Brett Armitage, Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) at Kerzner International, shares the group’s journey to becoming a global operator of destination resorts, ultra-luxury hotels and residences.

Talk us through your career.

I consider myself fortunate to have found my calling when I was very young, whereas most people spend years discovering what truly excites them in their professional lives. Studying was never my forte and I found myself working in restaurants and bars in my spare time, where I discovered my love for hospitality. At the time, my English teacher, who recognised that I had an interest in the industry, suggested that I apply for a course in hotel management and from there, the rest is history. The minute I walked through the doors of hotel school, I loved it and never looked back, and I truly believe that follow- ing and staying true to my passion led me on this career path. Not long after I started hotel school, I realized I wanted to lead the commercial function for a hospitality company. In retrospect, I believe I manifested this. If I look back at the people I admired and respected, it was always the individuals that were leading sales and marketing for hotel companies. I related to them – I love commercialising and launching new hotels. This is what excites me – making a profitable business and being innovative. For me, my career is about discovering the higher purposes of what we do: creating amazing experiences and everlasting memories is the essence of it all. Whilst maintaining the top line keeps me in my job, it’s not what drives the core being of who I am – I want to wake up every morning knowing that my resorts are giving guests memories to last a lifetime, creating moments of joy that connect them with their loved ones in ways they cannot do in their everyday lives. I joined Kerzner in January 2007, at Atlantis The Palm and till today am proud of the fact that I was amongst the very first (actually the eighth employee) to be hired. The resort opened the year after in September 2008. At the time, it seemed like a daring project to open a 1539-room resort in Dubai because 15 years ago, the city was not as developed a tourist destination as it is today but with the emirate’s commitment to investing in the city’s infrastructure and the advantage of having an airline like Emirates with a hub in Dubai, Atlantis quickly became successful. When I joined Atlantis The Palm, I was given carte blanche – the beauty of which gave me free reign to build and shape the team aligned with my philosophy of ‘Business; it’s personal’. My goal was to ensure that the sales team was always accessible and available to our clients. Secondly – I empowered my team to own their department, relationships and disciplines.

Atlantis The Royal

Atlantis The Royal 

You joined the Kerzner International group in 2007 and successfully launched the iconic Atlantis, The Palm, how has your role evolved over the years?

My journey with Kerzner commenced when I joined Atlantis, to establish the Commercial Team for the resort’s pre-opening. I went on to run the Sales Department for six years. Then moved on to head the Global Sales for Kerzner, overlooking all brands. About three-and-a-half years ago, we combined all the functions – Communications, Sales, Revenue Management, and Marketing – under the Commercial umbrella. I was delighted to finally bring together these disciplines, restructuring the team to bring in more alignment, synergies, and cohesiveness between these departments. A part of my vision for the Commercial team at Kerzner was to move away from the traditional Sales & Marketing approach to take a more holistic view. I wanted to incorporate social, digital, and more innovative elements – to bring together customer engagement, content creation, and business analytics, which are now the core focus of the department. My objective was to become more data-driven and content-focused, recognising how we communicate to our customer base today is different from how we communicated five years ago. This data-driven approach has enabled us to adapt our messaging to ensure that we are giving our customers what they want to hear and see rather than pushing out what we think the customer wants. It is all about being more intuitive and evolving with them, adapting to their behaviours in terms of how they consume content and target different demographics. Most recently, I evolved revenue management into Business Analytics as a part of this transformation, including bringing a data scientist into the team. The function now looks at all data points across the business to provide deep- er insights into business performance and customer behaviour.

All One&Only properties around the globe are an oasis of calm. Was this the plan from the outset?

Sol Kerzner, our founder, originally wanted to create destinations and resorts fit for his celebrity and influential friends, and so One&Only was born from a passion for bringing people together and creating moments of joy. As a result, our attention-to-detail, service standards and the experiences we offer all reflect how we would want to entertain and treat our friends in our homes. In addition, he disliked cookie-cutter hotel chains, so he was keen to ensure that each resort offered a different experience, feel, and look, all influenced by the destination. It started with One&Only Le Saint Géran in Mauritius. The resort was designed with vibrancy, joie de vivre, life, fun, and energy, all within a luxury setting. Our resorts are about meeting our guests where they want to be. I agree that we do create an oasis. Still, our resorts are more the stage where we give our guests the freedom to explore what an oasis means to them, i.e., an oasis to one guest could be gorilla trekking from One&Only Gorilla’s Nest, and to another guest could mean having a Temescal experience at One&Only Mandarina.

Bab Al Shams

Bab Al Shams

SIRO has brought a new immersive lifestyle experience to life. Can you elaborate?

SIRO is very specialised in fitness and wellness. The brand is about merging the boundaries between hospitality and wellness and offering a whole new perspective, but SIRO is by no means a so-called wellness retreat experience. Today’s travellers are much more health conscious. Many follow a specific diet or personalised fitness programme, which is integral to their daily lives. Our goal is to ensure that our guests remain committed to their wellness, nutrition, and fitness during their stay with us allowing them to continue and maintain their wellness habits when they travel. The SIRO experience will be geared around maintaining your routine when travelling for work or pleasure. For me, given that I am so often on the road, the prospect of a hospitality brand like SIRO is so appealing. It means my routine is uninterrupted and I can stay on top of my fitness and wellbeing goals, whether this takes the shape of having a personal trainer, yoga sessions, mindfulness, meditation, diet and more. With the SIRO brand, we partner with global industry leaders in sports, fitness, nutrition and holistic health, to create a comprehensive network of experts and ambassadors that make up Team SIRO. Currently, Team SIRO consists of world-class football team A.C. Milan, Brit- ish Olympic swimmer and gold medalist Adam Peaty, and most recently British- Somali professional boxer and humanitarian, Ramla Ali. Building Team SIRO has been amazing and eye-opening, not to mention inspiring. We have spent time with A.C. Milan, with whom we announced our partnership in 2021 and learned from their peak-performance athletes and the team of doctors, trainers, nutritionists, therapists etc. who are responsible for keeping the players at the top of their game. It is their expertise and insights that we have derived to build up our brand and guest experience, as well as design elements of the hotels. It isn’t about just installing a top-tier gym; it is about incorporating a 360 approach to wellbeing into every aspect of the hotel – providing everyone with the opportunity to become the best version of themselves.

All Kerzner brands under its portfolio are known for their innovative approach – tell us more.

Kerzner is a global developer and operator of destination resorts, ultra-luxury hotels and residences, innovative enter- tainment and gaming experiences, and immersive lifestyle destinations. We have four brands which include One&Only, Atlantis, SIRO and Rare Finds. For Atlantis, the current portfolio includes the flagship Atlantis The Palm and Atlantis Sanya in China and, most recently added – Atlantis, The Royal Resort & Residences. One&Only Resorts and Residences is constantly evolving with continued innovation in the world’s most beautiful destinations – Kea Island, Ath- ens, One Za’abeel in Dubai, Montana… An exciting pipeline of projects, but we will always focus on exceptional quality and ex- extraordinary properties – a cap of 35 global properties. SIRO taps into new guest needs – fitness, wellness, health – we are excited to have announced SIRO’s first location opening in Q4 2023 in Dubai and one in Porto Montenegro in 2024. Lastly, Rare Finds is a collection of hotels celebrating individuality, with a strong focus on unique food and beverage experiences and vibrant entertainment – Bab Al Shams, Dubai, the first resort in the Rare Finds collection recently opened its doors after extensive renovation.

Each property has carefully selected its F&B, including Michelin restaurants – talk us through the selection process.

Kerzner definitely prioritises working with culinary masters. We recognise that the hospitality business is more than just about sleep, so we strive to push the boundaries of the total resort experience by providing exceptional spas, facilities and, most importantly, bar and dining outlets – this is what makes Kerzner special; we think beyond “the bed”. It is also crucial for us to carefully match the personality and style of the chef to the overall experience the resort provides. The selection process involves a multitude of elements, including more conceptual assessments as well as practical ones.

The world witnessed a grand opening at Atlantis The Royal. What makes this property unique?

Atlantis The Royal could only come to fruition because the destination supports boldness and innovation. The vision of Dubai is to constantly push the envelope, be unexpected, and surpass expectations, which gave us the platform to bring the vi- sion of Atlantis The Royal to life. Being a Dubai-based hotel company, we incorporate the spirit of Dubai as part of our DNA. Atlantis The Royal is so bold in every way – It is so different from what you would expect a luxury resort to be. It blends the One&Only ultra-luxury expertise and translates it to a scale of an Atlantis, which enabled us to be courageous and ambitious in bringing this resort to market.

“Our attention-to-detail, service standards and the experiences we offer all reflect how we would want to entertain and treat our friends in our homes.”

The rebirth of an icon has taken place with Bab Al Shams. What can guests expect and how has it shed light on Middle Eastern culture?

I was fortunate enough to be there when Bab Al Shams (BAS) was born and was part of the hotel company that launched the resort 18 years ago. This property has such a special place in the Dubai fabric, an incredibly unique desert resort experience that captures the essence of a Bedouin experience so unique in a city dominated by glamorous resorts – BAS has a truly understated elegance and charm. People in Dubai really have an attachment to this resort which allows space for people to escape the everyday hustle and bustle of a busy city like Dubai. In our reimagination of BAS, we have elevated the guest rooms and experiences and brought the resort back to life while remaining true to its core DNA of being an equestrian desert resort. We researched the history of Dubai, looking at early footage of modern-day Dubai – when it was first emerging in the 70s and what the desert experience meant at the time for the local culture. It is a true national treasure; almost anyone you speak to who has lived in Dubai has a special memory or moment that took place there. When a place has such an emotional attachment for so many people, we had to be even more thoughtful about how we evolved the experience.



What new projects are in the pipeline for Kerzner International?

As we are conducting this interview, I am currently sitting in Ath- ens with members of my commercial team, working on our opening strategy and plans for launching our two new Greek resorts, One&Only Kéa Island and One&Only Aes- thesis, Athens this summer, and later this year we are excited to launch our first urban One&Only to market with One&Only One Za’abeel and our first SIRO hotel, SIRO One Za’abeel. Looking further ahead, we have our first alpine resort One&Only Moonlight Basin in Montana in 2024 and another SIRO hotel in Montenegro. Most of these projects also have Private Homes, allowing our guests to own a part of the Kerzner experience.

Hospitality is a bedrock of cultures in the Middle East. How has Kerzner championed this?

Only a few hotel brands have their global headquarters in Dubai. We are very proud of this, as you can see from the several properties we have in the region, including the recently opened Bab al Shams and Atlantis The Royal. Middle Eastern hospitality is renowned for being warm and welcoming; they love welcoming people into their homes which, as I mentioned before, is part of our core ethos.

What is the DNA of your personal style?

My style is classic; I tend to always go back to the same statement pieces. While I will wear a suit and tie when the occasion calls for it, my everyday staples have been honed to incorporate either a tailored white shirt or a black t-shirt, black jeans, and my R.M. Williams boots. The one personal item that I would save from a burning house is, without a doubt, my John Varvatos suede jacket.

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