Interview: Brett Armitage of Kerzner International

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When Hurricance Odile hit Los Cabos last year - the strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in the Baja Peninsula of Mexico - the area sadly suffered considerable damage.

One&Only Palmilla, one of Baja California’s most iconic resorts and a key supporter of and employer in the area, was sadly also affected and only reopened in recent weeks.

With the first guests now enjoying the new look hotel Aspire spoke to Kerzner International senior vice president, global sales and marketing Brett Armitage about the impact of the hurricane and what has happened since.

He said: “The hurricane was devastating. Obviously the entire region was severely affected as was One&Only Palmilla which is a significant part of the landscape. We were one of the worst affected resorts. We had a lot of work to do to re-open and extensive refurbishment was required. In addition to the superficial refurbishments such as furniture and decor, our main concern was to restore the family atmosphere, heart and soul which make this property so special.”

The resort re-opened on April 20 with new elements, including the new steakhouse, Seared, created in collaboration with Jean-Georges Vongerichten, completely refurbished guest rooms and suites, new adult outdoor lounging areas with ocean views and a new spa and fitness centre.?

The first guests were transferred to the hotel in a brand-new 2015 Escalade, part of the resort’s new luxury fleet of cars and more than 300 team members welcomed them.
Armitage added: “One of the keys to the success of the hotel has always been the incredible staff so it was important to work with the local people to support them and have them back once the hotel re-opened.

“We also worked with the local government on restoring the infrastructure back to the high standard it had reached before the hurricane.

“Tourism is a key part of the local economy so everyone has worked hard together and the re-opening of the hotel is a great relief for everyone.”

Clearly the re-opening was seen as important by the local government with Ruben Reachi, the minister of tourism of the State of Baja California Sur and a host of other dignitaries joining the ribbon-cutting party.

Armitage also spoke about the future of Ocean Club in the Bahamas and the major enhancement plans.

He said: “The enhancement s will elevate the hotel but keep the secluded private estate feel.”

The improvements will include renovated and expanded guest rooms and suites in the Hartford Wing, and expansion of dining options within Dune restaurant by Jean-Georges Vongerichten.?

The Hartford Wing guest rooms will be 110 square feet larger with large terraces or balconies all with views of the ocean and gardens.

Each room will have a complete makeover including new furnishings, fabrics and color schemes that amplify the distinctive palette of The Bahamas: cerulean blues, aquamarine and the bleached white of Bahamian sand.? The bathrooms will be transformed with stellar white and blue de savoie marble throughout, plus modernised separate bath and rain shower, along with double vanities.? The Hartford Courtyard will be redesigned and every guest is served by a butler.

The One & Only brand is also strong in Dubai and more recently Australia.

Armitage said: “One&Only Royal Mirage is now 15 years old which is geriatric in Dubai terms. But it has been consistently developed and refreshed while remaining grounded in the history of Arabia.

“There are so many cookie cutter hotels that don’t have that strong connection.”

“One&Only The Palm has emerged as a true jewel and this tiny 90 room boutique property has grabbed a niche and is a real oasis.

“It has this tranquillity but looks out onto modern Dubai – it’s the best of both worlds.”

Hayman Island became One & Only’s first property in Australia last year and Armitage admits taking it over was a daunting prospect.

He explained: “I actually had my honeymoon there and even then this place was iconic on a global scale. It was the most amazing island destination.

“Roll the clock forwards and we came in with huge transformational enhancements but knowing that every single Australian has a connection to Hayman.

“I’ve never worked on a property where everyone we called on was so passionate and emotionally connected. It’s more than bricks and mortar so everyone wanted us to do a great job and the pressure was enormous.

“Thankfully the feedback since opening in 2014 has been phenomenal and we’ve reinvented the category of luxury family travel.”

And late last year One & Only Resorts announced it would be taking on the management of a second iconic Australia resort - Emirates Wolgan Valley Spa in the Greater

Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

Armitage said: “This means we are able to offer two of the most definitive experiences in Australia and the two link together well. It’s useful for agents to be able to offer this One & Only outback experience.

Wolgan Valley sits between two of Australia’s most prominent national parks and is well located for tourists keen to experiences the country’s wildlife, history and cultural heritage.

The resort, occupying one per cent of a 7,000-acre conservancy reserve, and has been carbon neutral for five years running.? A central focus of the resort’s heritage is the original farmhouse that stands on the property – the 1832 Heritage Homestead that continues to be the heart of the resort and centre of activity.

The resort will continue to actively protect its surrounding habitat and indigenous wildlife species whilst delivering the ultra-luxury experience that One & Only is known for.