InterContinental Geneva

Reinventing the luxury hotel experience

Yannick Nardin
Hôtel InterContinental Genève
Summer 2023

The InterContinental Geneva is legendary. Its walls are steeped in history, and it has played host to some of the planet’s most eminent stars and politicians, but the hotel has no intention of resting on its formerly intimidating laurels. Having recently revamped its services, the InterContinental now offers luxurious experiences for Geneva locals. Your poolside rendez-vous awaits!

Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, Sophia Loren… many ultra-famous names have enjoyed a stay at the InterContinental, the 5-star hotel of Geneva’s NGO neighbourhood. Whether they are in town to give a speech, attend an important diplomatic meeting, or simply for pleasure, these visitors helped shape the hotel’s reputation from the moment it opened in the 1960s. And yet, the hotel is ever evolving, looking ahead instead of simply relying on its prestigious past to maintain its reputation. While carefully sustaining its well-deserved standing among diplomatic clients, who appreciate the hotel’s rooms as much as its reception halls, the hotel also developed a new offer in response to the recent pandemic, with the goal of encouraging Genevan residents to pass through its (monumental!) doors. Hans Heijligers, who has been the hotel’s Director since 2021, and his energetic teams have taken the hotel’s transparency to new heights across social media, have opened more of the hotel to the general public, and have expanded the hotel’s offerings to include new family-oriented services. These upgrades have all been carried out with the utmost care, resulting in an experience that is more luxurious than ever.

A monument that has traversed the ages…

The stature of the InterContinental is impressive. From the entrance, one’s eyes sweep up over 18 floors, the top of which offer the highest view in the city of Geneva. With 16 reception halls, 333 rooms, and 52 suites, the hotel’s architectural dominance is undeniable. Its most spectacular suite is The Residence, which can be expanded to take up the entire top floor and has welcomed many eminent guests, such as President Joe Biden. Among other luxurious amenities, it includes a gym and royal, marble bathtubs that look out over the Jet d’Eau. The hotel’s interior was renovated at the start of this millennium to the monumental tune of 42 million Swiss francs. New York designer Tony Chi, member of the Interior Design Hall of Fame, spearheaded the renovation efforts. In a throwback to the hotel’s original construction in 1964, when Pam Am’s personnel used to stay amongst the other jetsetters at the hotel, the décor boasts an authentically 1960s charm, with rare antiques hand-sourced by the designer from all four corners of the globe.

Completed in 2013, the renovations have allowed the hotel’s irresistible vintage charm to flourish. Wood, leather, glass, engraved metal from Parisian silversmith Maison Christofle… the space is a perfect blend of raw and finely worked materials. Every piece of furniture was chosen as an explicit part of the designer’s vision. “We regularly consult Tony Chi’s guidelines to ensure we are faithful to the spirit of his work,” explained Alexandra Devilly, the hotel’s Director of Communications and Marketing. The result can be felt the moment one sets foot in the lobby’s exceptionally large, cathedralesque entryway. Here, the designer worked his magic to truly express the hotel’s (grandiose) personality in an ambiance that is delightfully 1960s and yet perfectly in vogue.

… and stayed in the heart of Geneva locals

As established as the InterContinental may be, Genevans still don’t hesitate to call it by its nickname, L’Inter. “Everyone in Geneva has a story to tell about the InterContinental,” says Alexandra, smiling. “Whether they came here for a ball, a wedding, or a meal to celebrate special occasion, they always talk about an exceptional moment they’ll never forget. Today, after reimagining our offering, we are trying to make the InterContinental feel less intimidating by providing specific services meant for local people here in Geneva.”

Efforts to attract a local clientele include a sumptuous Sunday brunch, with fresh-pressed juice at the poolside bar, and special family-oriented services like a dedicated babysitter, so parents can enjoy a truly relaxing brunch moment. The famous hotel also offers an afternoon tea service accompanied by tantalising pastries, and an “Afterwork” special in the cosy wine bar, which is adjacent to the smoking room for those who wish to also enjoy a cigar. “We also revisited our poolside offering, which now features light, modern Mediterranean cuisine,” explained Alexandra. “And in summer 2023, we will be offering a new ‘Chill and Rosé’ concept that combines pool entry, a glass of rosé, and a daily mezze special on weekdays, beginning at 16:00.”

The hotel’s modern, azure pool exudes tropical getaway vibes, and — as always — it’s open to the general public. The original guru of Genevan hospitality, Herbert A. Schott, understood the pool’s magnetic appeal from the moment he was hired in 1967, and saw it as an opportunity to increase the number of hotel visitors. Never short on ideas for attracting (and satisfying) new and existing clients, Herbert offered free pool entry by word-of-mouth to Geneva locals and employees at the United Nations and other local NGOs.

A lakeside fixture

As part of the initiative to attract more locals, the InterContinental also signed a 5-year partnership with the Bol d’Or Mirabaud in 2022. The event is the largest inland regatta in the world, has been held on Lake Geneva since 1939, and is also sponsored by the watch brand Tudor, Rolex’s sister company. The InterContinental additionally supports the Sailing Squad, the race’s only all-female team, and awards the special foiling monohull prize in real time.

The InterContinental’s new approach is shaped by a focus on abundant (and sustainable) luxury. Under the sharp eye of Marion Lozac’h, the Director of Quality, end-to-end attention to detail is more important than ever, down to the softness of the slippers, for ultimate luxury. On that note, the hotel’s brand-new Cinq Mondes spa features 4 luxurious treatment rooms, a hammam, a sauna, and a fitness room. The hotel also offers two loyalty programs: “Le Cercle Gourmet” for InterContinental dining and “IHG One Rewards” for stays at any of IHG’s 6,500 global hotels. And as far as sustainability goes, the hotel is committed to sourcing food locally, eliminating single-use plastics, and using lake water and renewable energy to cool the hotel’s facilities.

One thing is certain: the InterContinental is truly evolving. Under its slogan “Be part of the legend,” the establishment continues to bring joy and delight to every one of their guests and will persist in promoting its popularity among locals in Geneva. A perfect new clientele that compliments the many illustrious diplomats and celebrities the hotel has always attracted. Mr. Schott would approve.