Dillip Rajakarier // © 2016 Minor Hotel Group
Feature image (above): The exterior of Anantara Emei Resort & Spa // © 2016 Minor Hotel Group
Minor Hotel Group (MHG) currently oversees more than 19,000 rooms in nearly 150 hotels throughout the world. And its core luxury brand, Anantara, has grown from just three resorts in the company’s home market of Thailand to 35 locations spanning 11 countries — all in less than a decade. Dillip Rajakarier, CEO of MHG, is celebrating this rapid expansion.
Below, he highlights all that agents can expect from the brand during its 15th anniversary year.
What do you attribute to the incredible success and popularity of MHG’s Anantara properties in a relatively short period of time?
The Anantara brand connects guests to genuine places, people and stories through personal experiences and heartfelt hospitality. Anantara has succeeded in delivering on this and continues to offer indigenous destination experiences, whether it’s in the jungle in Northern Thailand, in the spectacular setting of the Maldives or in the desert in the United Arab Emirates.
Why did MHG decide to expand its Anantara brand into Sri Lanka, and did the ongoing civil war contribute to delaying any earlier plans to build properties there?
We anticipated that within five years of the civil war’s end the south and southwest coast of Sri Lanka would become sought-after travel destinations. Sri Lanka also fits strategically into our ongoing global expansion plans. The Goyambokka coconut plantation, the location of Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort, has been owned by our joint venture partner, Hemas, for many years, and due to its spectacular location in Tangalle it proved to be the ideal location for Anantara’s first resort in Sri Lanka.
What led to the decision to open the first PADI-certified free diving center in the Maldives at Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort?
All of the Anantara hotels and resorts provide a window to the destination — meaning, they give our guests the freedom to explore and the luxury of returning to the sanctuary of the resort afterward. The Maldives is among the best in the world for diving and snorkeling, as well as one of the only destinations where you can see whale sharks year-round.
The 12-villa, adults-only Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort in Mozambique recently reopened following an extensive refurbishment. What has the reaction been from guests?
Guests have found the experience to be fresh and rejuvenating. We have received great feedback with guests who appreciate the fact that we have not altered the natural surroundings of the island, so they are still able to enjoy the rustic feel of the land and a real African experience. Guests find great pleasure enjoying the vegetation and natural beauty of the island.
What role have agents played in the rapid expansion of Anantara and other MHG properties as well?
For the North American market, our relationship with agents has been crucial for growing awareness of brands such as Anantara, Per Aquum and Avani. By working closely with the agents, we can match the traveler with the perfect resort and destination. This is done through strong relationships and will never be replaced by an online booking channel. The high-end customer that many of these luxury resorts cater to can afford to work with a travel specialist where price becomes less important and creating memories and experiences is the top priority.