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Q&A nEIL PALMER, CEO Per AQUUM

With a childhood spent roaming the equally wild and spectacular landscapes of Kenya and New Zealand, it's no wonder Neil Palmer ended up with a successful career in travel and hospitality. After 25 years in the industry, the natural born traveller is Chief Executive Officer of Per AQUUM and has a portfolio of stunning retreats, resorts and spas under his care. Among them are the award-winning retreats, Huvafen Fushi Maldives and Desert Palm Dubai. Always looking for something new and exciting, Palmer is dedicated to creating a collection of iconic properties in desirable locations across the world and working with investors and owners who share this vision. In addition to negotiating new projects in Italy, Thailand, UAE and South Pacific, Per AQUUM is due to open NIYAMA, a new property in the Maldives in 2011, and Nurai Island off the coast of Abu Dhabi in 2012.

You have over 25 years experience in the hospitality industry. What inspired you to get involved in the hotel industry in the first place?
My family has always been involved in the travel industry in one form or another and I was fortunate to have travelled extensively from a young age, so it was a natural progression for me. I grew up in East Africa and New Zealand where there is an emphasis on nature, culture and the great outdoors - elements which can all be found in the hospitality industry. Also, both Kenya and New Zealand being countries synonymous with fantastic hospitality and tourism certainly assisted in guiding me towards the industry.
What is the single best/defining thing about Per AQUUM?
There are many elements that combine to create the Per AQUUM brand, however the defining element is the freedom to create an original collection of premium luxury retreats and resorts. Although this may sound quite general, it encapsulates the essence of Per AQUUM.
By being original we can be creative, we can push boundaries, we can continually create and adapt new concepts for each property being developed within the portfolio; a rare gift in hospitality management. As a small company we are not limited by a heavy administrative structure, we are relatively time rich to brainstorm and research new ideas, create new concepts and can make decisions quickly and decisively.

Neil Palmer

                                
 We work with like-minded owners and through a combination of these elements we have been able to introduce concepts such as the world's first underwater spa at Huvafen Fushi, we were the first property in the Maldives to offer private plunge pools in every room and we were the first to bring international DJs and musicians to the Maldives. We always look to lead rather than follow and this is a key part of the Per AQUUM DNA.
 
What is the next big luxury travel trend?
Speed of access, response and connectivity. With time becoming ever more precious, guests are looking for the ability to have instant access and make instant decisions, even when on vacation. Rather than wait for someone to pick up the phone for room service they can order it directly online from their room or villa while watching the news or a movie. They can make instant spa or dinner reservations. Technology is becoming ever more advanced and this is something that will play an even bigger role in our industry in the future. The important focus for our industry is to ensure we always have a very strong 'human' element in the forefront of guest service. We must never lose that element.
What is your own personal litmus test for whether a hotel is worthy of the 'luxury' tag?
Authentic and personalised service, a consistent guest experience, superb product and design. If you create a property that combines all of these elements just right and maintain them with seamless consistency, then in my view you have succeeded.
Apart from your own, what are your favourite hotels/resorts? (and why)
Difficult to state as I have a number for very different reasons.
 
You were born in Kenya, raised in New Zealand, studied in London and worked all over the world. What is your favourite city to visit?
I am not sure I can pick an absolute favourite, but New York is certainly one of my favourites.
huvafen fushi
 Huvafen Fushi
What is your best overseas dining experience?
Sitting on the deck of Salt Restaurant at Huvafen Fushi sampling the cuisine of Chef Gaushan da Silva. Gaushan is one of the most innovative chefs I have worked with and he has created a menu which marries the seafood element of the Maldives with molecular gastronomy. His food is exceptional and the setting is pure Maldives, stunning.
What is your favourite airline for business or first class? Why?
Singapore Airlines. The service is exceptional and they deliver consistently. They have a great network of flights and destinations and one of the best lounge experiences.
What three things do you never travel without?
My laptop, running shoes and a great book.
What is the one travel experience you will never forget?
No matter whether it's your first time or you've done many, as I have done growing up in Kenya and subsequently, the East or Southern Africa safari experience is brilliant and unique. No two safaris are ever the same, it is a must do!
What is the most important thing (travelwise) that money CAN buy?
Freedom/choices to go wherever, however at the comfort level desired.
What is the most important thing it CAN'T buy?
Immortality, you only live once so enjoy it every day if possible.

PALMER's Choices

New Zealand: www.newzealand.com
New York: www.nycgo.com
Salt Restaurant at Huvafen Fushi:
Singapore Airlines:
 
Luxury Links: www.peraquum.com
Posted 6/6/11
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