Updated: Feb 19, 2021
Vincent Padioleau, General Manager, Kasbah Tamadot, Morocco.
It is no secret that Kasbah Tamadot is one of my favourite places to be on Earth. I love Morocco, but I especially love escaping to the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. After 45 minutes hugging the mountain side in a SUV, you can be transported to a world away from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. I have been coming to the hotel since 2006 (the year after it opened) and I have seen how it has developed over this time - but nothing has changed quite so much as the service levels and management team.
Kasbah Tamadot was discovered by Eve Branson (Sir Richard Branson’s mother who sadly passed away in early January 2021). Now, I will digress here a little, as I cannot mention her name without highlighting what a truly, incredible pocket-rocket of a lady she was. Eve served in the Women’s Royal Navy Service during World War II. She toured as a ballet dancer in Germany, then became an air hostess in the glamorous, but certainly more risky days of flying, when a trip to Buenos Aires would involve five stops en-route – only 14 years after the first transatlantic flight was ever made! Later she devoted her time to charitable work which is linked to Kasbah Tamadot.
Eve, of course, recognised in Kasbah Tamadot an enviable location with its stunning architectural design, featuring a myriad of courtyards, staircases, corridors and gardens. Yet for Eve, the cherry on the cake was the local Berber people, whom she promised to support, as a caveat for Sir Richard buying the property.
Before Kasbah Tamadot opened as a hotel, a huge amount of time and resources were spent on training local Berbers the art of hospitality. When the hotel first opened its doors, 90 to 95% of staff were from local villages. At that time, this was quite rare for a 5* luxury hotel brand to be so conscious about helping to sustain a local community. Indeed, this was an area which had little employment opportunities and so, for every villager the hotel employed, this in turn benefited 10 more family members.
As a side-line, Eve set-up the Eve Branson Foundation, which supports local artisans and women in particular, to learn craft skills to become more self-sufficient. Through the foundation, many craft houses have been funded and there is a shop at Kasbah Tamadot which sells their wares, with the money going back to those making the goods.
Fast forward a few years and Vincent Padioleau joined the Kasbah Tamadot team as Finance Manager, then Resident Manager and fairly quickly he became General Manager. He is a safe, steady pair of hands. He is calm, kind and incredible with a balance sheet. He is also the longest standing General Manager at the hotel. Why? He cares about the staff, really cares and they are as equally fond of him. There is an extremely low staff turnover at Kasbah Tamadot, where it does occur it is mainly due to retirement, maternity, or occasionally, employees are approached by luxury hotels in Marrakech and opt for a life in the city. This is something Vincent is acutely aware of and he works hard to mitigate this by ensuring his team are valued.
At an event in Paris in 2018 which I was co-hosting with Vincent; I was delivering an introductory presentation about Kasbah Tamadot during which I highlighted that 95% of the staff were Berber. Afterwards, he informed me that actually 99% were from the local villages. Then the penny dropped; Vincent has been busy managing the hotel’s most important asset - its staff. When opportunities arose, he promoted from within the hotel, he developed their roles and careers through training programmes, promotions, benefits and pay. For senior roles, he recruited internationally to bring in fresh ideas.
Berber people are naturally warm-hearted and friendly, with nearly 15 years of training and a lifetime of family history and local knowledge, they are irreplaceable and very much what makes Kasbah Tamadot the hotel it is today. Vincent leads from the top. He is calm, always professional and a fantastic mentor to so many of the rising stars there. He encourages them to be the best they can be. Vincent is absolutely one of the most important assets too and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him.
A stay at Kasbah Tamadot is an absolute must and I would always recommend it as the last stop on any itinerary around Morocco because it is such a highlight. Sure the location, setting, style are stunning, but for me it is the people that make it magical!