Michael Albanese at Bar Margot at Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta
Lifestyle expert Michael Albanese worked for Ian Schrager and André Balazs before starting Element Lifestyle (memberships $48,000) with two partners. Here, Albanese gives us an inside glimpse into life as a luxury travel and lifestyle consultant.
How’d you start your career in hospitality?
After graduating from Marietta High School, I moved to New York City to pursue writing. I needed a day job, and I got an opportunity to work for Ian Schrager at his famed hotel, The Paramount. Then I was recruited by Andrè Balazs to help open a new hotel in SoHo, The Mercer. That is where I had the eureka moment where I could make magic happen by connecting the right people to the right people.
You have to travel often, obviously.
We travel for our clients and do serious reconnaissance to ensure our hotel and destination partners are the very best. It’s ideal to have a firsthand experience and to be able to share that in detail.
Spill on the crazy requests!
We have done everything from making hotels install a special toilet in the Presidential Suite to convincing Eric Ripert from Le Bernardin to prepare a private dinner for a client to arranging live penguins in a hotel suite because a client’s girlfriend was obsessed with penguins. There is never a boring day.
How has it been with Southern clients?
Coming from New York and Los Angeles, where wealth is so in your face, it’s really nice to be in a more genteel, less ostentatious environment.
What’s coming up in the future?
Eighty percent of our work is travel-related, and then the other 20% is making the impossible possible through our high-touch service (and tenacity). The future is focused on continuing to build relationships with clients and our travel partners like Four Seasons, J.K. Place in Florence, and The Greenwich in New York, to name a few. It’s a quality-versus-quantity thing for us, so finding organic ways to reach this very difficult audience that everyone is trying to reach is vital.
Photography by: Patrick Heagney