Doyens don’t do drones and the death of Jeanne Augier
Doyens don’t do drones and the death of Jeanne Augier
14 JANUARY 2019 8:25 AM

In the last few weeks, talk in the United Kingdom has been—when it is not about Brexit—solely on drones, and for all the wrong reasons. And in Nice, France, sad news of the death of a hotelier legend.

Drones are awful. The L’Hôtel Negresco in Nice, France, is wonderful. Both have provided sad news over the last few weeks.

I have often droned on about the dullness of drones. Usually I receive a letter or two saying drones are useful, and I can see this—capturing wonderful images of a hotel, a wedding, a hotel-based celebration, the list can go on.

I spoke to one hotelier, Andrés Araya, GM of the Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine hotel in Spain, and in 2015 he was excited about an idea to use a drone to film the nest of a White stork atop a tower on his property. That would be cool, as long as it did not bother the birds.

My main objection is that they are yet one more thing that buzzes around, is noisy, appears as an intrusion and forms yet another complexity to our everyday, peaceful, hopefully calm goings-about.

Last January I wondered as to whether drones were one of the Top 10 Travelodge lost-and-found items left in hotel rooms because they are so basically silly and, most interestingly, why they are brought to hotels in the first place.

But essentially I said it to my own satisfaction with the headline “Drones can be useful, but also dreadful” in August 2016.

Anyone trying to get a flight out of London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airport over the recent holidays does not need to be reminded of the chaos that occurred after drones were reported flying too close to airspace.

Hundreds and hundreds of flights were cancelled and delayed, and people’s well-earned holiday rest was curtailed or ended.

Graham Wild, a senior lecturer at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s School of Aerospace, Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering, told me in 2016 that “we’re still in this weird place between wanting to experiment fully with drones in every space imaginable, but also being wary about what they can do. … That means we’re going to keep finding ways that drones can be dangerous. It just means that it’s another step toward full drone takeover.”

Little has changed. The United Kingdom government had strict laws in place as to where and how to fly these mechanical monstrosities, and those laws were tightened following the recent fiasco. Actually, no one has been charged with an offense, and the police even speculated as to whether there was a drone present.

I’d say that was beyond the point in hindsight.

All those canceled flights must have resulted in hotel room cancelations and lost revenue. Certainly lost revenue in restaurants and other additional revenue outlets.

A legend dies
The hotel world is mourning the loss of a legend this week with the announcement of the death of Jeanne Augier, the owner and CEO of the famed L’Hôtel Negresco in Nice, France.

Madame Augier died at the age of 96 after inheriting the hotel, which sits on the equally famous Promenade des Anglais, in 1957 and turning its fortunes around along with her husband Paul Augier, for which the local hotel school is named.

Under Augier, the 125-key hotel became one of the world’s great independent hotels, indeed, one of the world’s greatest hotels period, instantly recognizable by its pink dome and Belle Époque architecture. To decorate it, she collected more than 6,000 pieces of French art and furniture that added to her description of the hotel as “a place where everything is possible … flamboyance served on a tray.”

The hotel first opened on 8 January 1913, the year before the outbreak of the Great War. Paul Augier passed in 1995.

Nice restaurant chatter often told of when she told Microsoft Corporation founder Bill Gates he could not possibly be rich enough to buy the hotel, of overnights by such colorful luminaries as Salvador Dalí and of Elton John choosing the hotel to film his 1983 hit “I’m still standing.”

Jeanne Augier, who ran the hotel for more than 60 years and loved it all her life, said in 2009 that when she left this mortal coil she “(wanted) to be sure, when I go, that my 260 colleagues are not sacrificed on the altar of profit.”

With no children of her own, her estate, so it is said, will go to a foundation she helped set up.

I saw her once sitting in the hotel’s bar, which still retains its 1913 woodwork and a 17th Century tapestry, talking with two of her employees.

One of the hotel industry’s great characters, she then was dressed as I have always seen her photographed—colorful, glamorous and of a calm era in which most likely the idea of a drone would be met with immediate disdain, or so I imagine.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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