Spotlight on: Roland Fasel, Chief Operating Officer at Aman

By Laura Gibbs

Designing bespoke experiences with Aman in Asia

“A typical Aman guest is a discerning, experienced traveller, looking for an experience that goes beyond the resort, an experience that gets under the skin of the destination, enabling them to connect to the spirit of a place.”

There are some places in the world that turn up on every person’s bucket list; Angkor Wat, the Forbidden Palace in Beijing, experiencing India or stepping foot on the stunning beaches of Thailand and the exquisite Philippine islands. Once in a lifetime places that are visited by millions of people a year. These places are stunning and unforgettable, but they are crowded. When dealing with discerning customers, how can a hotel ensure that guests receive a once in a lifetime experience, free of hassle, crowds and queues.

Aman is synonymous with high end luxury in the hospitality industry and goes above and beyond to ensure their guests have complete privacy as well as unique experiences. Undoubtedly one of the leaders of unique experiences and luxury resorts, since 1988,  Aman has been creative with their offerings to guests and in each of their locations they ensure privacy,  intimacy with the location and supply luxurious suites to rest in after a day of adventure.

In Southeast Asia, Aman has created a bespoke tour encompassing four fascinating places and offering a chance to explore the UNESCO city of Luang Prabang, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, coastal Vietnam and Núi Chúa National Park as well as their Flagship property Amanpuri on the beautiful island of Phuket. The six night itinerary, only available until March 2019, ensures that guests experience the best that the region has to offer. At Amansara in Cambodia personal guides take guests through the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, with the resort itself being a minutes from the Khmer Kingdom.

At Amanoi, the brand’s holistic outpost situated in the Ninh Thuan province of Vietnam, a variety of national park treks are on offer, and the flagship Amanpuri has an impressive fleet of  boats available for guests and villa residents to explore the impressive nearby Similan islands. Their star vessel is the Maha Bhetra, a 90ft wooden Thai motor yacht that can accommodate up to 6 people overnight. While every aspect of the Aman experience seems effortless, behind the scenes is an expert team dedicated to providing unparalleled luxury experiences for customers who expect nothing but the best.

The latest member of the Aman team is Roland Fasel, previous General Manager of The Dorchester and UK regional director for the Dorchester Collection. Fasel joined Aman back in February 2017 as Chief Operating Officer and looks forward to the challenge of guiding the brand through an ambitious expansion of eleven new properties – starting with the new Amanyangyun just outside of Shanghai. Fasel talks to Luxury Hoteliers Magazine and sheds some insight in how Aman creates unparalleled personalised experiences for its guests.

Who are your guests? What are they looking for when they come to Asia?

Our core markets vary from resort to resort, but our Asia destinations have more-or-less an even split between European, Asian and North American guests. For our properties in China, Japan and Vietnam, domestic business continues to be key.

A typical Aman guest is a discerning, experienced traveller, looking for an experience that goes beyond the resort, an experience that gets under the skin of the destination, enabling them to connect to the spirit of a place. Our latest property in Shanghai, Amanyangyun is an example of this. Safeguarding 1,700 camphor trees and 26 remastered Ming and Qing Dynasty antique villas, the resort is a result of an ambitious relocation and restoration project, which embodies the essence of Chinese spirituality and history.

Guests who are familiar with the Aman brand are travelling to our destinations for experiences that are off the beaten track, an awe-inspiring location, meticulous design, a generosity of space, privacy and escapism and service that is intuitive and discreet. Many are also looking for the opportunity to switch off from the stresses and pressures of their everyday lives, which the remote locations of many of our properties in Asia naturally encourages guests to do.

Over its 30 year reign, Aman has differentiated itself from other luxury chains through offering unique experiences.  How does the Aman brand go about crafting an exclusive itinerary for its discerning guests?

Focusing on human interaction and the personal touch is key, and our high staff to guest ratio of allows us to offer unparalleled, personalised service to all our guests. As a result, we have one of the highest rates of repeat guests in the industry. Each visit enables us to build upon our rapport with the guest, allowing a better understanding of their personal preferences, we can then pre-empt our guests’ wishes and desires and craft an unforgettable experience. For example, for those who wish to travel aboard our traditional Indonesian Phinisi cruiser, Amandira, we can create a four to ten day itinerary based entirely on what the guests want to do. So if they are avid divers, we can highlight that and include the finest spots for diving amongst the Indonesian archipelago.

Can you give any examples of how Aman goes the extra mile to make each experience meaningful?

At Aman, the experience of our guests’ takes centre stage, we want to guarantee a lifelong memory for them. One way in which we believe we can accomplish this is by curating experiences at each of the hotels, which enable guests to fulfil their aspirations in order to obtain a sense of achievement. For example, whether it’s indulging in a wellness immersion to achieve a specific goal, learning a new sport such as kitesurfing or scuba diving or simply disconnecting from one’s everyday life or discovering a new culture through cooking classes or unique excursions, we hope that guests will leave our destinations feeling enlightened or accomplished, if at the very least refreshed.

How often do you change the itinerary or exclusive offers for guests?

The Aman General Managers are always looking for new, unique ways in which guests can experience the destination and so opportunities for discovery are always being refreshed. For example, Aman Tokyo has just introduced a very special dining experience with some of Tokyo’s most accomplished geisha, Amangiri has just introduced a new family via ferrata climb, while guests of Aman Venice who are attending the Venice Carnival in January and February can have a bespoke costume especially made by Venetian couturier Antonia Sautter.  Staying with Aman is akin to being a guest at a home of a wonderful friend, rather than a mere hotel governed by institutional procedures. This provides enables our General Managers to be flexible and adapt each guest itinerary to meet their every desire.

Can you offer readers a glimpse into future offerings for Aman? What travel trends can we expect to see Aman following in the future?

In the fast pace of the modern, ever-connected, digitally-led society we live in, Aman is more relevant than it has ever been. Our brand ethos, which was established 30 years ago has been totally steadfast and rather than change this approach, we will continue to uphold this philosophy, however, 2018 marks our 30th anniversary, and looking to the future we plan to continue to grow organically and to expand our resorts whilst also focusing on building urban Aman’s, including Aman New York which will open in 2020.  With eleven new hotels and resorts in the pipeline each with a residential component, the residential aspect of Aman will become a larger focus for us. We will also introduce South America as a destination, a first for Aman. Since launching our Japanese culinary concept, Nama at Amanpuri and Italian culinary concept Arva in Aman Venice last year, we will continue to gently introduce further Nama and Arva outposts at Aman destinations throughout the year. Perhaps most importantly however, we are firmly committed to further developing Aman Wellness with the introduction of new immersions at Amanpuri in Phuket, new group retreats led by renowned specialists at our resorts worldwide, and an exciting upcoming project which will launch soon. I cannot reveal anything at this stage but watch this space!

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