The luxury hunter

February 28, 2013, 3:41 PM UTC
Jaume Tàpies at El Castell de Ciutat, his hotel (and home) in Andorra
Photo: Gunnar Knechtel

“I start the week … somewhere,” begins Jaume Tàpies, the Andorran-born president and chairman of the luxury hotel group. “Next week is Italy, then Belgium — wait, no! Sorry, London, then Paris, our headquarters, and then Belgium. A light week.” Indeed. Tàpies oversees 520 properties — luxury hotels such as Il San Pietro di Positano in Italy and restaurants like the French Laundry in the Napa Valley — affiliated with Relais & Châteaux, in 60 countries. He is also tasked with scouting for new lodges to enter the R&C fellowship. His job, he says, is to find “the best way to discover the world, to seek authenticity.” Herewith, some of his tricks.

My survival skills

Cultivate hobbies. I used to be a competitive skier. Right now I’m a pilot. And I play the guitar. What you do that isn’t work opens you up, lets you in. In Durban [South Africa] I ended up playing my guitar at a country-music festival.

Embrace solitude. Many times I’m on my own, but these moments of solitude give you a lot of freedom — I can go right, I can go left, I can stop and eat a hot dog off the street in New York, which I did. Why not? It’s about the curiosity and the freedom.

Study service. I live in a ninth-century castle on the border of Andorra and Spain. That’s home — my hotel. The difference between a good hotel and a bad one is one word: care. Find people who care and you will have a great experience.

Avoid nonspots. You lose time in what I call nonplaces — an airport, a station — time when you could be seeing and doing other things. Never eat on planes. Eat before. Then walk. Then get on the plane.

Catalogue the day. I do this every night: write in my black notebook with my Mont Blanc pen everything that happened that day. Mostly I write about the people I met — you will be in there! One day I’ll look back and be able to trace this incredible history, but it also helps me remember where I’ve been.

This story is from the March 18, 2013 issue of Fortune.

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