Trade Talk: Roland Fasel of Aman Resorts

The Chief Operating Officer of the trend-setting hospitality brand shares more about its latest forays into wellness and Aman’s upcoming properties.

All photos courtesy of Aman Resorts

When international travel restarts, we expect to see much greater demand for isolated, socially distanced holidays. How do you think Aman will be a suitable fit for post-pandemic luxury travelers?

Aman’s formula has always comprised of unspoiled remote locations offering a generosity of space, sublime privacy, local cuisine, and the relaxed elegance of feeling as if you were in a private home with no set dining hours, limited rules, no signage and no bills, as found in your own home. Our serene sanctuaries are destinations unto themselves, away from the crowds, many of which are surrounded by nature and with wellness at the heart.

In numerous ways, our generosity of space and efforts to slow down time have always been firmly ingrained in Aman’s DNA from the architecture and design of standalone pavilions with private pools, to the low room count and subtle service which now makes us a blueprint for the future of travel. In navigating this new world, we will continue to place our guests and staff at the center of everything that we do and feel safe in the knowledge that guests will find their sanctuary, a sense of calm and familiarity in our “places of peace.” That is the enduring spirit of Aman.

 

The main pool at Amandari resort in Bali, Indonesia.

The current crisis is being seen as a wake-up call to travel more responsibly and be kinder to the planet. What sustainability initiatives will Aman be pursuing in the future?

Aman has been and will stay committed in our sustainable efforts throughout the properties. In Bali, we have supported the local community by sharing our organic produce from the gardens of Amandari with the village of Kedewatan throughout recent months. The gardening team continue to produce fruits and vegetables and the villagers have been invited to plant their preferred varieties in the garden to harvest during this unprecedented period. Elsewhere in Indonesia, Amanjiwo also supports the micro-economies around the resort and fosters opportunities for locally made products and income generation for the families working with our resort. The resort has also helped to create a waste-sorting system for their immediate community.

 

China was the first to be hit by Covid-19 but the first to bounce back. How are Aman’s four properties there faring in terms of occupancy rates?

Our China properties enjoyed great success once domestic travel returned to the country with good occupancy throughout the year as families and loved ones came together after strict lockdown rules. As guests slowly got used to the company of others, we introduced new initiatives including dining in Amanyangyun’s extensive gardens and, with the focus on wellbeing, eating from menus sourced with ingredients from the kitchen garden.

 

The Aman Fine Fragrance Collection is sold in bottles designed by Kengo Kuma.

While leisure travel remains off-limits for many of us, Aman Skincare and the new SVA supplements are bringing the Aman experience into the home. What other wellness-related projects do you have in the pipeline?

Aman’s roots have always been in creating comforting and holistic places to connect mind and body. In 2018, Aman was first brought into the home with Aman Skincare, a collection comprising of 30 products using all-natural ingredients. We have also launched Aman Fine Fragrance in a collection that aimed to represent Aman in bottles designed by renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, who shares Aman’s view of nature and design. The Aman Spa Candles range is inspired by Aman Spas across the globe and delivers exquisite scents that provide varying benefits such healing, soothing, energizing or rejuvenating the mind and body.

This year, Aman will introduce the four enlightening Journey to Peace retreats with three- or six-night itineraries that will take place at selected Aman destinations including Amanpuri, Amanoi, Amantaka, Amansara, Amankora, and Aman Sveti Stefan. This November, Amanpuri will offer a five-night Laguna Phuket Triathlon Retreat designed specifically for athletes competing in Asia’s longest running triathlon. Meanwhile in December, Amanpulo will host three Extreme Water Sports Retreats. This autumn, Amanbagh will offer a seven-night Advanced Yoga Retreat for intermediate and advanced yoga practitioners along with the four-night Ayurveda Traditional Medicine Immune Support Retreat. Aman Tokyo will offer a three-night Misogi Retreat, combining bodywork, nutrition, mindfulness, and meditative practices to achieve a deep inner transformation and to support overall wellbeing for a longer and healthier life.

 

The past few months have seen the debut of a luxury train trip to Amanjiwo, and more recently the launch of Aman Driving Journeys. Will you be putting a greater emphasis on overland travel in the future?

We are excited in bringing Aman’s legendary service to the rails and roads this year with the launch of Aman Train Journey to Amanjiwo and bespoke journeys to drive impeccable sportscars, SUVs, or classic vehicles at a number of iconic Aman resorts and hotels worldwide. We see these slow travel experiences enhancing the overall journey to and at Aman’s destinations where people can have access to some of the globe’s finest driving terrain, and we will continue to explore more possibilities in the future.

 

From left: The entrance to Aman New York; the property occupies the 1920s Crown Building.

Aman New York is set to open this spring. What are the features that will set it apart from other luxury hotels in Manhattan?

Located in the landmark Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Aman New York will be an urban sanctuary set apart from any property in the city before. It will be the very first urban Aman Residences worldwide with its opening just months away. Aman New York will offer unparalleled service, world class dining and entertainment venues, a comprehensive Aman Spa, and exclusive branded residences. Furthermore, Aman New York will comprise of 83 elegant guest rooms and suites, which start at 70 square meters and each have a functioning fireplace — something of a rarity in New York. Additionally, Aman New York will house just 22 private branded residences, many with spacious outdoor terraces, including a one-of-a-kind, five-story penthouse. Guests and residents will have access to unrivalled facilities, including three principal dining venues, a jazz club, and the 2,300-square-metre Aman Spa, and the property will also be home to an Aman Club for members.

 

A rendering of Janu Montenegro, one of the first properties under the upcoming Janu brand.

We’d like to ask you about the Janu hotel brand, which was first announced last March. How will the Janu experience complement and differ from what one would find at an Aman resort?

The difference will be in the guest experience and the design of the resorts. Aman means peace whereas Janu means soul; Aman is a sanctuary, whereas Janu is connectedness; Aman offers refined respite, whereas Janu offers an energetic vibe seeking greater purpose with inner contentment. Genuine human interaction, playful expression, and social wellness are at the core of the lively Janu experience. The similarity is that Janu shares its DNA with its legendary elder sister in the form of total commitment to its guests, deep roots in destination, exemplary and timeless design, and unparalleled service.

The guest experience is centered around “creative expression” and it is so all-encompassing that we do not define it as a sense of freedom — just that freedom to be. We want our guests to feel that they can relax and be connected. In short, we believe that true luxury is never having to choose between personal fulfilment and pleasure. It is all about balance — and we help them find that.

 

An artist’s impression of a villa at Aman Niseko.

Being an Asia-based magazine, we’re especially excited about Aman Nai Lert Bangkok and Aman Niseko. At this early stage, what can you tell us about these two upcoming properties?

Aman Nai Lert Bangkok is located in the century-old tropical gardens of Nai Lert Park in Central Bangkok and will offer a unique connection to the rich heritage and history of Bangkok enhanced by the gracious traditions of Thailand. Due for completion in 2023, Aman Nai Lert Residences Bangkok represents a unique opportunity to own a home within a very select community immersed in the Aman lifestyle and benefiting daily from its focus on holistic wellbeing.

Designed by Jean-Michel Gathy of Denniston International, the 36-storey Aman Nai Lert tower will encompass an Aman hotel as well as the exclusive residences. Along with two world-class restaurants, the hotel will house a 1,500-square-meter Aman Integrative Wellness Centre which will be a haven of urban wellness spread over two floors — the Medical Spa on the eighth floor, and the Holistic Spa on the 10th.

Furthermore, Aman Niseko designed by Kerry Hill Architects will be the fourth Aman resort in Japan – an all-season retreat situated on the high slopes of Mount Moiwa on an untouched nature reserve amid Hokkaido’s Niseko region, scheduled to open in 2023. On nature’s doorstep, this new Aman destination will provide unrivalled access to seasonal outdoor pursuits, from skiing and snowboarding in winter, to hiking, mountain biking and river rafting the rest of the year. Befitting the country that gave us the onsen tradition, both indoor and outdoor hot-spring bathing pools will be a feature of the Aman Spa and every Residence.

 

A rendering of the central atrium at Aman Nai Lert Bangkok.

Are there plans to further expand the group’s footprint in Southeast Asia?

Southeast Asia has always been where the roots of Aman began with the opening of Amanpuri, Thailand, in 1988 and it continues to influence the brand’s ethos and design. We would like to expand in this region however we don’t have a project confirmed at present but look forward to the opening of Aman Nai Lert Bangkok in 2023.

 

Finally, has the current crisis helped to refine Aman’s global strategy for the next decade?

From a crisis comes clarity. This period has allowed us to reflect and go back to our purpose and values, along with what Aman stands for. Lately, the trend seems to be that if people can travel, they will, so we are hoping that as more restrictions are lifted, international travel can return on a greater scale but in a safe and responsible way. We will continue to focus and expand our collection of intimate retreats that offers a sanctuary, a sense of calm and familiarity in our “places of peace.”

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