From an underwater spa at Per Aquum Huvafen Fushi and the unique lush green polo estate at Per Aquum Desert Palm to Per Aquum Niyama’s 24-hour underwater imagination space, Minor Hotel Group’s Per Aquum brand has been making waves.
Nick Downing, vice-president of Per Aquum as well as Minor Hotel Group (MHG) operations – Indian Ocean, says in an exclusive with TTN, “We expect to add five to ten properties in the next five to ten years.”
Downing informs us that Per Aquum Desert Palm Dubai is to be transformed as part of a relaunch of the 10-year-old Maldives-based brand, founded by Universal Enterprises, a joint venture partner with MHG. As part of the strategic venture, MHG and Universal are developing the brand to encompass at least five additional properties within the next five years.
The current portfolio features Per Aquum Huvafen Fushi and Per Aquum Niyama in the Maldives, Per Aquum Desert Palm in Dubai and Essque Zalu Zanzibar, which will be transformed into a Per Aquum resort by end of this year following the completion of the first phase of an upgrade programme. The Tanzanian property has recently hired Duarte Correia as general manager.
“Per Aquum has a strong design element, it is modern but residential – somewhere you really want to spend time as opposed to being a stark modern space you want to get away from.
“I have been with the brand when it first started, so I know it inside out.”
“Per Aquum didn’t have any brand visibility,” Downing tells TTN in a candid interview. “The properties all had their own distinct personality, their own colour schemes… It was in essence, a collection of unique original hotels. You could stay at any of the different hotels and not necessarily know that you were at a Per Aquum – that was a problem.
“Our main challenge was to increase brand visibility.
“So, first we have elevated the brand name into the properties names. It’s now Per Aquum Huvafen Fushi, Per Aquum Niyama and Per Aquum Desert Palm.
“We wanted a strong logo that tied together all the elements that the brand stood for and we relooked at the name itself and decided to keep it as it was indeed a unique name. A Latin name is unusual for a hotel. We also have a range of electric colours that we have assigned to the logos of each property.
“We also added Hotels & Resorts into the brand name itself, to ensure our brand was ready for expansion into cities and urban landscapes as well, apart from the resort market.
The property in Dubai is very resort and spa driven, it’s not in a high rise, it’s almost residential in that it is part of a residential community and we really see this is as setting the footprint for us to expand into other locations, he says.
“Desert Palm is such a niche property – it’s just 39 keys surrounded by lush championship polo fields. We have a very strong GCC support at the Desert Palm. We have villas with private pools so we get a lot of family business.”
The Layali Villa (585sqm) deserves special mention. An exclusive two-bedroom walled sanctuary, it is built from Jordanian stone, centred around an open-air courtyard with a large swimming pool and a private rooftop terrace. The presidential villa category is now undergoing a complete refurbishment and will reopen at the end of this year. The villa is being redesigned around a secret garden concept and a third bedroom will be added. The designer is Isabelle Miaja who was the original interior designer for Per Aquum Desert Palm.
The hotel will look at refurbishing Rare, the main restaurant, next summer.
Earlier this year, Downing announced the opening of Play, the second island at Per Aquum Niyama. With 48 new villas, Play offers concepts including the recently unveiled Nest, the treetop dining experience and Blu, a beachfront restaurant.
Thailand-based MHG plans to enter Oman with two Anantara properties in Salalah and Muscat. “An Anantara property should be ready in Jabal Akhdar by the end of this year and a second will follow in Salalah mid-next year,” Michael Marshall, chief operating officer, tells TTN.
“In the region, we see Oman has having a very good potential both internationally and regionally. Salalah has huge potential as a destination because it’s so different, especially in the summer with the rain.”
Minor Hotel Group plans to develop a new Anantara to open in Dubai in early 2018. Anantara Dubai Creek Hotel will be located in Culture Village, which is currently under development by Dubai Properties. Located on the waterfront and with a contemporary design, the new Anantara hotel will be one of the first luxury hotels in Culture Village.
The property will comprise 290 guest rooms, a rooftop pool, a spa and a range of restaurants, bars and retail outlets. The hotel will also boast waterfront views from its ballroom and conference facilities.
“Phuket is very popular with our GCC guests, followed by Bangkok. We’ve rebranded Four Seasons Bangkok to Anantara Siam – it’s near all the shopping districts and I definitely see that one taking off with this market.
“Maldives has gone up a lot in the last three years especially from the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. We’ve got six hotels in the Maldives – two Per Aquums and four Anantaras. Seychelles is doing great as well.
“Among the upcoming properties, Sri Lanka will be an instant hit. Colombo is now becoming a tourist destination with retail and culinary opportunities,” says Marshall. Anantara Tangalle Peace Haven Resort will open this month and Anantara Kalutara Resort is all set to open soon after.
Thailand’s first new build Avani will open in October this year – Avani Bangkok Riverside.
Minor Hotel Group recently expanded into Europe and South America with acquisition of six Tivoli hotels – two in Brazil, along with the Tivoli brand, plus four hotels in Portugal.
The brand also announced the addition of six camps in Kenya to its growing global portfolio. This is the result of two of East Africa’s most prestigious property portfolios merging, following the acquisition of Cheli & Peacock Group of Companies by the Elewana Collection.
The acquisition sees the six Cheli & Peacock properties, namely, Elsa’s Kopje, Elephant Pepper Camp, Joy’s Camp, Tortillis Camp, Kitich Camp and Lewa Safari Camp, merge under the banner of the Elewana Collection to form a comprehensive circuit of 14 properties spanning the highlights of Northern Tanzania, Kenya and Zanzibar.
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