Options: Congratulations on W Kuala Lumpur turning five this month. What are some of the celebratory highlights to look out for?
Volker Burth: Our fifth year anniversary, called Vivid 5, is a month-long extravaganza that spans F&B offerings, activations at our WetDeck and every opportunity to immerse yourself in what we consider the hottest and sexiest hotel in KL’s Golden Triangle. There are luxurious stay and play packages, lobster promotions at our Chinese restaurant Yen, high tea and spa sessions and Sunday super brunches. On Aug 26, we will host our finale party called Vaporwave, where Calussa, a Miami music duo with Cuban roots, will take charge at WetDeck Republick, followed by a special surprise that promises to light up the night sky.
You’ve worked all over the world, from Germany to the UK, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Thailand. What are some of the most interesting lessons each posting has taught you?
Travel is one of life’s greatest teachers. It pulls you out of your comfort zone, plunges you into the unknown and reveals a world of cultures to explore and people to meet. Travel also helps you develop virtues like patience and humility. I firmly believe one must always get out of their comfort zone to embrace the unknown. I do not believe in a well-worn routine as I always want to expand my horizons. And travel is my preferred way of leaving the familiar behind, taking on a world of new things. You may feel excitement or even fear, but never boredom.
What have been some of the key highlights since assuming your present position?
Interestingly, I came to Malaysia six months before the pandemic hit. The following months allowed me to discover and appreciate the quiet. But one key highlight was moving to Malaysia and learning how family-oriented its people are. Coming from a big family myself, it reinforces one of the most important values for me: how family always comes first.
The W group of hotels is also famous for its Whatever/Whenever button. If you were to stay at any other property, what would you press the button for?
I’d say the W Shanghai, as it features a bold design and decadent style that creates a captivating contrast between the city’s past and avant-garde present, or the W Barcelona, located right at Barceloneta beach and offering the most spectacular views of the city and sea. As for the Whatever/Whenever button, I’d ask for recommendations for the best restaurants in town.
Did you always want to work in hospitality?
I actually wanted to become an interior designer. The fact that you can create something from scratch while bringing out a unique look for someone’s home and their life is an art in itself. It is also one of the most misunderstood professions and yet impossible to ignore in contemporary society where it permeates all spaces. Currently, the hotel is collaborating with one of Taksu gallery’s talents, an emerging Canadian artist named Rhys Douglas Farrell. He is known for paintings that create optical images and illusions through the use of shape and colour. This is a project I am passionate about.
What are you reading right now?
Border Wars by Klaus Dodds. It is taking me on a journey into the geopolitical conflict of tomorrow with an eye-opening tour of the world’s best-known, most dangerous and most unexpected border conflicts. What is currently going on in and around the world is what intrigues me.
What are you listening to right now?
The Martinez Brothers — a duo of disc jockeys, music producers and remixers from the Bronx in New York. They are known for their long-term residencies at Ibizan clubs and it’s all about Afrobeats and positive vibes. It is fair to say Afrobeats is one of Africa’s biggest cultural exports right now and it is definitely influencing global music.
Tell us a bit about your hometown.
I grew up in St Michel, the region where the galette and madeleine are leaders in France. And in my country, the love of good food is as important as the love of country and family, hence the respect I have for Asians who share similar values. If you come to my home city, there is vast greenery, good food, amazing wine and a charming culture. You’d also find the best cheeses! One can never tire of discovering how truly historic, cultured and amazing France is.
You’ve travelled so much for work but which destinations remain at the top of your to-discover list?
I have not had the chance to travel to the US or North America yet, so that has been at the top of my list for some time now. Bogota, Colombia, is also, as I imagine, an ideal destination, offering history, entertainment, delicious food and so much more.
What are your travel plans from now until the end of the year?
Visiting home is definite, as is going to Japan to ski and discover the rejuvenating properties of onsen culture.
Describe your favourite way to welcome the weekend.
Over a great dinner — and drinks, of course — with friends. You will usually find me at Bangsar Shopping Centre, KL, where everything I need is under one roof and where I normally end the night sitting at WIP and catching up with friends.
This article first appeared on Aug 14, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.