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Hotel Lead – Banyan Tree Group – Awaken Your Senses

Founded in 1994, Banyan Tree Group has grown into one of the world’s leading independent, multi-branded hospitality groups with a purpose-driven approach centred on wellbeing and sustainability. In this interview RLI sits down with Eddy See, President and CEO of Banyan Tree Group to discuss how the company’s core values remain imperative to their purpose and their ongoing expansion.

Hotel Lead - Banyan Tree Group - Awaken Your Senses 1

For thousands of years, the banyan tree has been the sacred centre of many Asian villages, a shelter for weary travellers seeking refuge and sanctuary in the company of fellow wanderers. This is the inspiration that led to the birth of the brand in 1994 – a pioneer in naturally luxurious and ecologically sensitive hospitality.

The diverse portfolio of Banyan Tree Group centres around an ecosystem of 10 global brands, including the award-winning Banyan Tree, Angsana, Cassia, Dhawa, Folio, Garrya, Homm and Laguna, as well as two Banyan Tree brand extensions: Banyan Tree Escape and Banyan Tree Veya.

“We operate 64 properties across 17 countries and each of the sites across the world adopt a ‘Stay for Good’ framework, which integrates responsible stewardship through the creation of exceptional, design-led experiences for guests; providing fair and dignified employment; enabling long-term prosperity for communities where they have a presence; protecting and remediating ecosystems and generating sustained, long-term returns for shareholders,” explains Eddy See, President and CEO of Banyan Tree Group.

Recently the Group has relaunched the Garrya Tongsai Bay Samui, which opened in December 2022 following a rebrand of the well-established resort on Thailand’s island of Koh Samui. This resort sits on 28 acres of breathtaking tropical land infused with Garrya’s ‘self-care, simplicity, slow life, sleep & rest and savour’ offering which incorporates multi-purpose suites and villas and the 8LEMENTS SPA that contributes to an overall sense of wellbeing.

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Banyan Tree Veya
Phuket, Thailand

In addition, Banyan Tree AIUIa opened back in October 2022 and was developed by the Royal Commission for AIUIa which brings wellbeing-centred luxury to a heritage site. This new resort features two dining venues including Saffron, Banyan Tree’s signature Thai restaurant and the renowned Banyan Tree Spa with carefully curated wellness experiences that combine Asian traditions and local elements.

Looking to the future, the business is on track to develop and open over 50 properties by 2025, doubling their current portfolio. “We have been planning and preparing for expansion in Japan as a strategic market for a long time. It boasts all the attributes of a great destination, a rich culture and history, natural beauty across all seasons, high-quality products and services, excellent infrastructure and connectivity and strong demand for domestic and international arrivals.”

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Garrya Nijo Castle Kyoto, Japan

In Japan they will be opening two new sites, Banyan Tree Higashiyama and Cassia Hirafu Niseko between now and 2026. They have also signed a deal to debut their Banyan Tree Residences in Manila, as well as their Angsana brand in Spain.

When discussing what it is that attracts the brand to new properties, Eddy immediately highlights conversion opportunities, saying that there is still a huge opportunity, particularly in Asia, where less than three per cent of hotels are branded. “We will continue to increase conversion opportunities, particularly in resort destinations and emerging second-tier tourism destinations. We believe in constantly being agile to address different needs on different occasions and expanding our portfolio while keeping our operations proactive and efficient.”

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Garrya Tongsai Bay Samui, Thailand

Sustainability has become absolutely vital in its importance around the world and it is a theme that runs through the entire Banyan Tree organisation. Since 2020, their Global Foundation has launched the Greater Good Grants (GGG), a sustainability initiative where they award grants to diverse projects protecting natural habitats and teaching local communities alternative livelihood skills.

In addition, the whole business is guided by its eight proprietary wellbeing pillars and their entire ecosystem of experiences feature nature-oriented environments, plant-based menus, wellbeing and sustainable lifestyle practices. They are also on a decarbonisation journey that encompasses all their ecosystem offerings, including residential development, hospitality and spa management, retail and education.

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Banyan Tree
Phuket, Thailand

As the topic of conversation moves onto why guests remain loyal to the brand and what makes Banyan Tree standout, Eddy explains that, through the years, luxury has evolved to become more personalised and that today customers want experiences that they have a connection with and brands that drive emotional responses will be the ones that last through seasons and trends.

“At Banyan Tree, luxury is about finding meaning and purpose through our brand offerings – seeing the world with new eyes or a fresh perspective through the lens of nature and wellbeing. True luxury is feeling rejuvenated through the healing power of nature or having a renewed sense of purpose after experiencing local culture. We champion our ethos of “embracing the environment, empowering people”, we harmonise business operations with natural and cultural heritage and cultivate meaningful stakeholder partnerships.”

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Dhawa Ihuru

As the company looks to the future, they are excited and optimistic about the rebound of travel and tourism and the fact that wellbeing continues to be a strong contributor to global tourism and more people are investing in self-improvement. They address this through their Veya and Escape brand extensions and new brand Garrya.

One final point Eddy wants to make before our time is up is the company’s storytelling platform called Compass, which spotlights ground-breakers and change-makers as they share their creative journeys and practices toward building a better planet. The content series is called The Possibility Podcast, hosted and produced by award-winning storyteller and TEDx speaker Mukul Bhatia, whose sustainability work and vision have been lauded by Forbes America, The New York Times, National Geographic and GQ Magazine.

“With this intentional, slow-storytelling platform we hope that Compass will be able to inspire and interest people who are seeking to redefine their perspective and create lasting change for good.”