I have recently been speaking at several hospitality-based events and, in sharing my journey, I got to thinking back over my career and why I joined luxury hospitality in the first place.
The seeds of my story were clearly planted in my nomadic childhood, spanning continents and cultures. As the daughter of a Swedish father and Kenyan-Indian mother, life took us from Sweden to Red Cross Societies in Ethiopia and Somalia then to Switzerland, and the criteria that defined ‘home’ had to become something much more fluid than the fixed concept of one, singular building where I lived.
It was in these early years that I fell in love with the adventure and discovery that comes through encountering distinct cultures, flavourful foods, human connections and diverse language. My spirit and imagination blossomed as our wondrous world revealed itself to me. But, at the same time, relocating to a new country or visiting a destination also taught me to value the fundamental concept of a home and our universal need for the security, simplicity and wellbeing it brings.
It became clear to me that by creating that ‘home away from home’ in the shape of hotels, I too could provide others with far-flung adventures, extraordinary experiences and time to ‘be’ – even if just for a few nights. And, if my lifelong experiences have taught me anything, it’s that there’s so much more that unites than divides us. Our needs for a home are universal. And so, off I went to start my hospitality journey at the wonderful St Regis in NYC, and the rest is history.
As we draw close to a year of on-and-off lockdown, I’m reflecting on the importance of ‘home’ and what it will mean for future luxury hospitality and guest expectations. While our responsibility will be to manage hygiene, distancing, and sustainability as well as create even more spectacular and contrasting experiences, we must never forget the essence of creating a ‘home’ as referenced above.
During my years at Amanresorts, Adrian Zecha specifically entrusted us to look after his ‘homes’ (resorts) and share them with the guests we had the privilege of welcoming. What a delight and compliment therefore, when years ago, as General Manager at Amandari Resort in Bali, a guest said to me: “If the Gods had a home on earth, it would surely be here.” I love what we do. I love that we get to work in a realm that’s all about making people feel great. Whatever we have to contend with in the future, let’s never forget the power of offering guests a home.