Alan Leibman, CEO of Kerzner International, focuses on giving guests a memorable time, writes Jacqueline Tsang
Q. When you first joined Kerzner, you oversaw the development of several properties under the One&Only brand. What did you think was lacking in luxury resorts at the time, and what were the solutions that you offered?
A. We had a collection of individual luxury resorts that had each been conceived from the same vision, yet were not branded. We introduced One&Only as a way to allow each individual resort to have a unique sense of place. We [provide] our guests a highly personalised service and experience.
One&Only built a foundation across the brand. When you walk into One&Only Palmilla, it's Mexican chic, which is very different from the Arabian elegance of One&Only Royal Mirage [in Dubai]. Yet, at each resort, one can expect incredible ambience and design, great energy and enthusiastic service.
What seemed to be lacking at the time we launched in the luxury sector was a way to incorporate families without compromising adult time - to entertain the children as much as the adults, while preserving the intimacy of the experience for the adults. We developed our KidsOnly, tweens and teens programmes because we recognised that families want to spend time together as well.
The other [goal] was to deliver ultraluxury, but not make it stuffy or serious to the point of discomfort. We want people to relax and enjoy themselves.
Q. You once said rich, multilayered experiences bring guests back, and that it was even more fulfilling to raise their expectations on that return visit.
A. As hoteliers, we need to get the fundamentals right. Guests want to relax and have fun while they are on holiday. I travel more than 200 days a year, and sometimes it is the simplest of things that I appreciate the most. It could be as simple as charging an iPod after a workout.
At One&Only, we continue to innovate to create everlasting memories for guests. For instance, at One&Only Reethi Rah [in the Maldives], we just introduced a new teppanyaki restaurant within our beach garden so guests can be part of the entire experience from preparation to plate.
It is the multilayered experiences that bring guests back - from the incredible service of a passionate staff member to the amazing culinary experiences and indulgent spas. We are constantly looking for ways to give guests what they desire.
Q. One&Only will be opening in Sanya, Montenegro and Jeddah. What was behind your decision to launch the brand in these locations, and how do you plan on offering a unique experience for guests?
A. We have wanted to enter China for a long time. The site in Sanya is extraordinary and we will introduce a new level of ultraluxury in China.
I am also really excited about Europe. We will offer [a different destination each month] to showcase the region's history, while also introducing new experiences. As for One&Only Jeddah, the resort will become a centre for business and leisure and world-class dining.
We will offer new luxury to these destinations that will appeal to past and new guests.
Q. What have your most inspired decisions been since you joined Kerzner in 1994?
A. It is an exciting time for Kerzner as we further develop One&Only resorts, as well as expanding the Atlantis brand. Looking back, some of our bold decisions were greatly inspired, including the extraordinary opening event as we launched Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai. This was at the peak of the global financial crisis. But we forged ahead and the hotel has become the new icon of Dubai.
Americans had stopped travelling following 9/11. While many resorts went silent, we launched a powerful TV commercial and were able to welcome guests back to Atlantis.
What makes our company successful is the inspiration and passion of our people. We kept moving ahead through the toughest of times.