it’s a different time, of course, but the same questions remain: How to be different? How to look to the future? How to provide guests with what they are looking for?
We have a fantastic office in Lisbon overlooking the city. And while my workday is now largely defined by meetings and defining strategies for each of our properties, I still visit the hotels quite often. Also, I have a wife and four children, so my home life is my fulltime job, too! I go to gym three to four times a week. And I play tennis. I’m a huge Roger Federer fan—he’s a great hero of mine, as are the musicians Roger Waters and Peter Gabriel. But one of the things I enjoy most is jogging along the river. It’s very beautiful there. I listen to jazz and think about life.
Well, I’ve been in the business more than 25 years, so that’s very hard to say! I chose to go into hotels because I really like being with people, having that contact. One of the things I regret in this position is not being on the frontline. I tell this to folks I work with and they say, “He’s crazy! He’s at the top of the company!” But I like to be with the customers. Maybe in 10 years or so I’ll manage a small, 20-room hotel and just be with my guests everyday. Of course I love my job, it’s very challenging. But I like to be in the kitchen. I like to cook, I like to pour wine—that personal, one-on-one experience, that’s the type of hotel experience I try to create for my guests today. It’s what I feel in my blood.