What inspired you to get into the hospitality business in the first place?
My love of travel and wanting to experience new things. It was my dream retirement plan – to speak to the guests and sit on the beach. I actually saw a niche in the market. There were no boutique luxury properties in Thailand. Living in Europe people would always ask me where to stay. There were big hotels but they were for business trips not holidays. I wanted to provide a sense of location – where you have arrived at where you have travelled so far to be.
What is the single most defining thing about AKARYN as a brand?
- AKARYN brand is retreat, arrived, wellness, escape, balance.
- akyra brand is young, hip. We are unveiling our new akyra MANOR Hotel Chiang Mai on 1 October and it reflects the brand perfectly.
Epicurean Culture is at the heart of our brand.
Tell us more about AKARYN’s concept of “Barefoot Luxury”.
Relaxed, on a sofa, in comfort with your feet in the sand. No gilt surfaces or pretence.
You have a number of new hotels in the pipeline, including a collaboration with Kenzo, can you tell us a little about that?
Kenzo is our chief inspirator, he provides us with his vision on each of the design elements within each part of the hotel, from fine dining to villa, from the beach to the restaurant. He did not just design the uniform, but gets involve in everything from text tile, colours, rugs, bath robes, signature artwork in each room. Kenzo is also big on wellness, and his take on wellness is seen throughout our wellness program.
We are developing a private island retreat not another resort. It is about mind / balance. Eat well, live well (in comfort) and look good doing it.
The island has one of the last virgin rainforests. We have moved the pools so as not to disturb the trees. They have not been sacrificed for the view to the extent that you can’t see the buildings on approach from the sea. There is a walking platform around the island that takes you past caves, rock formations and places you wouldn’t normally see. We also have our own private beach.
We have the latest advanced beauty and anti-ageing therapies from Europe where you can go as far as you want to go. I personally swear by Linda Meredith (UK) products. Her oxygen therapy mask is amazing. The movie studios send the stars to her before the red carpet events for her Red Carpet Couture treatments and she also has a long list of celebrity clients, so if it is good enough for Mr Darcy then its good enough for me. http://www.lindameredith.com/clientele-gallery.html
We understand that you have an eye for design (particularly of the hip, urban-cool variety) what part of the process of creating a new hotel do you enjoy most?
I think all hotels should have timeless design.
I create hotels that fit the place where I want to be. Hopefully what I like other people will like as well. You need to understand it before you can create it. When I first started, my hotels were adults only. Now that I have kids, the hotels have changed.
As I grow and experience more in life, my hotels grow and change. I’m turning 43 this year so as I am getting older the wellness programs and anti-aging offerings are expanding.
Kids now have their own kids club with no TV or X-box in sight, instead they have activities, do sports and learn new skills. They visit the turtle sanctuary, kite surf, play beach volleyball and cook cupcakes, so everyone has a great experience.
What is the “little thing” that all good hotels should pay attention to?
Little things are the things you don’t ask for – it is intuitive luxury. An example from my experience when travelling is that I have almond milk in my coffee. On the first morning at breakfast at a hotel I was staying at they didn’t have it. The second morning they had it for me. The next time I visited the hotel there was almond milk in the mini bar fridge in my room.
Little things are much, much more difficult – the rest (the expensive shower head, the high thread count sheets, etc) you can buy.
What is the next big luxury travel trend?
Multi-generation travel. And people are going to harder to reach locations due to low cost airlines and accessibility they never had before so there are new markets and a new generation of travellers are emerging.
What is your own personal litmus test for whether a hotel is worthy of the ‘luxury’ tag?
The little things, attention to detail in terms of personal service – that is luxury. All the consistent little things that are done.
Apart from your own, what are your favourite hotels/resorts? (and why)
I have a favourite GM in London who is impeccable so wherever he is, is where I stay. It comes down to trust.
What is your favourite city to visit?
Wherever in the world my home is. I love Bangkok – it has everything I need and is home.
What is your best overseas restaurant experience?
Toyo Restaurant in Paris. It is modern Japanese by Kenzo’s private chef.
What is your favourite airline for business or first class? Why?
EVA direct from Bangkok to London when on business for Small Luxury Hotels because I can sleep
and in the morning they serve Asian Style Rice Congee and Condiments for breakfast. It’s light and healthy, great for waking up to.
What three things do you never travel without?
Passport, credit card and a Linda Meredith oxygen therapy mask so my skin stays hydrated on the plane. Everything else can be bought or replaced.
What is the one luxury travel experience you will never forget?
Spending Christmas skiing with my friend Gertrude in Lech Austria. We take a horse-drawn carriage through the snow into the mountains to go for fondue in the cabin at the top. Half way up the mountain, where the horse drawn carriage cannot go any further, they pick us up with a big yellow snow cat and my kids absolutely love it.
What is the most important thing (travelwise) that money CAN buy?
A flatbed when flying.
What is the most important thing it can’t?
Akaryn Hotel Group akarynhotelgroup.com
LInda Meredith www.lindameredith.com