A Family Affair: Paris-Born Mama Shelter Is All Set To Bring Its Unique Offering To The Middle East's Hospitality Landscape

The Paris-born, family-run brand is all set to bring its unique offering to the Middle East's hospitality landscape.

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Founded in 2008 in Paris, Mama Shelter set out to create hotel destinations around a very particular philosophy: to build establishments in locations that tell a distinctive story to the world. This mission has resulted in what is today a brand boasting of 1,672 rooms, 13 restaurants, six rooftops, three co-working spaces, and over 1,100 employees in 13 cities and seven countries. With its outposts now in Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Belgrade, Prague, Toulouse, London, Lille, and Luxembourg, Mama Shelter has been clearly finding favor for its offering.

Mama Shelter
Benjamin, Serge and Jérémie Trigano, co-founders, Mama Shelter

Explaining the brand's allure, Mama Shelter co-founder and Director General Jérémie Trigano says, "Mama Shelter is a place where you can revel in new encounters, a real urban hideaway- which is not only full of life, but [is also] modern, warm, and sexy. You can curl up on our sofas and enjoy sharing our generous dishes, sip our delicious homemade cocktails, while listening to a live concert, or simply relax and sleep like a baby after watching a free blockbuster movie in your room... Mama takes care of everything!"

Behind the Mama Shelter brand is a family whose expertise in the hospitality sector spans generations. "It is a family affair, and I guess, hospitality runs through my veins and my genes," Trigano says, and yes, he does have the evidence to back that assertion up. Kicking off his family's interests in this sector was his great grandfather, Raymond Trigano, who, in the 1940s, launched a company specializing in the distribution of camping and sports equipment.

His grandfather, Gilbert Trigano, co-founded Club Méditerranée with Gerard Blitz in the 1950s, which grew to become a renowned international travel and tourism operator specializing in all-inclusive holidays. Finally, his father, Serge Trigano, and his brother, Benjamin Trigano, are his co-founders for Mama Shelter- so, this is clearly a business that's definitely got a close-knit family at the heart of it, and it does seem like guests are very receptive to its particular ethos. "Guests who pick Mama choose us because we offer a journey within a journey," Trigano says. "Unlike other so-called lifestyle hotels, Mama is popular and for everyone."

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Source: Mama Shelter

As an enterprise that transforms real estate assets into what Trigano calls "magical hospitality destinations" that fit the expectations of today's urban business and leisure travelers, Mama Shelter has managed to create a diverse following from around the world. "We like to say we are a crossroads for people of all ages, countries, cultures, creativities, and ethnic backgrounds," Trigano says.

"Thanks to our destination restaurants and our artistic programs, we are deeply rooted in the local community, offering travelers the opportunity to mingle with the locals." According to Trigano, Mama Shelter was one of the first lifestyle brands in Europe to create such an offering for travelers, and this has certainly worked out to its favor. "The success of Mama has been the fruit of the labors of a tribe of founders and of amazing men and women -architects, designers, artists, chefs, [and] staff- who joined us since the first opening in 2008: the Mama Gang!"

In 2014, global hotel operator Accor Hotels acquired a 35% stake in the company, signaling the start of an era of accelerated growth for the brand. "Like everything at Mama, the relationship started with an interaction," Trigano says, as he recalls how his father, brother, and himself met Accor Chairman and CEO Sebastien Bazin in 2014. "Sebastien knew there were no lifestyle brands in Accor's portfolio, and that the lifestyle segment was growing." Though the Trigano family were initially hesitant of being part of a major hotel group, they also knew they needed the help of an industrial partner to grow. But after meeting Bazin "over a delicious bowl of pasta cooked by my mom," the family grew to be more confident about the proposed partnership: "We loved the man and his vision!"

With a robust partner now onboard, Mama Shelter has been eyeing up further development, and the Middle East is figuring heavily in its plans for the future. Trigano says that his enterprise currently has nine hotels in the pipeline, including two in the Middle East, namely in Dubai and Bahrain. "Branching out in the Middle East was obvious and strategically needed for the global buildup of the brand, but also because of the absence of similar concepts in the region," he says. "This part of the world is one of our key pillars for the years to come, and we truly believe that our lifestyle offering will be a perfect match to the region's expectations. Nothing comparable to Mama exists for now, and we want to be the first [one] to tap into the lifestyle segment there."

Much like every other entity within the hospitality space, Mama Shelter has also been negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic that struck in 2020. "This crisis has probably hit us harder, as the foundation of our concept is based on human interaction," says Trigano. Though many of its properties are still closed due to governmental guidelines, the Mama Shelter team remain thankful for the support of their partners.

"We will survive this difficult period, and we'll probably come out stronger, as we have been taking this time to improve our offering. We are convinced our guests will, more than ever, want to gather in destinations like Mama once we can reopen fully." As such, Trigano remains bullish about Mama Shelter's future. "Mama Shelter has a bright path in front of it," he says. "We have 13 hotels operating, nine in the works, and 10 under negotiations. My dream as an entrepreneur is to see Mama continue to grow and lead in the midscale lifestyle market, and enter the luxury and economic market successfully as well."

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1. Keep a tab on your team "Trust does not exclude control. It is always good to check your team's work, and combine macromanagement with micro-management."

2. The devil is in the detail "Pay attention to detail. Our job is to make sure everyone is happy, and that everything is perfect."

3. Hard work gets it done "Work hard; this industry is 24/7. Adapt yourself [as] competition is fierce, and tastes are changing daily; you need to be creative and bold to keep up with the pace."

4. Trust your gut "Follow your instincts. Too many decision-makers can lead to the wrong decision, so if your gut tells you to do it, do it."

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