Interview with Julian Hagger, Executive Vice President - Executive Director on the board at LUX* Collective. He discusses the ambitions of the Mauritian group and lookhs back at the past 24 months.
Getting through the Covid period
We have completed many projects during Covid. We did not lay off any of our 3,500 employees during this period. It was a very difficult period for us because it meant 18 months of closure for most of our hotels. Only the Maldives remained 100% operational.
We also managed to keep our staff involved in future developments and projects.
We completely renovated LUX* Le Morne with the staff who worked in the hotel. The employees participated on a voluntary basis in the renovation of the property and we trained them in all the skills related to the construction. So they participated in the renovation of their hotel. I think that was a first in the industry. It also helped the hotel employees financially enormously. It was 100% voluntary and most of them participated. We were able to reopen the property just as the destination reopened with a brand new product.
Like our colleagues, we have encountered staffing problems, particularly in relation to employees who have retired or changed industries. There were certainly two or three difficult months for the destination, but everything fell back into place very quickly.
Changes in consumption practices
We have over 90% occupancy in our properties and we have noticed that the French clientele has increased significantly, particularly in Mauritius. France represents 40% of the arrivals on the island.
For 2022, the length of stay has been extended, our average daily rates have increased. But also the average carts of our customers, we felt that they needed to treat themselves. This is something we needed after 18 months of closure. We hope that this will last, but it is not certain given the inflationary context.
Returning to work
Our employees are almost 100% Mauritian. I think they missed the quality of life we offer in the hotels. Those who left the industry in the worst of times found themselves in offices, perhaps with better salaries but a much lower quality of life. Many of them returned to work here once the properties were reopened.
In the Maldives, the main industry is really tourism and the properties have stayed open. We owe this to a proactive strategy by the tourism authorities and the government.
We are launching the Socio brand in Mauritius, which is our home for the group. This is where it all started and where we create the brands and test them. Part of the team has moved to Singapore in 2019 to open the group internationally.
We now have a good presence in the Indian Ocean in Mauritius, Reunion and the Maldives, and we want to develop this offer further, particularly in the Seychelles and Zanzibar. These are destinations where we have to be very selective in the choice of assets, so it's a long-term set-up.
In the mid- and short-term, we are concentrating on developments in Asia. We have many projects in the pipeline. We are launching a hotel in Shangri-La in the coming days. It is part of a series of 8 properties in China under the LUX* Tea Horse Road brand. It's a series of small hotels offering between 10 and 30 rooms that are sold on a tour basis. It's a tour in the Yunnan province which borders Tibet.
We are in the pre-opening of a hotel in Vietnam, the LUX Phu Quoc which will open in early 2024. We are building 120 rooms on the water by replicating our know-how acquired in the Maldives. The entire hotel will be on the water.
At the end of 2023, we will open two small structures in the Emirate of Sharjah. The first will have 35 rooms in a safari park, one of the largest outside Africa, with 750 animals that have been transferred there. We will operate a tented structure. We are developing a second structure with 45 rooms which will be located on the east coast of the Emirates. This is an important destination for us because most of our clients come through the UAE to us and regularly make short stays before arriving in the Indian Ocean. We will be able to offer them the opportunity to stay at LUX*.
We have a project in the south of France in Marseillan in the immediate vicinity of the Etang de Thau. The hotel is part of a larger complex with tourist residences. The villas will also be very close to the vineyards. It will be the second resort in the area. This complex will be connected to the village and will have a total of 120 residences and 60 rooms for the hotel.
The group currently operates 15 properties with 1,500 rooms, with another 13 in the pipeline. There are not many independent groups left with our profile. Most resorts have been absorbed by larger groups. We want to preserve this scale, we are very selective about the projects we develop.
Service at the core
For our brands, we focus on service. We are therefore keen to maintain a reasonable asset size to continue to deliver impeccable service.
In December 2021, we opened LUX Grand Baie which has quickly become the flagship of luxury in Mauritius. This flagship has allowed us to further enhance the image of the brand.
An important CSR approach for the group
During Covid, we focused a lot on CSR issues. This was already an element within the group. We wanted to protect the ecosystems of the destinations where we operate, our customers and our employees.
For our customers we developed the keen on green concept. In each of our restaurants we offer organic, vegetarian and local menus. Especially since most of the proteins, apart from fish, are imported to our destinations. We also offer more wellness-oriented menus in our restaurants. For example, we have eliminated carbonated drinks from our staff menus to give them the vitality they need to do their jobs well.
We have also worked to reduce waste. For instance, we are reducing the buffet supply in our hotels by developing live cooking stations where we cook on demand for our guests. In the hotels where we still have a buffet, small portions are served and once the service is over, we share the leftover food with local villages and farms to eliminate 100% of food waste.
Birth of new brands
Tamassa is an all inclusive club identity with a 4* plus positioning. The brand identity is to bring the family together to share exceptional moments. We offer a wide range of activities that facilitate family exchange and sharing. We encourage our guests not to use their phones. We have a property in Belle Ombre and are looking for contracts in Asia to develop the brand.
Socio is our business travel brand, the hotel is located in the heart of the business and financial centre of Mauritius in a rapidly developing complex. Our hotel will facilitate co-working with the possibility of longer or shorter stays. The hotel will also offer wellness and sports services. The property is scheduled to open in 2024.
Although our headquarters have been moved to Singapore, we remain a Mauritian group and are proud of it.