Travel talks: Five minutes with Luis Contreras, owner of Sereno Hotels

What makes St Barths special?

With luxurious hotels and villas in both Lake Como, and St Barths, one of the best in the Caribbean, the owner of Sereno Hotels Luis Contreras shares his thoughts on the two most significant yachting destinations and why we should all travel.

1. What makes St Barths special?

St. Barths is not only special, it’s unique. Its very distinctive history makes it different from all the other (beautiful) Caribbean islands. There simply isn’t anything else similar to St Barths. The people, the culture, the nature and our guests. It’s a magical combination.

We were lucky enough to have learned about an old, half-dilapidated hotel on the island called the Sereno Beach Hotel. A hotel created many years earlier by a Mr Sereno and the actor Lino Ventura, who were good friends from the golden age of St. Tropez, and decided to bring some of that magic to the Caribbean.

When we saw the site and experienced the island, we immediately fell in love and decided we wanted to do something special. We were then very fortunate that Mr Christian Liaigre agreed to embark with us on the renovation of the hotel and helped us create the beautiful Le Sereno, St Barthélemy.

Picture courtesy of / Le Sereno

What differences stand out to you between the two hotels?

Well, the hotels are very different but they both have the same Sereno Hotel DNA. It's a combination of a fantastic destination, incredible views from nearly all the beds in the hotels, large rooms, exquisite design and a business model centred around creating loyal customers that will come back and will tell their friends to visit us.

Additionally, both hotels merge the outdoors with the interiors and both are small. This allows us to provide a personal level of service, and to create a calm but friendly atmosphere in the hotel. It sounds like a cliché, but it happens to be true.

Picture courtesy of / Le Sereno

Do you have a desire for your properties to be close to water?

Yes, very much so. An important part of what we offer is the views and the integration of our very nicely designed interiors, with exteriors that will always be more beautiful than anything we could ever design. There is just nothing like a water landscape.

Picture courtesy of / Il Sereno

What are your fondest sailing memories?

I grew up in Venezuela and pretty much every weekend went to the beach and enjoyed getting to know the coastline on a boat. When I was a little older my uncle organised rallies in the Venezuelan rivers with motorboats that sometimes I was allowed to attend.

In St Barths, our business is intertwined with the yachting world, as St Barths is an important port and we work closely with the owners and users of the yachts. In Lake Como I’ve had the chance to go back to the world of smaller boats, working with Daniele Riva, a wonderful artisan designer who has created and built Il Sereno's three custom-made boats, offering some of the best on the water experiences.

Picture courtesy of / Paolo Costa

Where is your favourite place in the world?

This is a very difficult question. Just thinking about peace and beauty, it would probably be either the beach in Saline, or high in the Andes – but after enjoying the contemplation of these beautiful places I need to have the energy of the city.

Picture courtesy of / Pavel Svoboda Photography

Where do you call home?

I initially moved to Milan following the construction of Il Sereno but after spending a few years here, I do not have any plans to move. Milan is a great city, the people are nice, the art and cultural offerings are excellent, the food is, of course, very good and as a base to plan weekend getaways, I couldn’t think of a better place.

On a three-hour-drive ratio, you have the beach, the lakes, the Alps, France, Switzerland, Austria. Milan is a great hub to explore all of Europe.

Picture courtesy of / faber1893

Where would you recommend everyone visit at least once?

The two places that have marked me more as a traveller the first time I visited as a young man were Paris and Venice. And even though I’ve visited many times, both are still special for me whenever I go back.

Picture courtesy of / givaga

Why should people travel?

To realise that the world is big, varied and wonderful. To be awed by what human beings, past and present, are able to accomplish, and to realise that near and far, people are similar and you can relate to them all.

Picture courtesy of / Le Sereno

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