Fantasy Becomes Reality
French developer and hotelier Thierry Teyssier is turning private properties into not just boutique hotels, but the hospitality experiences of our dreams.
French developer Thierry Teyssier of Dar Ahlam fame (the world’s “first experiential hotel” in Morocco) is taking his breed of uber-personalized hospitality services to a whole new level with 700,000 heures (the average number of hours in the human lifespan). The initiative is a traveling show of sorts—with Teyssier as ring leader—that will welcome guests at various locales around the world. At each, they will be immersed in the culture and natural beauty that surrounds them, thanks to his passion for creating one-of-a-kind moments.
Building off said passion and his belief that “the most amazing places in the world are already built and are completely private,” Teyssier seeks out these diamonds in the rough: incredible private homes and properties that will be transformed into working hotels for months at a time before the team moves on to a new location. Some might continue on as businesses after the 700,000 heures team has left. Such will be the case with its second stop in Cambodia, where they will stay until April of this year.
Guests stay in floating homes and become embedded in the culture and locale at 700,000 heures' second stop in Cambodia; Courtesy of Thierry Teyssier
He’s found that, while many owners might dream of turning their property into a boutique hotel, they don’t know where to start. Teyssier swoops in, covers the renovation costs if necessary, hires an operations and management team and trains them to succeed while he fulfills the next chapter in the 700,000 heures story. “It’s a win-win because the property becomes a profit center rather than a cost center,” he says, adding that many of them might otherwise remain dormant most of the year.
All design and development is done by Teyssier himself and an operating team he brings in to run each project; Courtesy of Thierry Teyssier
For the foreseeable future, Teyssier will act as general manager at each location—a role he never played throughout Dar Ahlam’s 18 years and counting. He has yet to work with any outside architects or designers. If the property needs some development in order to accommodate the program, he does it himself. And of course, there are his infamous “trunks” that can fill any holes necessary—more than 100 self-contained traveling tools such as dressing rooms, showers, sinks, toilets, cooking equipment, and even chairs, sofas and tables, that allow the team to function in any way, in any environment. “We are completely nomadic and independent,” he says.
The first stop on the journey spanned from Sept. 6 to Nov. 5, 2018 at a historical Italian palace built in 1861 in Salento, Italy, featuring a magnificent courtyard and swimming pool, gardens as far as the eye could see, and only four bedrooms that could accommodate up to 12 guests. “You want to have the most amazing experiences possible, and that’s my offer,” says Teyssier, who applies talents honed in both the theater and events production industries to his work in hospitality. “Every day we’ll have some surprises.” For example, he set up an artist onsite in Salento who would paint and draw portraits for guests, “right in front of them.” At the end of the journey, a private exhibition was curated and guests were able to take home all the paintings and drawings—a novel experience in this Instagram-driven world. Instead of just taking pictures, it’s a completely new experience, according to Teyssier.
Teyssier finds every private location and creates intimate, one-of-a-kind experiences at each one, such as this small dinner party by candlelight in the courtyard at the program's first stop, a palace built in 1861 in Salento, Italy; Courtesy of Thierry Teyssier
700,000 heures' members and Teyssier guests get to escape their own reality and enter new worlds where they can not only become renewed with a completely personalized hospitality experience but also make an impact on the culture they are living within; Courtesy of Thierry Teyssier
There’s also a philanthropic drive behind 700,000 heures. Teyssier has partnered with NGOs around the world, including Apple Seed, Migrants du Monde and Foundation Epic, to give back to the communities he and guests will inhabit temporarily. This allows them to work with refugees and migrants to bring them into the 700,000 heures experience, just as was done in Salento.
“We are there to learn, to teach, to train. And our guests are all a part of that. There is no backstage. Guests can walk through the kitchen at any time and converse with the staff. I swear this is true at any time,” Teyssier explains. “This is a new way of hospitality—it’s not a hotel, nor a guesthouse. This is something completely unique.”
From an Italian palace to floating homes on a lake in Cambodia, then on to Brazil from June to October 2019, 700,000 heures has just started the clock. Stay tuned for where Teyssier will take the program next.