At Home with Versace
and pics by Roderick Eime
To say Lindsay Wallace was brand conscious would be an understatement. And to suggest she was merely “in tune” to convenience, style, comfort and practicality would be similarly short of the mark. As Director of Marketing for the unashamedly opulent Palazzo Versace on Queensland’s Gold Coast, Lindsay is responsible for the famous Italian designer label’s projection into the highly competitive accommodation market.
“When people hear the name Versace, they tend to think of exclusivity reserved for the richest of the rich,” says Lindsay, ”but we’ve been very successful in attracting clients who may not necessarily live the Versace lifestyle every day. Our rooms start at less than $400 - and that includes breakfast.”
Walk inside the main foyer and you’re engulfed in imported Italian marble, massive chandeliers, distinctive plush upholstery and a brigade of flawlessly attired service staff all at your beck-and-call.
“A big part of that success,” continues Lindsay,” is our people. You can see they’re not aloof or distant. I’m very proud of the friendly, enthusiastic service they deliver. Guests immediately feel comfortable and not intimidated by the glitz and glamour.”
When Lindsay joined Palazzo Versace in August 2001, the property was still finding its niche in the market; then just one month later came ‘911’ which in particular damaged the tourism industry, making the road to its current success not an easy one.
As the world’s first fashion-branded hotel, the concept broke new ground and presented numerous challenges in brand licensing, marketing, positioning and promotion.
“Built by the locally-based Sunland Group, who own and manage the property, all closely overseen by Versace head office in Milan and an Australian based agency. The whole process is very tightly controlled and the balance takes quite a bit of management,” confesses Lindsay.
“But gradually we turned around the early issue of perception and now we’re hosting conventions, trade events and product launches. In spite of what most people believe, the majority of our guests are Australian and most of them come from Sydney. Families are well catered for.” Outside a mother enjoys a swim with her infant daughter in the lagoon-sized pool and a father walks past with another toddler clinging on like a Koala joey. The foyer is remarkably devoid of bejewelled glitterati, populated instead by regular tourists and a small group of Japanese. But just then a young glamorous couple struts past, clearly enjoying the many turning heads.
Lindsay introduces me to Graham Grant, the Front Office Manager, and I’m taken on an eye-popping tour of the establishment.
“Graham’s just won the Gold Coast’s top award for individual hospitality,” she whispers when she thinks he’s out of earshot.
I tour the Romanesque Salus Per Aquum, Palazzo Versace’s award-winning spa, one of the privately owned, two-bedroom condos frequented by celebrities and VIPs and, of course, the palatial (160 sqm) Imperial Suite which can be had for a mere $4000 per night.
We find head chef, Steve Szabo (pic right), preparing the day’s menu in Vie, the hotel’s. award-winning contemporary restaurant overlooking the Broadwater. A bald, brash Welshman with a sharp sense of humour, the two are quickly volleying jokes across the shiny stainless steel bench tops. “He takes a bit of getting used to,” confides Lindsay with a discrete, glance. But the restaurant’s reputation as one of the Gold Coast’s very best buys Steve a lot of leeway!
Lindsay clearly enjoys her work. She carries herself with an ease and grace that is obviously reflected in the staff as they greet her wherever she goes throughout the expansive property.
Her trademark zeal is reflected in her choice of car - a bright red Honda Jazz - lovingly dubbed “The Red Rocket”.
“‘Why did you buy a Honda?’ friends would ask,” says Lindsay,” they expect me to be whizzing around in some expensive European thing, but that simply doesn’t suit me. We’ve owned Hondas for over ten years. My husband has one and so does my mum.
“With two young kids I love the Jazz’s flexible interior space. I can drop the little ones at kindy and then quickly re-jig it to pack in a trade display or boxes of brochures. I can park it in a flash (smiles) and it’s very easy on fuel.”
Before joining Palazzo Versace, Lindsay spent ten years with Marriott, and with the Sheraton Mirage before that. So despite continual exposure to the zenith of style and haute couture, she is very much at home with the Red Rocket.
Commissioned for HONDA - The Magazine