John Spence, Chairman & Founder of the Karma Group, in a conversation with Hospitality Talk talks elaborately on his brand and what sets them apart!
What is the USP of the group?
I think one of our unique selling points is that we are providing entertainment. We’re not just providing a comfy bed and a nice room, or just good food and wine in the evening. We’re providing a wholesome holiday experience. We’re making memories. We believe that we’re much closer to a private members’ club than we are to a hotel. When we have a client join us, it’s a long term relationship. We’re looking at these people being with us for many years. Very few of our clients come for one holiday or stay just one night; most of them come back year after year. They travel around, visit our new resorts and often bring over friends or bump into friends made on the previous trips. It’s a club feeling; they’re part of a privileged private members’ club with fantastic assets that are super appealing. Yes, I think our core USP is that we are a private members’ club.
Tell us about the unique feature of your each resort?
Across our 35 resorts all over the world, we have very different experiences. We very much believe in creating events for our guests, at all hours. We say that we’re entertainers and not actually in the hospitality industry per se. I believe that people want experiences, they want to have a memorable time when they’re on a holiday. They want to create memories for themselves, their children, their family and that’s exactly what we try to do. All our resorts have great amenities like spas and bars and restaurants. We have fantastic chefs and we do amazing wine tastings. We also highly focus on health through our spas and gyms; they’re a prime aspect of our resorts. Our kids’ clubs are not just geared around parking a child in front of an X-box, but giving them a wonderful holiday experience of their own. We run all sorts of excursions which are tailor made for our clients, whether it’s walking trips in Karma Bavaria in the Bavarian Alps or cooking classes in Karma Borgo di Colleoli in Italy, or olive picking in Preverger, where people actually pick the olives off the trees, take them to our olive press, make the olive oil and experience it as it comes out of the machine. We also do wine trips in a similar way, where the clients go into our vineyards and pick grapes. They obviously don’t get the wine straightaway but are part of the creation of a natural organic product. Then there’s an elephant experience coming up in our resort that’s developing in Laos, where people can swim in the Mekong River, with the elephants that are part of our elephant sanctuary. So we try to do something different from other hotels and we believe that it’s our job to provide entertainment that our clients can fondly remember when they’re reminiscing.
How important India market is to you?
I, personally, have a huge passion for the country. We now have 35 resorts around the world but we started in India and it still remains the single most important part of our operations. We’re looking at new sites and we intend to keep developing in Goa. It’s been our base for the last 26 years and we feel proud of the fact that we’ve done so much business there; the income and employment that have been created over the years is overwhelming. But overall, in India, we want to spread out to all the four corners as it appeals to both the ‘inbound’ and ‘outbound’ market. We see local people, that is, Indians holidaying in our resorts, not only in India, but abroad as well. In fact, more and more Indians are holidaying in our European resorts, especially in Germany and Italy. And we’re seeing more foreigners wanting to come to India to experience the country and the warmth that places like Goa offer. Our roadmap is very positive; two resorts a year and a larger presence in the major metros as well as a higher awareness of our brand, our clubs, who we are and what we do; working with third party companies to reach both these goals. So India will continue to be at the forefront of our international expansion plans. Whether we’re developing a resort in Western Australia or the Cornish Islands or Vietnam, we will always ensure that it appeals to the Indian market.
How do you deal with the competition?
Like I mentioned before, we don’t exactly believe that we’re in the hospitality business as much as we think of ourselves in the entertainment business. When people come to stay with us, we like to entertain them and give them an experience that they will take along with them beyond their trip, which is why we spend a great deal of time on bars, restaurants, kids’ clubs and sports facilities. We also do a lot of things away from the resort, which again, makes us different from the other resorts. We are much closer to a private members’ club, like say, Soho House, than we are to a hotel. So we’re not really in competition with the hotel chains whose main focus is to provide comfy accommodation.