Imagine arriving at Heathrow Airport to be picked up in a classic Rolls Royce then being whisked away to stay in a 600 years old manor situated in the region where William Shakespeare was born. Santi Zulbachri from ELLE magazine sits down with Chairman John Spence to chat about his optimistic persistence that has led to the dramatic growth of the Karma Group and all things good Karma!
For more than 27 years, John Spence, Chairman and Founder of the Karma Group, escorted the development of the company to be one the largest independent travel and lifestyle labels in the world, which operates 33 boutique resorts in more than 10 countries. Armed with the vision that pioneered it as the originator of a five-star vacation style fused with the local essence of the chosen location, he brought the Karma Group forward rapidly and continuously and consistently won the highest awards from the industry through portfolios in Asia and Australia, India and the Middle East, to Europe and the Caribbean. Even in times of pandemic, companies, this global is increasingly solid without accounts receivable and completely remains owned by Spence.
Karma Group combines aspects of holistic hospitality and its architecture carefully. What has the most precedence, appearance or function?
“The two of them must go hand in hand because they have their share in shaping the character of Karma in the world. In terms of appearance, each Karma Resort is designed to be an individual that is relevant to the environment in order to have a unique identity. Although different likewise, each property is linked by main features which uphold the original functionality of Karma, like the spirit of the resort in providing entertainment for every generation, quality spas, special beach clubs, exclusive wine lists and trusted children’s facilities. Making sure all functions are effective and meet guest expectations, because if not, then there is no point in having the beautiful appearance of that building.”
By means of “Karma”, you appear to have a great interest in architecture and its relationship in improving environmental quality.
“I believe the universe will give back according to what we give it. These are the main reasons why every resort Karma is built with a natural organic approach. Like when we built Karma Kandara in Bali. Starting with 10 villas and the number continues to increase over the past 10 years, I think the process of a small village is formed. From trees not being cut down when growing around a building and planting others to form a new ecosystem for exotic animals. Because for me, architecture is not just a building, but a natural form of concrete and natural work. Automatically it creates good feng shui and makes guests feel happy to keep coming back
to Karma. That’s how the universe gives back to me. “
Last year you were awarded the Award Edward P. Bass honors at Yale University for Architecture major — this marks the first the time Yale University awarded this award to the same person more than once. How do you narrate that honorable moment?
“This is a program for Yale University inviting non-academic figures as lecturers. The first time I had this honour was in 2014. To the students, I unveiled reality as business people, and invited them to visit the resorts of Karma to permeate ideas in work and how to develop it. “
What projects are currently of interest your interest?
“The debut of Karma Salak in December 2020 was part of the Karma property development process in exotic locations of Indonesia. But right now my focus is centered on a new resort that we are currently renovating in the Cotswolds area, England. A 600 year old castle formerly owned by King Henry VIII, it is located at Stratford on Avon, where Shakespeare was born. With privileged architecture complemented by magnificent banquet facilities, a large park for picnics, curated library lined with 5,000 choices of books — all of them we are refining it to become a stunning resort. The newest Karma Group Resort will open its doors in April 2021. The classic Rolls Royce is ready to pick up guests from Heathrow airport, Shakespearean plays may become a choice of entertainment, and genealogists joined in to contribute to presenting the history of the property. Through an authentic approach like this, guests
suddenly realize, “I know I’m at Karma,” as appropriate while in the authentic Balinese Kandara passing its own identity. “