The Luxury Travel Bible - Q&A Arnaud Zannier



The inspirational Arnaud Zannier is the owner and creative force behind Zannier Hotels. This collection of properties includes Le Chalet, in the French Alps, Phum Baitang, in Cambodia and Omaanda and Sonop, two lodges in Namibia. What’s next for the man who’s made a name for himself creating deeply intimate and stylish properties around the world? His newest lodge, Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô , opens this month (December).

You started in fashion (with the Kickers brand) how do you think this has influenced your design aesthetic?
The fashion industry is very similar to the luxury hospitality world in my eyes, by the level of attention made into each detail. I have always liked architecture, interior design, good food & restaurants in general, so combining this passion with my working life helped me create Zannier Hotels. I love craftsmanship work, and I try to bring this curated approach to Zannier Hotels. Creating a pair of luxury leather shoes starts with a great vision, needs a sharp design, lots of follow up and attention to detail. Developing a hotel is the same.

How do you think luxury travel will evolve post pandemic?  
I see three main trends that are emerging in our industry:
- People are going for fewer but longer holidays. After quarantine, I think travellers will instead opt for longer, more experiential adventures.. And the environmental impact of flying  is another reinforcing factor. 
- People will opt for more wilderness experiences, which is good news for us as all our properties are very remote Travellers will want to escape even the bustling cities and opting for smaller hotels where they have the possibility instead to meet locals. Our new property in Vietnam, Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô ticks all the boxes. It’s situated within 98 hectares of paddy-fields and hilltops and overlooks an untouched, private one-kilometre beach. With just a handful of small fishing villages nearby, guests really will have the chance to completely disconnect from everyday life.  With their limited number of rooms and bucket-list experiences, Zannier Hotels Le Chalet and our two lodges in Namibia also offer exactly what people are looking for. 
- Finally, I believe people would love to shop and travel with a conscious. This period has really given us the opportunity to make long-lasting environmental and philanthropical changes to the way we consume and travel. At Zannier Hotels, we’ve used this time to seriously look at what we’re doing for local communities.. At Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô, for instance, we have been teaching English in the nearby villages and in Namibia, our conservation efforts at the Zannier Reserve by N/a'an ku sê have been particularly important with the increase in poaching due to the lack of tourists.  

Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô


You personally supervise all your hotel projects which part of the process of creation do you enjoy most? 
Zannier Hotels is very much led by simplicity, authenticity and enrichment. I enjoy all the creative parts; whether it is deciding of the architecture, find a concept or recreating the atmosphere from a period or culture in each destination. I really love all creative and innovative components. 
At Zannier Hotels, we strive to arouse emotion through architecture, atmosphere and bespoke service. I like working closely with the architects, and decide of each piece of our interior, as well as defining the storytelling of each place. My team and I always try to find inspiration from what we find onsite. 

What defines a Zannier hotel?
All Zannier Hotels properties are expressively independent, in all their endeavours and effortlessly authentic, both in their design and service. They also offer enriching experiences and they are committed to empowering the local communities by offering genuine opportunities to learn more about the culture, heritage and traditions of the place.

Wasn’t it Angelina Jolie who introduced you to Namibia?  Why did you choose the location of Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô?
Yes, indeed. Angelina Jolie was the one who (indirectly) introduced me to Namibia. She stayed at Zannier Hotels Phum Baitang in 2015, and loved the authentic Cambodian atmosphere developed by the brand. She spoke to me about the incredible work of a friend of her (Dr. Rudie van Vuuren) was doing for wildkife with the N/A’an ku sê foundation. Curious about this country I did not know, I decided to visit the place. I immediately fell in love with the beauty of the landscapes. I  met Dr. van Vurren and felt passionate about the extraordinary opportunity that came to us: the possibility to acquire, with the N/a’an ku sê foundation, a huge piece of land previously set aside for cattle breeding, and turn it into a 9000-hectare safe conservancy reserve (on which lies Zannier Hotels Omaanda).
Regarding our new property Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô, we purchased the land in 2014. I saw the potential of this pristine environment. It is a very audacious project nestled on 98 hectares of land, with 71 spacious standalone villas located by a private white sand beach of 1km long, verdant hilltops and ancient rice paddy fields. Since day one, the idea has been to promote what I think makes this place incredible: the get-away-from-it-all scenery and the incredible beauty of the place.
What is your own personal litmus test for whether a hotel is worthy of the ‘luxury’ tag?
I don’t have a very scientific or rational test, I very much relay on my feelings. Which emotion is the property conveying? For me creating an atmosphere, finding a genuine authenticity, echoing the spirit of the surroundings and making sure to celebrate the beauty of simplicity is what make a place a true luxury. Not necessarily the price of a furniture or of a room night. 

Could you have property with motorbikes instead of hotel cars –combining your passions?
That’s an idea! 

Apart from your own, what are your favourite hotels/resorts? (and why)
It is hard to say one hotel only, but I particularly like Five Arms Scotland. It is a beautiful place with a very sophisticated and rich décor, a lot of surrounding pristine nature. It is very isolated, but you never get bored there. I find it very inspiring and perfect to unwind.

What is your favourite city to visit?
London has always been one of my favourite city, if not the one. I am extremely lucky to be living there now. It is central, easy to reach. Some of my children are living there too. And I very much like the fact that it is a booming city and creative hub. 

What is your best overseas restaurant experience?
My favourite restaurant is probably El Bigote restaurant in Ibiza. I like to be able to eat a great paella right on the seashore… It is very popular (probably because it is delicious) but it is a real feast!

 Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô


When we can travel freely again - what is first on the wish list?

Once possible, I will go to Vietnam. We are opening  the largest and most audacious project of Zannier Hotels so far, and it has been seven months already since my last visit. I am impatient to see the resort finalized, to see how the vegetation has grown, to see the first guests’ feedbacks... And then, I will probably go to Mauritius for some rest. My girlfriend is from there and it is an amazing place to chill. 

What three things do you never travel without?
A pair of sneakers to do some early morning run or exercises, a plain white t-shirt from the Real MC Coy and a swimming short.

What is the most important thing (travel wise) that money CAN buy?
I would say a passport…

What is the most important thing it can’t?
Probably emotions. Feeling the wow effect is something unique. This is why I love connecting with locals and going for places off-the-radar.


Posted 03/12/2020

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