With more than 30 years of hospitality experience, SH Hotels & Resorts’ new CEO, Arash Azarbarzin, is poised to bring his stamp to its luxury hotel brands alongside the group’s founder and chairman, the visionary Barry Sternlicht. The company’s hotel brands include Baccarat Hotels & Resorts and 1 Hotels worldwide.
If the 1 Hotels brand—the wellness-driven hospitality company currently shaking up the industry—has proven one thing, it’s that sustainability and luxury don’t have to be mutually exclusive. With a strong emphasis on and commitment to conscious consumption and sustainable materials, 1 Hotel’s properties are decorated with casual but decidedly luxe furnishings. “Our goal has always been to set a new standard for luxury hotel experiences while staying true to our mission of inspiring conscious consumption,” says Azarbarzin. “Our customers are so loyal and care about sustainability and the environment. We keep the environment in mind in every decision that we make.” Think raw, reclaimed woods, extensive native greenery and a rich, neutral palette that permeates everything from stunning lobbies to guest suites combining sustainability and extraordinary comfort.
“New construction is such a burden to the environment,” says Azarbarzin. “We first scour the market to find materials that we can reuse.” Sternlicht discovered a beetlewood forest in Colorado (trees that have been killed naturally by beetle infestation), bought it and repurposed that wood for 1 Hotel South Beach. For 1 Hotel West Hollywood, they worked with local purveyor Angel City Lumber to reuse old wood for the front desk and lobby benches. “These pieces bring character to the hotel and give these materials a second life,” says Azarbarzin. “With everything we do, from using humanely sourced down feathers in the duvets to the bathroom products to the organic cotton towels, the environment is top of mind and a core principle for us.”
At 1 Hotels, sustainability and nature meet pure luxury. With the mission-driven brand’s new 1 Hotel Haitang Bay in Sanya, China, and the launch of a new brand, Treehouse Hotels, in London, the company is poised for major expansion. Treehouse is a younger brother/sister brand to 1 Hotels, and its first iteration in Marylebone has a smaller footprint and a fun, bohemian vibe. “It’s a playful, unique brand, and this location was well-suited to this,” says Azarbarzin. “We have three or four Treehouses in the works.” The hotelier and executive started his career in the restaurant world before joining Four Seasons in 1992, moving on to Starwood Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis and W Hotels before finding his home at 1 Hotel three years ago. With hotels in Los Angeles, Miami, Brooklyn (which was recently accepted into Virtuoso’s exclusive portfolio) and Manhattan, 1 Hotels properties in the U.S. are booming (Nashville, Hanalei Bay and San Francisco are expected soon). And with hotels in Paris, Melbourne, Cabo and Toronto on the horizon, the brand is in expansion mode, with 30-40 hotel openings planned in the next five years.
And the safety protocols they adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic aren’t going anywhere. “A lot of the protocols that we learned during COVID will continue in the future,” says Azarbarzin. The company has developed smart and sustainable methods of sanitizing spaces and cleaning furniture with UV lights and water-based technologies. “We are very strict about mask-wearing and other safety protocols. We have to keep the environment safe for our guests.”
So, what’s been the secret to the brand’s success? “We’ve built a great team and have maintained a small company culture to enable us to make decisions quickly,” says Azarbarzin. “The best lesson that I have learned is to manage people how you would want to be managed. Lead by example and show your passion and love for what you do.” To that end, SH Hotels & Resorts creates an environment where employees can thrive. The brand offers a mentorship program, SH University, and a great career track offering advancement opportunities. “Our people are the mortar between our bricks.”