Aman Group CEO Talks Ultra-Luxury Hotel Strategy

Aman, the ultra-luxury hotel and resort group, has been growing fast since Vladislav Doronin became chairman and CEO in 2014.

Back then, Aman had 26 hotels and resorts – it now has 36. Its soon-to-debut spin-off brand, Janu, has 11 properties in the works. And Aman has just launched a line of interior goods and services and a member’s club.

Outside capital has helped lift the group’s metabolism. In August 2022, Aman Group received a $900 million investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Cain International, a real estate investment firm. In September 2023, Aman said it would receive $360 million from primarily United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based investors.

To learn about Aman Group’s strategy, Skift had an exclusive interview with Doronin. The exchange has been edited for length and clarity.

Financial wherewithal

Skift: How does the financing Aman has raised give it an edge? 

Vladislav Doronin: Aman has considerable financial strength — something I have been focused on since acquiring the business in 2014. We have improved our processes, increased occupancy, and seen unparalleled ADR [average daily rate] growth across the entire constellation of destinations over the course of the last 10 years.

The investment and support from partners who understand our vision and strategic mission further bolsters this and gives us the ability to act with agility and focus to move quickly on opportunities which are best suited to the brand. 

Vlad Doronin at Amanjena in 2021 source aman group
Vladislav Doronin, chairman and CEO of Aman Group, at the Amanjena property in Marrakech, Morocco, in 2021. Source: Aman.

New brand Janu

Skift: Vlad, you will open your first property under the new Janu brand shortly. You have 10 more in the works. What’s the purpose of Janu?

Doronin: In March 2024, we will open our first Janu destination, Janu Tokyo, which has been developed with great thought and a deep appreciation for cuisine, art, and design to reflect the city’s rich cultural fabric and create a program of diverse experiences for guests. 

When we announced the creation of Janu in 2020, it was because we had identified a new generation of travelers and felt there was a gap in the market for a luxury proposition speaking to this group, which has a different mindset. I believe the new generation of travelers seeks connection, inspiration, and exploration. 

We look to appeal to this demographic by connecting guests through a more playful, effortlessly social, and energetic environment.

Janu Tokyo Accommodation Tower View Suite Render 45252
A guest room in a suite at the Janu Tokyo. Source: Aman Group.

Skift: How will Janu stand out? Depending on how you count, there are already between a dozen and a few dozen ultra-luxury brands.

Doronin: We consider Janu to be Aman’s sibling. There are synergies and similarities, which we have celebrated. In Janu, for example, we have an ongoing focus on exceptional design and warm and personal service.

That said, I felt strongly there was nobody in the market that could deliver these elements alongside a more soulful experience, which was created to bring people together through moments of connection. This was a demand we were seeing coming from the younger generations of travelers. 

Janu Tokyo Japan Spa Wellness Pool 39270
A pool at Janu Tokyo. Source: Aman Group.

Middle East expansion

Skift: Aman Group has just raised more money, having previously raised a lot. Can you give any color on your plans, particularly in the Gulf Cooperation Council states area, in the coming year?

Doronin: We have announced five projects in Saudi Arabia — two Janu destinations and three Aman locations — which are all under development currently. We have further projects across the Middle East, which we are excited to announce shortly. 

I saw the opportunity to create journeys for our guests throughout the Kingdom, much like we have in Japan.

I see Japan as a model. We offer both dynamic cultural or business experience, such as Aman Tokyo, as well as remote destinations with hot spring experiences in Ise-Shima National Park, such as Amanemu, plus historic destinations: for example, Aman Kyoto. We’re also building a ski hotel in Niseko, Japan, which will build upon this journey further. 

Adopting this approach, we will create journeys in Saudi Arabia with an experience in Riyadh, which celebrates its urban culture, as well as our project in Aman Hegra [42 hotel and villa keys and 30 branded private residences], which is alongside the UNESCO Heritage Site of Hegra, plus a tented camp in AlUla, providing a variety of experiences of our guests across Saudi Arabia.

The perils of scaling up

Skift: Some people argue that luxury brands often decline in average quality as their footprint expands. The average number of hotels in an ultra-luxury brand is estimated at only 25. How do you think of this issue, given that it seems like Aman is making a play for scale?

Doronin: Aman is a very boutique proposition — our resort destinations average 35 room keys and our urban destinations have fewer than 90 keys, which is still considered very small in the segment.

While our global footprint is increasing to ensure we can continue to offer our guests new and pioneering experiences in exceptional places across the globe, we always do so with our core values and the heritage of the Aman experience at the heart of our offering.

Personalised service, peace, privacy and connection to the heritage and culture of the local destination remains integral to the offering in every destination: both existing and in our future pipeline.  

The Aman service is completely unparalleled and has personal touches which elevate the guest’s stay to another level, such as placing a bookmark in the book they have left in their suite, or arranging an experience which is entirely bespoke to their needs.

This approach is integral to leaving the guest feeling they have had excellent value and that their every need has been taken care of while they are staying with us.

Aman New York

Skift: How has Aman New York gone, given that there were some doubters when it opened in August 2022 about how your team would translate the typical hideaway experience of an Aman resort into a major city?

Doronin: Aman New York has had a hugely successful opening, further demonstrating that the Aman proposition and experience are something guests are seeking in city environments.

We saw this in 2014 with the incredibly successful opening of Aman Tokyo.

Aman New York builds upon this further by taking the tenants of our resort experience and applying this vertically rather than horizontally. Aman New York, in its position on the finest corner in the city on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, enables guests to be fully immersed in the pace and buzz of the city, yet the moment they step into our doors, they experience utmost sanctuary and peace. 

Aman New York USA Interior Lounge 37376
The interior of a lounge at Aman New York. Source: Aman.

Branded residential

Skift: What will be distinctive and Aman-like about the branded luxury apartments you’ve begun to sell?

Doronin: Our first standalone residential tower is Aman Residences Tokyo, which started welcoming its owners in November 2023. It’s not adjacent to the Aman Tokyo hotel, but it’s entirely independent with dedicated services and amenities, which are for the sole use of the owners.

This project has been a huge success. It sets a  completely new standard for branded residences, not only in Japan but globally, with its exceptional design, created by Yabu Pushelberg, which reflects Aman’s ethos of celebrating the heritage of its locations.

In this location, we see a combination of heritage and craft which references Japanese design, alongside a contemporary European approach that is very chic and timeless.

Brand extensions for Aman

Skift: You’ve just debuted Aman Interiors, which offers “bespoke furniture designs, limited-edition architect collaborations, and an unparalleled interior design service.” Yet some brand extensions by other companies have stumbled in the past. What is it about your approach that sets Aman up for success?

Doronin: The development of Aman Interiors has long been something I have wanted to create and felt was essential for further developing the lifestyle concept which is our strategic approach for Aman Group. 

There are countless instances where guests have wanted to purchase the furniture and homeware in our hotels, so this was created in part owing to the customer demand to bring our revered design  aesthetic into their homes.  

As with everything we develop at Aman, it must be delivered in line with our strategy and this is to  deliver the finest quality in limited numbers, always tailoring the experience to the client.

With Aman Interiors, this translates to a “by enquiry” approach to ensure we can discuss the needs of each client in detail, provide a bespoke service, and only produce each piece once its ordered so it can be tailored to the specific desires of each client. 

The member’s club trend

Skift: Tell us about your membership club.

Doronin: Aman Club was launched alongside Aman New York. We will have dedicated Aman Club spaces in future urban Aman destinations.

The global club membership affords Founding Members priority access to our properties across the globe, as well as a deeper connection to a like-minded community. 

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