Luxury brand Aman builds loyalty with focus on service
 
Luxury brand Aman builds loyalty with focus on service
22 MAY 2018 8:13 AM

The luxury hotel brand aims to maintain mystique among devoted loyalists while growing on a pace of about one hotel a year.

NEW YORK—Aman is a brand built on the kind of mystique that enables it to charge the highest rates in its markets, without advertising, by relying on a core clientele of high-net-worth travelers who are fondly, if surprisingly for a luxury product, called “Aman Junkies.”

Aman’s Chief Marketing Officer Jane Mackie—a veteran of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Loews Hotels brands, among others—said she has never seen such fierce loyalty among customers.

That devotion, she said, is on display at periodic meet-and-greet receptions, in which GMs host regular guests. “We call them happy reunions,” Mackie said, adding that the company has never had a loyalty program because it’s not necessary. “The first thing these ‘junkies’ tell you is which Amans they have been to, and the second is which ones they are planning to visit,” she said.

Aman’s loyal guests are not travelers who “fly and flop,” but rather “those who arrive in a destination ready to take it on,” she said. So the focus at its hotels are on experiences, such as jeep tours, hikes and bicycle rides. Some properties are all-inclusive by necessity because of their remote locations. Many guests will connect two or three different Aman properties on an extended vacation, she said.

The challenge for the brand, formerly Amanresorts, is to maintain that mystique while continuing to grow, albeit at a more modest pace than many of its competitors.

With 33* properties open and a small pipeline, Aman looks to grow by a bit more than one location a year but will never be that big, Mackie said.

Aman is also not out to buy other brands, Mackie said, adding, “We will always be a scarce product.” However, while Aman made its mark opening in remote locations, mainly in Asia, it is now moving toward urban spots like Tokyo and New York.

Location and luxury
The brand currently is in an expansion mode that includes recently announced properties in Los Cabos and New York, both scheduled for 2020.

Aman has three headquarters—in Singapore, London and Zug, a city near Zurich. The company manages all properties and has some degree of equity in about half of them—a model that Mackie said will continue. The majority shareholder is Vladislav Doronin, a Russian real estate investor who won ownership in a highly public legal battle with a minority investor in 2015. Mackie said Doronin was an Aman loyalist before he invested in the brand.

Aman hotels are currently located in Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Dominican Republic, France, Greece, Indonesia, India, Italy, Japan, Laos, Montenegro, Morocco, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Turks & Caicos, Vietnam and the U.S.*

The brand’s first hotel in Tokyo marked a departure because of its urban setting, Mackie said, noting the company “spent a lot of time figuring out” what a city-based Aman should be.

The success of that location, she said, provided confidence in taking on New York, where the Aman will be in the landmark Crown Building. Each suite will be over 750 square feet with a fireplace. There will be 20 condos including a five-story penthouse with a wraparound terrace, and indoor and outdoor pools. Mackie said most Aman locations feature residences.

The newest Aman location, Amanvari in Los Cabos, is scheduled to open in 2020 and will include a hotel and private residences. Sitting on the Sea of Cortes, the resort will be set within Costa Palmas, a private community with two miles of swimmable beach, and will comprise 20 bi-level hotel pavilions (each a single unit), spread across the landscape, with floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto an outdoor terrace and wraparound sundeck. The main pavilion on the beach will have three restaurants, a library and lounge, and a 100-foot infinity pool. There will also be a spa and 24 residences.

Loyalty and service
One way in which the Aman brand fosters and maintains loyalty among its guests is through the use of technology, Mackie said, adding that the brand has more than 195,000 followers on Instagram.

“Technology enables us to understand our customers and acquire new ones,” she said.

The brand also touts key differentiators when it comes to service, for example highlighting the brand standard for GMs to personally meet with each guest at some point during their stay. The practice is not that difficult, Mackie said, because most Aman hotels are in the under 50-room range. There are never more than 30 or 40 arrivals in a day, she said.

As another example of the brand’s emphasis on service, Aman calls its associates “compassionate hosts,” Mackie said.

“They act like owners and that enables us to achieve the high level of service our competitors aspire to,” she added.

As with many luxury brands, food and beverage is taking center stage. That operation is headed up by Enzo Cassini, formerly a restaurateur in London. The company operates all of its own restaurants and brands—some of them so they can be opened in multiple locations. That includes a Japanese concept called Nama, which is in several resorts; and Arva, which is Italian.

*Correction, 22 May 2018: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of properties open.

*Correction, 25 May 2018: A previous version of this story omitted the fact that Aman has properties in the U.S.

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