From establishing brand pillars to major expansion plans across several new verticals, there’s a lot afoot at Aman. The man at the helm of operations offers a rare peek behind the scenes.
From Badrutt’s Palace in St Moritz to the Dorchester London, and many more prestigious brands, the accomplished hotelier has had an illustrious career in the ultra-luxury segment. In the last few years ever since he joined Aman as its Chief Operating Officer, Roland Fasel has not only built on the brand’s considerable history and reputation that goes back three decades, but also infused a new sense of energy into it. He’s taken stock and realised that the need of the hour was a certain agility as an entrepreneur. Which is why he has been bringing the building blocks of leadership, financial acumen, and marketing strategies together to create a scalable brand. The advantage of being privately owned has resulted in quick decisions and an ability to move quickly.
This is helping Aman to build many new verticals simultaneously. They’re entering the retail space with a spa collection and Chinese medicine. They’re also getting more aggressive on the residential sales front, something that was always part of Aman’s original DNA and core competency, but not pursued with as much fervour as they seem to be doing now, creating a viable structure for it in the last two years. “All of these verticals are being developed ground up, which needs a lot of agility, creativity and the ability to take risks. A lot of brands just don’t have the appetite to take the risk to front the money in order to do the heavy lifting. We’ve increased profitability 93 per cent across the brand. Not one hotel in 19 lost money,” he says, visibly proud.
By 2025, they had aimed to have grown from the existing 19 to 45-48 hotels worldwide. While the pandemic has certainly been a setback, the group is now perfectly poised for positive change. The first residences in Japan, Miami in the USA, will be revealed soon. And the sister brand called Janu, launched last year with its first property in Montenegro, is ready to be in the reckoning with its next in AlUla and Tokyo. With these three signed, sealed and delivered, two more are still to be announced. Aman and Janu may compete at the five-star level but the ethos of each will be very different and run as an independent structure. While Aman is all about privacy and peace, Janu’s relatively more affordable rooms and suites, although still 45-50 sq metres in size at the base level, lays emphasis on connection and finding your community. Hence, just as they will in Tokyo, Aman and Janu can co-exist comfortably elsewhere as well.
The Aman brand may have had clearly defined parameters, but Fasel worked to establish brand pillars and articulate the architecture needed for this level of scaling up. ‘Kadegi’, a Japanese term for taking care of the opposite party as well as the environment while undertaking any enterprise is something close to the heart of the brand as well as its COO. “If you’re pitching to Aman for business, one of the things you need to stand for is sustainability,” he says, explaining how he structured a strategy around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
He’s similarly in tune with the brand’s evolving clientele. Speaking about the new generation of clients, he says, “Fifty-five per cent of my business comes from guests 44 years and younger. I’ve had that transition and I’m tracking it intensely. I believe that we are coming out of the pandemic with cross-generational travel. Also, a lot of people made a lot of money in the finance world during this time. My product will cater to that demand but also continue to rejuvenate my group of loyalists while creating new ones.”
According to Fasel, “The list of people who go to Amans often are not the obvious names. This is a group of individuals that are all about curiosity, they communicate amongst themselves. By developing a new destination, we may fuel that and cater to that particular spirit. It will continue to be a product that will appeal to more and more individuals in that bracket.” Keeping this group of travellers excited about Aman comes easy to the man who admits that he too has a ‘pathfinder spirit’ that he likes to nurture by taking Aman into uncharted territory. Like expanding into Saudi Arabia with three properties. According to him, city hotels like the one coming up in New York’s iconic Crown Building allow them to take more risks in different destinations.
Meanwhile, they are using revenue management, they are going after weddings, kids and families, driving direct bookings by improving their website and social media… as all of this has a direct impact on occupancy. They’ve moved from mid-30s to over 50s in terms of percentage. “People want space and privacy and that’s what Aman offers – a generosity of space and spirit,” he says, optimistic and excited about the future.