Ivy Kwan, outlined how a destination and its unique attributes remained central to the group’s philosophy of engaging with the consumer. She also propounded that the luxury segment, despite visible signs of distress in the global markets, was on a firm footing, courtesy a swelling aspirational segment of travellers for whom experiences mattered the most.
In your portfolio, how do you bring diversity? How do you bring the same consumer to another resort? How do you ensure that a consumer does not feel that if he has seen a resort, he has seen them all?
I think first of all, the core of One& Only is about is about the destination and the location itself. So, if you talk about diversity, there is nothing more diverse than the locations we are in. From Cape Town to Bahamas, to Ocean Club, to Australia to the part of the Great Barrier Reef, to the middle of the Blue Mountains, that in itself is diverse. And, if you look at how we incorporate newly build hotels, the design itself, the experience is very diverse. Service is the one thing that remains constant. Our service execution is at such an unparalleled level, and that is something that the guest will always want to come back for – and instead of saying, “been there done that,”
I think it has such an opposite effect that people want to come back for the unique One& Only experience.
I will give you an example: next year we are opening a One& Only in Sanya in China. It will be our first resort in the whole of Asia. And, I look at how we are building an experience which is, yes, catering to the Chinese market and yet, at the same time, retaining what makes One& Only so special at the international level.
Areas how we are going to make it very different is that we are retaining the fact that we are one of those brands that has a unique relationship with Michelin star chefs, so we will be the only resort in the whole of Sanya that has a Michelin star experience – with our pool-side bar and grillery. So, they are different experiences that we are looking to incorporate. The fact that as a part of our design, we will be building the biggest Hammam Spa in the whole of China, and we are working with S SPA for that.
So, in terms of diversity, the experiences that our that our guests are looking to find in the One& Only, that is something we are known for.
So, F&B and spa are some of the key elements in the overall experience?
Does the F&B, too, entail regional variations, depending on the destinations? I am sure that as well comes into play, is not it?
Oh! Yes. I mean if you look at Australia, in Australia we are known for fantastic food and wine. In Wolgan Valley, we source our food regionally, nothing but the best produce and, of course, when you go across to Mexico there are regionally specialities as well. So, other pieces, the activities that are unique to the destination we are unique…Again, coming back to Australia, we are in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. There is nothing like taking a helicopter ride to look at the outer reef, or to behold one of nature’s most astounding creations, or when you are in the Wolgan Valley when you are taking a Horse riding experience, to stargazing which is a part of our night safari experience, that in itself is just incredible.
What are some of the qualifying contours? What is the philosophy of the guest experience?
I think the guest experience itself. Personalisation is a huge part of it, and consistency of service. We hear that word a lot, but how do you enliven it and how do you ensure that it is delivered across all parts of the world – where we have a One& Only; we have only nine resorts across the world. How do we deliver that on a consistent basis so that the guest can say that this is what the One& Only experience is about. That is really what is at the very core of what we strive to do every single day.
Would you elaborate a little on how you achieve that?
Well, it is training. Starting with selecting the right people; people who truly care about what we do and who we are. If you look at Maldives, I was there the last year at our resort. It is not about just working at the resort, it is about caring for the environment. We have a program where we give back to the environment. Coral propagation is something that our marine biologists care deeply about.
So, as a guest you are able to contribute to the preservation and the propagation of corals that, as you may have read about global warming, over exposure, whether it is in the Great Barrier Reef or in the Maldives, the bleaching of the corals is happening. But as a guest, you just do not have to be someone who comes and lies on the beach all day and drinks cocktails, you can do more to contribute to it. We have a program where as a guest, you are able to contribute to little baby corals that you can drop into the house reef and our marine biologists; we have a website that shows our guests how your baby corals are propagating. So, it is these meaningful experiences like these, where by it becomes more than just a holiday.
How is the luxury segment faring worldwide? We understand that the luxury segment has taken a dip, globally.
I think luxury travel will remain unabated. There is enough business out there in the luxury tier and we are seeing an emerging middle-class, aspirational traveller. So, you have a tier that may not be only in their behaviour, but we see luxury travel growing from people who want to experience something really private and personal.
There is a shift away from commercialization, where you see, across markets, local experiences, show and tell experiences to something that is more private and intimate. However, we are also seeing is that with the digital world that is unfolding in India and China, people want to be able to say that they are in Maldives, or in the Great Barrier Reef, it is no longer about showing that you have a new Louis Vuitton or a new Chanel bag, so that is a shift that we are able to capitalize on in continuing to provide a genuine experience in a very personal manner.