Philippe Zuber, the newly named CEO of Kerzner International, shares how he feels about his new role from October as well as the opening of the first One&Only resort in Southeast Asia next month at Desaru Coast in Johor

Options: Congratulations on your appointment as CEO of Kerzner International. What are your immediate plans for the next 100 days?

Philippe Zuber: Thank you. We are really focused on remaining connected with our colleagues and our community. We want our guests and colleagues to have the confidence to return to travel. The connection and relationship we have with our guests is so important, more so now than ever. We have been working hard to be transparent with our guests and colleagues, and to provide clear information and ensure they have a great time at all of our resorts in the personalised way that we have always done.

So, we heard Malaysia will have its first One&Only resort really soon?

We are thrilled to be welcoming guests to One&Only Desaru Coast from Sept 6. The resort is an ultra-luxury tropical escape offering guests the ultimate privacy, leading wellness programmes, destination-defining cuisine and curated experiences that celebrate the destination. Designed by award-winning Kerry Hill Architects, the resort reflects the region’s architectural heritage. Each standalone suite has a private plunge pool and is perfectly framed by greenery, offering exceptional levels of seclusion and generous space to relax or entertain. It really is designed for what we are all seeking now. The culinary offerings at One&Only Desaru Coast are definitely something our guests will look forward to. In addition to three captivating restaurants and our Dusky Monkey bar, we have partnered Chef Andrew Walsh from CURE in Singapore to launch Ember Beach Club, a buzzing restaurant and beach destination unlike anything in Malaysia. The resort will also be home to the first Chenot Spa, following our global brand partnership with the pioneering wellness brand, where science-based treatments meet holistic wellness to leave guests feeling entirely recharged and full of vitality. I must also mention our incredible Club One, a stateof-the-art sports and activity hub, where guests can keep up with their fitness regime, take classes in the Malay art of silat or hire bikes to explore the surrounding rainforest on two wheels.

What were the factors that led to One&Only deciding to bring the brand to Malaysia and, specifically, Desaru?

Location is incredibly important to One&Only. For every resort, we seek out the world’s most exceptional destinations, whether it is a pristine beachfront with mesmerising sunset views or a remote African tea plantation on the edge of the rainforest. One&Only Desaru Coast is a natural paradise, immersed in 128 acres of wild flora and fauna, surrounded by unspoilt beaches and tropical jungle. As part of the brand’s strategic growth, this will be the first resort for One&Only in this part of Asia, and we are confident that Malaysia’s wonderful blend of culture, nature and hospitality makes it the ideal destination to introduce our ultra-luxury brand to the region.

From an insider’s point of view, would you be able to share with us some USPs (unique selling propositions) of the new property?

There are so many aspects of One&Only Desaru Coast that set this resort apart. For one, our curated experiences are designed to take our guests to the heart of the destination. They can discover wild gibbons in the Panti Forest with the resort’s dedicated naturalist, scale the tree tops for a breathtaking, bird’s-eye view of the jungle and the South China Sea, or be inspired by Bonfire Legends — a quarterly event offering guests exclusive access to talks by inspiring personalities while gathered around a bonfire by the beach under the stars. Little ones will be captivated by the activities at KidsOnly, designed to engage them with their destination. They can explore The Eco Lab to learn about the local ecosystem, spot butterflies at the natural butterfly habitat or observe wild birds nesting through the resort’s secret spy camera in the trees. One&Only Resorts around the world are renowned for their spectacular villa accommodation and One&Only Desaru Coast is no different. It is home to Villa One, the destination’s most exclusive address, offering 1,500 sq m of luxury living and a 27m private pool. It is perfect for larger groups or private celebrations. The resort will also offer 50 Private Homes, ideal for couples or families who want to own a spacious haven and their own piece of One&Only lifestyle.

What inspired the “We Create Joy” philosophy and how do you abide by it in your working life?

“We Create Joy” is the service philosophy at One&Only. It stems from a belief that the guest is at the heart of everything we do, and therefore our core purpose as a brand is to create joy for them and for our colleagues. Joy is a feeling found in deep personal connections, it is genuine and creates meaningful memories. It happens when we are warm, welcoming and serve from the heart, treating our guests and colleagues like family, when we take the time to understand individuals and respect their needs because we are here to look after each other. It is something that One&Only has always done. We felt that it was time to formalise the philosophy as the portfolio continued to grow.

It has been a challenging year, particularly for hospitality. What advice would you give to your industry peers as well as to currently grounded travellers?

Travel is a resilient industry and it is clear that guests want to travel, and the industry needs to provide them with the confidence to travel again when the government-issued advisory is lifted. Wanderlust is innate in all of us. We need to continue to inspire travellers and remain engaged with our community.

Where is home for you, though?

I am originally from France, but I currently live in Dubai, where the global office for Kerzner International is based.

Where was your last trip to — for work as well as for leisure — before the global lockdown began?

Actually, I have just returned from France after seeing my family. I can tell you, it was great to be back in the air again!

What has been your most memorable experience ever as a hotel guest?

When we were at One&Only Le Saint Géran in Mauritius for my son’s birthday, the team threw a surprise party for him in their iconic tipi [by British designer Alice Temperley] on the beach. They served great food and even arranged a private band to play his favourite songs. It was genuine, simple but extremely elegant. We had a wonderful time as a family and created lifelong memories.

And lastly, where is the first place you want to travel to in this new normal?

My first trip will be to the One&Only Desaru Coast when I am able to do so. I want to thank the team for all their hard work. I can’t wait to welcome our first guests and see the experiences truly come to life. I would also love to go to Mexico with my family and show them One&Only Palmilla and introduce them to One&Only Mandarina, which opens Nov 1. These two resorts really complement each other and showcase the best of Mexico.