The big interview: Vlad Doronin, CEO, Aman Group

by | 07 Sep 2022 | Interview, People

Aman Group recently welcomed $900 million of private financing, so how is the Swiss-headquartered group going to use the funding to expand its reach?

TOPHOTELNEWS spoke to Aman Group CEO, Vlad Doronin, about what direction he is steering the upscale chain towards.

What will be Aman’s investment strategy following the $900 million financing that Aman recently received from Cain International and PIF?

The recent investment received from PIF and Cain International will be used to accelerate the global expansion of both Aman, which means ‘peace’ in Sanskrit, and Aman’s sister-brand Janu, which means ‘soul’. The funding will enable the acceleration of the development of the existing pipeline, as well as support the acquisition and development of future sites which are aligned with the Aman and Janu brand values. Additionally, some of the investment will be used to enhance the existing portfolio.

Cain International is also a partner in the recently-announced Aman Beverly Hills – how will this prestigious development advance Aman?

The addition of this property to our collection of hotels stays true to the revered Aman spirit and lifestyle, Aman Beverly Hills is clearly the right location for an Aman destination. Nestled in vast gardens, Aman Beverly Hills will both capture the legacy and heritage of Aman while connecting our guests with a fascinating urban environment.

The Aman hotel, Aman branded residences and Aman Club will be the centrepiece of the pioneering One Beverly Hills development, offering an oasis within acres of lush botanical gardens, alongside a golf club, and yet just moments from the globally renowned Rodeo Drive.

What is your current hotel pipeline?

We have a strong pipeline of future destinations for both Aman and Janu. We have announced several of these projects, but we will be releasing more information about additional hotels and residences we have in the pipeline as the projects continue to progress. Our next opening will be our first Janu hotel, Janu Tokyo (2023), which will see us bring to life our new concept.

More broadly, we have Aman Nai Lert Bangkok (2023), Aman AlUla (2023), Janu AlUla (2023), Janu Montenegro (2023), Aman Miami Beach (2024), Amanvari, Mexico (2024), Aman Beverly Hills (2026), and Aman at Sea, our luxury yacht (2025) in the pipeline over the coming years.

Which regions or locations offer the greatest potential for Aman hotels in the future?

My strategic direction since purchasing the brand in 2014 has been to focus on urban destinations, as I believe there is great demand in the market for the Aman DNA of exceptional architecture and design, standout locations, peace, privacy, and unparalleled service in city destinations.

Our first urban property, Aman Tokyo, opened in 2014 to great success and critical acclaim, winning numerous awards. This, alongside the successful opening of Aman New York earlier this year, has demonstrated the demand for the Aman experience in urban and remote locations alike.

The pipeline reflects this, with several global city destinations, as well as a selection of remote places. Aman is all about locations, and so the region is less of the focus when I am looking for new sites, but the opportunity has to be an exceptional location and setting that will offer our guests something which is unlike anything else on the market.

How has Janu been progressing so far and are there any targeted specific regions for further development?

We have an exciting pipeline of properties to announce for the Janu brand, with 12 projects signed. We’re not focused on one specific region globally, but rather locations which align with the Janu brand and will offer something exceptional for our guests.

Our first Janu hotel, Janu Tokyo, is set to open in 2023 and I am looking forward to bringing this new brand to life in one of the world’s greatest cities. With seven dining concepts, an excellent wellness offering which centres on group experiences and an incredible setting in the newly developed Toranomon-Azabudai district, Janu Tokyo will showcase the future of the Janu brand and what guests can expect from our forthcoming Janu pipeline.

There has been an increase in the number of branded residences in Aman’s portfolio. What makes this segment appealing?

Aman Branded Residences have been an integral part of the Aman offering since the creation of Amanpuri in 1988, when the brand first started with Amanpuri Villas available alongside the hotel. Today, we have 12 branded residences projects within our existing and forthcoming properties, and all future Aman urban destinations will have an Aman branded residences component.

There is great demand for the Aman branded residences proposition, in the last 12 months alone, we have sold $2.4bn of Aman branded residences. People seek permanent access to the Aman lifestyle in their own home settings, especially the service, as they are short of time. They have no time to manage staff, but with an Aman Branded Residence everything is done perfectly and with our unparalleled service.

At Aman Miami Beach Residences we have pre-sold the entire project and achieved the highest price per square foot in the market. There is similar demand for our other urban Aman Branded Residences, including Aman Nai Lert Bangkok (2023), Aman Residences Tokyo (2023), and we have had an incredible response since announcing Aman Beverly Hills (2026).

What are your thoughts on conversions versus newbuilds for potential hotel sites?

I prefer new build properties, as it is easier to control the layout and the floorplan, which means you can dictate the flow of the space and the experience, whereas within an existing property you cannot mould the space entirely to your design. However, Aman is focused on standout locations, and so if there is a historic building which is architecturally interesting and in an incredible location, we will always opt to do this, to continue to deliver standout Aman experiences for our guests.

Do you have a preferred list of suppliers for your projects or do you tend to work with local companies?

We work with our trusted architect and design partners who understand the Aman ethos and approach to design. We create meaningful interactions between our properties themselves and their locations. Throughout Aman’s history we have taken cues from the history, culture, and geography of each place to create.

The architects who we appoint for each of our projects need to understand this, designing to create a dialogue between the hotel and its environment – this usually results in the use of local materials, a colour palette and sourcing of local art and furniture to create an authentic connection to the place. Additionally, the architect of record we appoint in each of our destinations is always local to the project.

Once a property is open, we also build relationships with local suppliers. Using Aman New York as an example, at Arva our Italian dining concept, we aim to source more than 75% of our ingredients locally, and we’re doing this through partnerships with local initiatives, such as Grow NYC and Our Harvest which represent over 750 farmers and manage over 100 farmer’s markets in the city.

How do you envision the Aman Group will look in a few years’ time?

My strategic direction with Aman is to bring the experience to global cities and offer a more holistic Aman experience across the world, with a balanced mix of both urban and remote locations for guests to experience. Similarly, in several years, we will have firmly established the Janu brand with several live projects for guests to experience this complementary offering.

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