We really don’t like even referring to it, but it must be said that the pandemic really has changed the way we travel.
The biggest impact has perhaps been the surge in digital nomads who are shaping the industry to a large extent. As of January this year, 52 countries now offer Digital Nomad Visas, and another eight including South Africa, will soon also be on the list. Most of them enable visitors to live and work in the country for up to six months, if they can prove an income. Also on the rise is a conscious nod to community and demand for experiential travel, while the search for eco-friendly properties is defining business.
International hotelier, Nico Vivier, shares his insights:
The era of digital nomads
People are saying, “I’m hitting the road with my family, and I’ll work from wherever I am”. Who doesn’t want to work from a laptop in flip flops on the beach? Was this possible before Covid? Yes. Did anybody have the courage to do it? No. But when forced to, that’s when we saw potential upsides. I think these digital nomads are looking for the opportunity to stay in a country long enough to live, breathe and understand the culture. As a hotel group, it’s about the offering – when they are at one of our properties, we need to create the step to the next place.
A resort vibe for city hotels
There has been a strategic expansion for the Anantara brand, which has always been seen as a resort destination, into corporate and city hotels. Visitors to cities now expect the luxury of a resort experience. A recent addition is the beautiful Anantara Downtown Dubai Hotel. There is also Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel in Abu Dhabi, Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel and a growing portfolio in Europe – Anantara Palazzo Naiadi Rome Hotel, Anantara New York Palace Budapest Hotel and most recently, Anantara Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky in Amsterdam.
Is it all about the location
There are seven Natural Wonders of the World and only two hotels in close proximity to a natural wonder – both those hotels are owned by us. When we entered the southern African market the flagship of that acquisition was the Royal Livingstone (now The Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara) and the old Zambezi Sun (now Avani Victoria Falls). Acquiring those properties was not just about the hotels, it was absolutely the location. Further expansion into southern Africa is a focus but it’s important for us to be very selective.
Demand for sustainability
There are agents in the UK that won’t sell hotels that are serving drinks in plastic bottles and there are consumers who won’t support your brand if you’re not supporting sustainability. There’s also definitely awareness from our consumers, particularly Generation Z – they’re very vocal about seeking out destinations accordingly. As a group, we’ve been doing sustainability audits for almost 10 years and have key performance indicators that require us to reduce food waste by a certain percentage every single year, cut down on energy consumption or find smarter ways of using electricity, make our hotels plastic-free and use biodegradable products as much as possible, get rid of one-use items, interact digitally as opposed to printing, source food locally and seasonally, etc.
An appetite for experiences
We focus on ensuring we recognise our guests’ loyalty by offering them incredible experiences in bucket-list locations. Every property is unique to the destination and the location, integrating local cultures, foods and experiences. Some of my favourites include Anantara Bazaruto and Royal Livingstone. I spent time in Abu Dhabi so Qasr Al Sarab Resort is close to my heart and Anantara Palm Dubai is amazing for scale. There’s the coastal Al Baleed Resort Salalah and the amazing Al Jabal Al Akhdar in the mountains, both in Oman. Golden Triangle Resort in Thailand is incredible – you can stay in a transparent Jungle Bubble and watch elephants in their natural habitat and have views of the starlit sky.
There are extremely efficient systems in place at our properties, but every hotel is managed by the general manager as an independent business, and they make decisions based on what’s good for that business in that market. We are very community focused. Not only do our properties tend to have a large local following who we need to service – people frequenting the restaurants and bars – but contribution to the local economy is also vital and looking after our people is key. At Bazaruto, for example, 70% of our team members come from the island.
Minor Hotels manages and operates more than 530 hotels and resorts across six continents. Brands include Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas; Avani Hotels & Resorts; Tivoli Hotels & Resorts; Oaks Hotels, Resorts & Suites; NH Hotels; nhow Hotels; NH Collection and Elewana. The company also has partnerships with other leading hospitality players, including St Regis Bangkok, Radisson Blu Maputo, Four Seasons Thailand and JW Marriott Phuket.