Trade Talk: Scot Toon of The Pavilions Hotels & Resorts

The Managing Director for Asia of the global, Hong Kong–based hospitality group details The Pavilions’ ethos, its sustainability efforts, and new openings around the region.

All photos courtesy of The Pavilions Hotels & Resorts

The Pavilions Hotels & Resorts runs a network of highly individual boutique properties in Europe and Asia. Can you tell us about the ethos or DNA of the brand?

The Pavilions is not just another group of hotels; we like to be seen as a “standalone” group. We are different; we do not follow protocol. We like to think outside the box and be bolder. We emphasize the unique aspects of our personality as strengths. We encourage guests to be the hero of their own story and help them travel with purpose. Through our curated journeys, we help guests experience their perfect trip. The guest experience is the core of our concept — both inside and outside the hotel from the beginning of a guest’s journey to the end. But we also believe in paying it forward; giving back makes the world a better place. At The Pavilions, supporting the local community and environment is at the heart of what we do. Each of our hotels and resorts upholds ethically sound and sustainable practices, helping not harming the surrounding nature and culture.

 

What is it about The Pavilions that sets it apart from other independent hospitality companies?

Every hotel is a sophisticated, private haven in which to relax, play or find adventure, where it’s not just about the room you stay in but the location and experience. We separate ourselves by offering our guests signature Curated Journeys. These innovative travel itineraries ⁠— curated by local insiders, unique to each property and designed to encompass an emotive experience, from romance to adventure to feeling good ⁠— put the bespoke into a luxury holiday. Whether the foodie-themed “Like a Chef” journey in Rome, a romantic “Just the Two of Us” adventure in Thailand, or the “Like a Boss” Madrid itinerary that turns business travel on its head, each Curated Journey connects guests with a range of experts in each destination whose passion and talents open the door to unique experiences. The properties themselves are experiences as well. They are unique and not the same as each other. For example, the Amsterdam hotel is in two canal houses, which served as part of the original Amsterdam university, while our property in Nepal offers views over the mountains and our farm that provides food for the resort and local village. Gas for the kitchen is produced from the farm animals’ manure, while buildings have been constructed with local stone to meld into the surrounding landscape.

Inside a Grand Tented Villa at The Pavilions Himalayas Lakeview, located in Nepal.

Dining with a view at The Pavilions Rome, The First Arte.

The Pavilions has just become the first international hotel group to accept cryptocurrency for bookings. What was the reasoning behind that decision?

Not only do we always want to ask “what if?”, but we also want to lead in the experiences we offer as a hotel group. Personalized experiences are at the core of our DNA; allowing this flexibility in payments combined with security and peace of mind for our guests is the next step in personalized and bespoke services. We are proud to lead the industry and enhance ourselves in the digital world with this exciting new crypto payment method available at all of our unique hotels and resorts across the globe.

The living room of a Luxury Chalet Villa at The Pavilions Himalayas, The Farm.

A twin bedroom of a Luxury Pavilions Classic Villa at the same resort.

Phuket recently reopened to international visitors under the Phuket Sandbox scheme. In terms of bookings and enquiries at The Pavilions Phuket, how has the reception been so far?

During lockdown, Tim Sargeant, our Group Director of Marketing, spent a lot of time on marketing and creating exposure to different demographics and segments for all our hotels in preparation for travel returning. Fortunately, we see a very strong interest in travel to Phuket. It has been a great example on how to return to normal and I believe that this is required to test these systems to allow the sandbox to roll out across the rest of the kingdom smoothly. It can also be a template for other countries and destinations to utilize. Over 75 percent of our bookings are seven- to 14-night stays, which is positive.

Inside the Plantation Club, the main restaurant and lounge at The Pavilions Phuket.

A two-story Spa & Pool Penthouse, also at The Pavilions Phuket.

We’re seeing the effects of climate change playing out in extreme weather events all around the world. How has The Pavilions stepped up its sustainability efforts in the past few years?

Certainly, its in our DNA. Our Himalayas property features two satellite locations, The Farm, and Lakeview. The Farm powers the entire resort and its 14 luxurious villas with renewable energy, and the organic farm is the source of our fresh produce — making for a feel-good getaway in every sense, while the Lakeview resort is made up of eight tented villas delivering an ideal mix of luxury and adventure; the very definition of glamping. What is so important here is that the whole resort is non-profit and works with [local organizations] Right4Children and FAB school.

Right4Children is a Nepalese non-profit social organization that works in local communities to deliver projects that give a voice, education, and opportunities to protect the most vulnerable children and young people with the aim of improving their lives with measurable impact. FAB School teaches hospitality to students, and once they graduate, they have the opportunity to work at The Pavilions Himalayas and earn an income for their families.

Left to right: Harvesting fresh produce at The Farm in The Pavilions Himalayas; goats being reared at the same property.

Vegan fare at Coopers, located in the permaculture farm at The Pavilions Anana Krabi.

Over in Thailand, The Pavilions Anana Krabi opened in April, an ecological and sustainable resort that seeks to provide guests with an experience close to nature and show respect for the environment we live in. Located in Ao Nang, the property is intentional with the foods consumed, the products purchased, and the “Thailand experience” provided to our guests. The Pavilions Anana Krabi is a Green Globe Certified resort where we strive to reduce the environmental impact and allow guests to be surrounded by the idyllic landscapes and limestone cliffs.

The Pavilions Phuket has been working closely through lockdowns supporting the charity organisation One Phuket that has been doing great things for the local community, the biggest has been providing thousands of food bags to people across the island each week. We have donated money to this initiative, supplied staff for packing, and assisted with sourcing suppliers.

Inside an airy Balinese Pool Villa at The Pavilions Bali.

How do you think the future of luxury travel will be shaped by the current crisis? Are there any trends you’ve noticed in places where domestic tourism has made a rebound?

Experiences and time will remain luxuries that travelers will want most. Rooms will not be everything, it will be about the experience the guest can have at the hotel or resort. Travel will take time to come back to the same levels, and it will be 2024 at least till we see 2019 levels of travel. Space will be a luxury travelers will want, so pool villas like in our resorts in Phuket and Bali or our two- and three- bedroom villas in Niseko will be in demand. Small group turns or private excursions without the crowds will be what people will want more, like Simba Sea Trips in Phuket that offers trips to the islands in small luxury groups at different times to beat and avoid any crowds.

Poolside at the brand’s latest property in Thailand, The Pavilions Anana Krabi.

Being a Hong Kong–based hospitality brand, are there plans to create a new property to showcase another side of the city, perhaps in the New Territories or Outlying Islands?

Every Pavilions hotel is a sophisticated, private haven in which to relax, play, or find adventure. We currently do not have anything in the pipeline for Hong Kong. We continually seek new hotel management or franchise opportunities across the globe and we would love to work with a hotel developer to do something unique and with a truly Hong Kong feel to it.

A marble-clad Spa Suite at The Pavilions Anana Krabi.

The Pavilions is expanding to the Philippines next year with the debut of an all-villa resort in Palawan. What details can you share at this stage?

The Pavilions El Nido Palawan Island is the ultimate island experience in the making. It will be an incredible destination. Slated to open its doors toward the end of 2022. the 92-villa resort will boast absolute beachfront access, panoramic tropical ocean views, an adventure park, dive center, waterfalls and adventure walks, Pavilions’ signature spa and wellness facilities, and five distinct dining experiences. The resort also offers villa investment opportunities for buyers looking to own their very own slice of paradise with impressive yearly returns. Additionally, watch this space! We hope to have an Explorar Resort on the island soon too.

An artist’s impression of an overwater pool villa at The Pavilions El Nido, Palawan Island.

Are there any new acquisitions or hotels being built elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region? What’s next for the brand? 

We’re always looking for new opportunities to offer travelers curated destination experiences under The Pavilions Hotels & Resorts brand. At the end of June we launched our new and highly anticipated hotel brand, Explorar Hotels & Resorts, headquartered in Phuket. Its first resort, Explorar Pawapi Koh Mook, will open on November 1, 2021. This is a sublime 24-key resort located on an unspoilt beach that runs along a peninsula of Koh Mook Island, in the southern Thai province of Trang.

Explorar Hotels & Resorts is a brand that makes travel authentic and social for the intrepid explorer. It offers travelers the opportunity to explore and experience each destination from a vibrant, comfortable and fun base, with a team that makes traversing and enjoying the destination easy whilst utilizing their local knowledge of the area with everything being available at the guests’ fingertips.

A bird’s-eye view of Koh Mook, Thailand, where the first Explorar hotel will open this November.

Explorar Pawapi Koh Mook will provide guests with a genuinely untouched, pure island paradise experience. It features bungalows and villas located right on the white sandy beach and an open-air restaurant offering authentic Thai cuisine alongside creative culinary experiences. Guests will be spoilt for choice when it comes to activities in the resort and adventures within the surrounding areas: there will be Spa Salas dotted throughout the island landscape for them to indulge in traditional Thai spa treatments. The lobby and social spaces will become an exchange of local knowledge with their Walls of Discovery, a place for guests to share their stories and experiences, to pass on to the next traveler looking to explore Koh Mook and create their own memories.

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