The future of Aman seen by COO Roland Fasel

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed, exclusively, Mr Roland Fasel, COO of Aman on the future of the legendary luxury hotel group.

How has your company performed in the first half of this year? 

We are pleased with performance for the first half of this year and have seen healthy occupancy across our resorts. Our Japan properties, Aman Tokyo and Amanemu, continue to perform brilliantly, encouraging us to seriously consider further projects in the country in the near future. Amangiri continues to enrapture our guests with its daring yet minimalist design, almost mirage-like and set within Utah’s desert landscape.

Amangani has recently basked under the recent hype surrounding the eclipse, as it was in the path of totality, and Amanyara continues to be popular for those wanting to surrender to the irresistible mix of sun, sea, and sand.

With the frenetic pace of today’s always-connected society, Aman has really come full circle; what we orchestrate for our guests in the sense of escapism, privacy and consummate service has never been more important.

In fall this year we will launch Amanyangyun, our fourth destination in China on the outskirts of Shanghai. Amanyangyun, has a very special story of conservation and is one of the most ambitious restoration projects China has seen. The millennia-old tale of Amanyangyun includes rescuing and replanting 10,000 ancient camphor trees as well as the meticulous dismantling and rebuilding of many Ming and Qing dynasty houses which would have otherwise been destroyed with the creation of a new dam.

With the addition of new destinations, has your loyal consumer profile changed? (if in any way)

The introduction of new destinations has in fact strengthened our loyal following who are always on the lookout for new destinations, off the beaten path locations, explored in the Aman way – in fact, many of our ‘Amanjunkies’ as they call themselves, choose to travel specifically to locations where there is an Aman. These loyal fans have now passed on their admiration for Aman to their children and we have experienced a growing, younger demographic who now visit our hotels for the same reasons as their parents – space, a sense of peace, and service.

What is your view on the growing potential of millennials in luxury travel?

Millennials have busy, hectic lives and want to explore the world. They want everything to be easily accessible, with excellent quality and they want to be entertained and to share their experiences with their friends. We have a lot of millennials coming to Aman; many are start-up entrepreneurs or company execs. They come to Aman because their working lives are frantic and busy and they need time to rest, relax and recharge themselves. Some also choose Aman for the adventures, the unique experiences that only our hotels can offer, and for the unrivalled intuitive yet friendly service.

The Aman brand has been known for resorts. Has the DNA of the brand changed with the addition of urban properties?

The essence of Aman remains the same and organic growth into urban environments does not affect the way we approach the design, experience or the service at each destination. Every one of our Aman resorts and hotels adapts to the environment of each location, instilling a deep sense of belonging and peace to each guest. The philosophy of the brand is to make guests feel welcomed as if to the personal home of a great friend. The calm simplicity infused in each destination enables our guests to feel as though they are transported to a place beyond obvious approaches to luxury. As we expand into urban environments this is the philosophy that will be carried through and translated to every destination irrespective of its location. For example, at our first ‘vertical’ hotel, Aman Tokyo, we have effortlessly translated all that Aman is known for, into an urban environment: generosity of space, design, service, and a sense of peace amongst the pace of Tokyo.

What is your expansion strategy? (direct ownership versus third party management)

We assess each opportunity on a case by case basis. As with our existing destinations we will continue to work with partners in management agreements as well as owning the property fully or as an equity partner.

Are there any particular destinations you are focusing on for future development?

We are looking for locations in New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore and have recently announced a pipeline of eleven new destinations to be rolled out in the future. Each of these eleven hotels and resorts will have a residential component for those wishing to have an Aman Residence of their own and will be unveiled in South East Asia, the USA and Europe. We are also looking forward to continuing our journey in Japan as well as launching an Aman in a region we have not yet had a presence; South America.

We plan to continue to grow organically and to expand our resorts whilst also focusing on building Urban Aman’s.

What are your main markets? In the current international context, have you seen any declines?

Core markets for Aman vary from resort to resort. For example, our US, European and North African properties see much business from North American and European clients whereas our Asian destinations have a more-or-less an even split between European, Asian and North American clients. We have not seen a decline in any one particular market, but we have noticed growth from regions such as Scandinavia, Australia, South America and the Middle East. For our properties in Japan and China, domestic business continues to be key.

Do customers expect faster renovations? Tell us more about your renovation initiatives across your chain.

It may not necessarily be the case that customers expect faster renovations, but what is clear is that guests want to know that the property in which they choose to spend their valuable time and money, is cared for, maintained, and loved in a way that keeps it refreshed and up to date. Many of our resorts, including Amanpuri, Amanoze, Aman-i-Khas and Aman Le Melezin, close annually for a short period of time in order to carry out these refreshments, be they major or minor in nature.

For example, we are currently in the midst of a two-phased renovation of Aman Le Mélézin in Courchevel. The comprehensive renovation of Aman Le Mélézin meant the entire building had to be temporarily placed on stilts to allow for construction. This complex engineering technique has never been attempted before in Courchevel but allowed for us to grow and improve our wellness offering with a new holistic 800 square metre spa set over two floors. The renovation also allowed us to expand our F&B offering by installing a Nama restaurant. Nama is Aman’s recently launched culinary concept, serving finely crafted Japanese cuisine and following the tradition of washoku, a UNESCO recognised traditional dining experience which translates to harmony in food.

Which are the main disruptors the luxury hospitality is facing nowadays? Do any of these affect your business strategy?

In today’s constantly connected, tech-savvy and social-media-empowered world, consumers want the freedom to discover and purchase products whenever, wherever and however they want. Which means that if businesses are not visible in an accessible manner online (be it via social media or on digital platforms), they have no chance of survival. Our online strategy is robust and ever evolving to adapt to the changing digital landscape. We have improved our online booking engine, optimised our UX and SEO, driving users to our site and as a result have seen promising growth with increased reservations directly through Aman.com. We also have a strong presence on social media, with a strategy not only for our brand accounts but also for our individual resort accounts too.

There are rarely shortcuts to be made particularly when it comes to hospitality. Luxury hospitality has always been about the human touch and personal interaction; and this remains a key focus for us, as it has always been. Our staff to guest ratio is 6:1 allowing us to offer unparalleled service, unmatched by any other high-end hospitality brand. As a result, we have one of the highest rates of repeat guests in the hospitality industry.

You recently announced a private jet expedition. Do you plan similar future initiatives? Tell us more

We are always looking for the right partners to collaborate with to offer our guests unparalleled service and unique experiences in outstanding destinations. The private jet expedition we have recently launched allows guests to travel to nine countries in 22 days and to experience the best of Europe and Asia from bustling cities to lofty mountains and idyllic beaches to spiritual havens.

Our 30th anniversary is around the corner and we have a few exciting plans to celebrate this with our loyal clients. We will announce further news on this soon.

Roland Fasel, Chief Operating Officer of Aman (Image courtesy of Aman)

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