Having come across a comfort level surpassing anything you’ve ever experienced and felt a deep spiritual connection with the place, you cannot help yearning to visit it again and again. That’s what Vladislav Doronin, Aman Hotels & Resorts’ Owner & CEO, decided to do a few years ago. And to make it easy, he’s had a hotel chain built all over the world. The main component of the Brand’s philosophy is a combination of its guests’ & residence owners’ comfort and the Aman infrastructure, service, architecture, and fauna, as glorious as the Forum of Vespasian. 

Lara Lychagina. This story began when you first stayed at Amanpuri – ‘a place of peace’ in Sanskrit  the first Aman Resort in Phuket, Thailand. Could you talk about this first encounter with the Aman brand?

Vladislav Doronin. I first visited Amanpuri, Thailand, in 1990. So, I was fortunate to discover the Aman experience very early on the Brand’s journey. My stay at Amanpuri was very personal and changed my view of travelling and a luxury experience completely. On arrival, I was greeted by name and didn’t have to sign anything. The atmosphere made me feel like I was staying in a good friend’s home, and the service was unlike anything I’d ever experienced at any other hotel. Throughout that stay, Amanpuri’s most incredible energy gave me a strong feeling of a peaceful sanctuary a deep connection to the spirit of the place, that I’d never experienced before. 

L.L. Why did you decide to acquire the Aman hotel chain and invest in its development?   

V.D. I’d long admired Aman and felt it was the best luxury brand in the world. I visited every Aman hotel, resort, or residence complex soon after its opening. All my business trips included visiting Aman locations, even if it meant making a several hours’ detour, as I loved the experience so much. 

Time is this century’s commodity, as everyone is busy, and traditional residence owners lack easy access to services, be it preparing their residences for their arrival & stay or managing the residence staff. By offering branded residences & their management, we provide 24-hour services & the Aman amenities - thus removing the challenges of property management - and the renowned Aman quality standards. 

For example, at Aman New York, the USA, coming soon this year, in addition to the hotel, we have 22 residences only. Their owners will benefit from our extensive services & amenities, such as the 2,300 m2 Aman Spa, our signature restaurants - Nama and Arva - the subterranean Jazz Club, and the unrivalled 24-hour Aman service. The two-storey Cigar Lounge, complete with Terrace & Wine Room, will be available to The Aman Club members only – our new concept an exclusive community of like-minded individuals having access to the Aman members-only experiences & amenities. Thanks to the management services and a wide range of the Aman lifestyle experiences, our branded property has a higher value than traditional homes. We’ve seen a great demand for our residences, particularly in big cities, including Aman New York, the USA, Aman Residences Tokyo, the Brand’s first standalone residences, Aman Nai Lert Bangkok, Thailand, and Aman Miami, the USA. Thanks to the value service offer and the unchallenged Aman quality standards, they are all sold
with a higher premium. 

L.L. What is the Brand’s philosophy & DNA?   

V.D. The Aman philosophy is about creating sanctuaries. Be it urban, jungle, or beachfront locations, the core Aman experience will remain the same. To me, Aman’s essence is its connection to exceptional places, a standout design, privacy, unparalleled service, generosity of space, and the feeling of staying with a good friend. 

With 14 of our complexes located near or within UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Aman also offers exceptional and unforgettable experiences & adventures enriched by the local culture. For example, at Amansara, Cambodia, guests can visit Angkor Wat, capturing the atmosphere of the temple as the sun rises, while at Aman-i-Khas, India, they find themselves in the very heart of Ranthambore National Park, home of Bengal Tigers which can be spotted during daily safaris. 

L.L. Having the same DNA & philosophy, all Aman hotels and resorts are, nonetheless, very different. Do they reflect the mentality & spirit of their ‘parent countries’? 

V.D. Yes, there is a general feeling of the Aman DNA, but we also strive to make sure all our
hotels and resorts have a meaningful relationship with their localities, so each of them is individual. At Aman, we believe they all grow from their environment, taking cues from
the heritage, culture, and natural landscape they function within. We use these principles
to inspire the architecture & design of the Aman properties, working with visionary architects able to frame a dialogue of each hotel with its environment, while the experiences offered ensure each location enriches the hotel it’s home to. 

For example, at Amanzoe, Greece, late Ed Tuttle was inspired by classical Greek architecture of the UNESCO-protected ruins across the Peloponnese to create a modern-day Acropolis with 360-degree views, maximising the Amanoze's position above the olive groves and the Aegean Sea. In contrast, the design of Amanjena, Morocco, also by Ed Tuttle, was inspired by the rose-hued buildings of old Marrakesh with its shady courtyards and fountains accompanying you to the central basin, surrounded by date palms and olive trees, while the interiors feature details celebrating the North African craftsmanship heritage. 

L.L. What does ‘Amanjunkie’ mean? 

V.D. The term was coined by a loyal guest of ours. It denotes something like an unofficial club or a community of guests considering Aman to be their ultimate travel experience and repeatedly visiting our destinations.

L.L. Do you consider any of the Aman hotels your favourite holiday destination and, if so, why?  

V.D. Each Aman destination is absolutely unique and offers a completely different experience, so it’s impossible to narrow it down to only one. For me, each of them is a temple with a deep connection to the spirit of its locality. 

My family and I often visit Amanpuri, Thailand. I love its long beautiful snow-white sandy beach, its excellent Aman Spa, complete with medical facilities, and its wonderful ambience for dining. Amanpuri’s energy is so unique that no matter how tired I might feel on arrival, it rejuvenates me in no time.

Amanjiwo, Indonesia, is another special place with unforgettable spiritual experiences like meditation in Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple. There, you can really feel the culture & soul of the country. I also love visiting Amanjena, Morocco, as it feels like time-travelling to the past to enjoy the true taste of the Middle East. 

L.L. You became Aman’s owner & CEO more than five years ago. How has this business of yours changed over this time? Could you tell us about its growth & development?

V.D. Aman being the world’s best luxury brand, I’ve been determined to follow its philosophy, making space for the Brand to evolve and grow. The core elements of the Aman experience – privacy, generosity of space, and unrivalled service – will always be integral to it. Soon, I felt there was
a demand & place for this experience within urban locations, i.e., for transforming the horizontal into the vertical. Initially, we launched Aman Tokyo, Japan, which now has the highest rates in
the country. At the moment, we also have Aman New York, the USA, coming soon this year,
with Aman Nai Lert Bangkok, Thailand (2023) and Aman Miami, the USA (2024) in the pipeline. These locations will offer urban sanctuaries in the very heart of some of the world’s
most dynamic and exciting cities. 

We’ve also expanded the Aman offer beyond our havens – in part due to our guests’ demand to be able to enjoy their Aman experiences in their home towns. We’ve launched Aman Skincare – formulated in the UK and using only the finest natural ingredients - Aman Spa Candles, Aman Fine Fragrance, and just recently, SVA - ‘svasthya’ is the Sanskrit word meaning ‘health’- our range of Traditional Chinese Herbal Formulas, created by Dr. Ning Ma. He’s worked in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 30 years and is also my doctor. 

We’ve also launched The Essentials by Aman, a range of ready-to-wear clothes - timeless pieces in the finest fabrics, perfectly suited for the Aman experience. This collection’s been several years in the making, designed and manufactured in Italy, and, as with everything else we do at Aman, each and every detail’s been worked out, so the products are of the highest quality. 

L.L. Could you talk about the most challenging Aman project? 

V.D. Each project is challenging in its own way, especially when we choose a most remote destination for its location. Our sensitivity to the local environment and determination to embrace the heritage & aesthetics of the place entails extra challenges. In the end, we proudly add another jewel to our collection of truly unique hotels and resorts. Amanyangyun, China, for example, is made up of antique Qing and Ming Dynasty Villas in the middle of a camphor forest, painstakingly relocated and restored - an incredible feat of ecological and architectural conservation in a very special place.

L.L. Why is it essential for Aman to locate its hotels and resorts near or even on the premises of UNESCO World Heritage Sites? How does it characterise the Aman brand?  

V.D. Aman has always cared about the environment, the local communities, and the cultural heritage of our destinations. Now, 14 Aman properties are located on or close to UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Thanks to our sensitivity and respect for the localities we choose for our hotels and resorts, the local authorities are confident of our socially responsible approach and permit us to build Aman properties in these incredible places protected by the world community. 

L.L. Now, together with your hotel & resort projects, you are focusing on developing residential property at the new Aman destinations. Why so? Which Aman residences
are available for sale at the moment?

V.D. Private residences have long been part of the Aman offering, beginning with Villas first offered at Amanpuri in 1988, so it’s not a new concept for us and the Aman community. However, we have increased our focus on residences to supply our guests’ demand for permanent access to the much revered Aman lifestyle. 

To ensure our offer remaining exclusive and creating a community of like-minded discerning individuals, the number of private residences is still limited: 22 at Aman New York, the USA, and 23 at Aman Miami, the USA.

In my view, luxury accommodation is a small number of private residences, complete with the highest quality service and excellent amenities, such as the renowned Aman Spas, as well as the Nama and Arva dining concepts. Additionally, we’ve established The Aman Club for our Amanjunkies, with all our residence owners nominated as Founder Members. We prioritise The Aman Club members and the long-standing Aman community of like-minded individuals and will expand The Aman Club concept. 

Our service fee means excellent value for our residence owners. To build and manage the services & amenities provided by Aman Branded Residences, to say nothing of the 24-hour service, individually would be vastly more expensive and incredibly time-consuming. 

At the moment, our luxurious Aman residences are available at 12 Aman destinations, including Amanera, the Dominican Republic, Nusa Dua Aman Villas, Indonesia, and Amanzoe, Greece, as well as at our near-future locations: Aman New York, the USA (2021), Aman Tokyo Residences, Japan (2023), Aman Nai Lert Bangkok, Thailand (2023), and Aman Miami, the USA (2024), to name just a few. 

L.L. What is so special about Aman New York, and why do your clients prefer it to other Manhattan locations?  

V.D. Aman New York, the USA, opening soon, is a milestone for the Brand. Located on the corner of 5th Avenue and 57th Street - the best street corner in the world - Aman New York is a once-in-a-lifetime project, as we’ve restored The Crown Building, an iconic structure in the heart of New York City, to its former glory. It’s an all-suite boutique hotel with 83 suites and 22 private residences. We’ve worked on the interiors with Jean-Michel Gathy, a renowned architect and a long-time Aman collaborator, drawing inspiration from Aman’s Oriental heritage, combined with Manhattan’s dynamic pulse. 

Clients prefer Aman Residences to other apartment options in New York City for several reasons. Firstly, our residences are limited in number, which allows our owners to benefit
from the vast infrastructure & generous space the hotel provides, including access to the 2,300 square-metre Aman Spa filling three storeys, complete with a 25-metre pool and medical facilities. At our owners' disposal are also  Nama, our Japanese restaurant, Arva, our Mediterranean restaurant, the subterranean Jazz Club, Lounge Bar on a wraparound terrace, and Wine Room & Cigar Club available to The Aman Club members only. 

Secondly, having our recognisable Aman design language, working with visionary architects, and being very generous with space, we’ve established unmatched design standards. Each Aman New York Residence has a working fireplace - a rarity in NYC - a large terrace, and in some, an outdoor pool, complete with a panoramic view of Central Park and the city. 

Finally, owners appreciate the great value of the Aman service, available 24 hours. Our unrivalled personal service & attention to detail create a superb level of security & ease, and residence owners will feel confident their property is managed by the Aman team at exacting quality standards. 

L.L. What new destinations and hotels will be available shortly?  

V.D. In addition to Aman New York, the USA, several new destinations are under construction now, including Aman Nai Lert Bangkok, Thailand (2023), Aman Tokyo Residences, Japan (2023), Aman Niseko, Japan (2023), Amanvari, Mexico (2024), Aman Miami, the USA (2024), and two more in Al-Ula, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In March 2020, we also launched Janu, a new hotel brand. The name means ‘soul’, as its mission is creating connection & togetherness, rekindling the soul, and bringing balance. We’ve already announced Janu Al-Ula, Saudia Arabia, Janu Montenegro, and Janu Tokyo, Japan. Besides that, we have an extensive pipeline of properties and several recently signed agreements I’m looking forward to announcing soon. 

L.L. Aman also offers a private jet experience. What privileges & benefits does the service provide? 

V.D. Aman Private Jet is an extension of the Aman experience & philosophy and an intimate way to travel. It can be bespoke based entirely on the passengers’ wishes. Our Private Jet offers guests flexible departure times from airports of their choosing, including all the Moscow ones, seamless customs clearance, ultimate comfort while travelling, and the Aman signature service, all coordinated by the Aman Private Jet Concierge. 

L.L. What do you think of today’s tourist industry and the hotelier business? How has COVID19 changed them? 

V.D. Travelling has become an ultimate luxury experience, and Aman is perfectly prepared to cater to this demand. The principles of privacy and generosity of space Aman is built upon, while not intended for this very purpose, nonetheless, meet the current requirements of social distancing very well. Any Aman destination team can provide all services within your villa, which means you can choose to see nobody else during your stay without compromising your Aman experience. 

Countries not permitting international travel are facing unending challenges caused by government restrictions. In the meantime, countries allowing international travel are seeing a very high demand
for it. I do believe it will be increasing, as people are tired of being stuck at home. We already see it happening as easing the restrictions entails an immediate spike in bookings at our destinations. 

We’ve adapted to the restrictions very quickly and, when and where needed, continue to focus on the domestic markets of our destinations. Thanks to this agility, in 2020, many of our properties,
including Amangiri, the USA, Amanyara Turks & Caicos, British Overseas Territory, and Amanpulo,
the Philippines, to name just a few, performed much better than previously, 

Travelling has changed, and we see a lot more long-stay villa or residence bookings. With travelling remaining complicated and our guests’ safety front of mind, our private option offer, including
Aman Private Jet, has been of interest to our community. We’re sure to see a travel boom in the next few months. 

L.L. How do you ‘recharge your batteries’? Is there a special place & type of such ‘a recharge’?  

V.D. My well-being is one of my top priorities. Over the years, I’ve worked out an excellent morning routine helping me to sustain a consistent energy level for the rest of the day. After waking up,
I usually spend about an hour meditating and doing qigong & yoga. That’s an excellent way to start your day. Besides, several days a week, I exercise with my coach’s assistance, doing HIITs or strength workouts. Then, come my SVA Herbal Formulas. This routine is of great importance to me. 

In addition, I always arrange my business schedule so that I could spend some quality time with my family, say, at Amanpuri, one of my favourite places. Relaxing together in total peace & privacy is the utmost luxury and essential for me. 

I also love doing water sports, so a voyage on board The Amandira, Aman’s flagship yacht, to explore the remote islands of Indonesia’s Flores Sea is something I really relish. It’s the most incredible and magnificent scenery for scuba diving to enjoy those beautiful waters and incredibly diverse marine life to the full.

L.L. This issue focuses on investments. Which one of yours do you consider the most successful?

V.D. I’ve been fortunate enough to make investment decisions, enabling me to celebrate my passion for architecture, art, and design, both professionally and personally. I also own OKO Group, an international real estate firm, now working on eight projects in Florida, New York, and the Bahamas, as well as on an exciting pipeline of future projects, both in the USA and globally. Nevertheless, I allocate a lot of my time to Aman and am actively involved in the business. I consider it to be a very positive investment bringing fulfillment into my life. 

In parallel, I’d been developing real estate, both residential and commercial, for many years and considering acquiring a hotel brand to increase the residential component of my projects. I knew a vast hotel infrastructure would prove valuable for residence owners and wanted the number of residences in each project to be limited to provide the desired level of luxury.