Looking at the untapped potential of this market. What are the key things that need to be in place to drive this segment? Where is the potential for investors? What are some success stories to learn from?
Nick van Marken Managing Director – van Marken Limited
Nick van Marken
Managing Director – van Marken Limited
Following a career in professional services spanning nearly 30 years, Nick is currently acting as senior adviser to several hospitality investors. Until recently he was Global Head of Hospitality Advisory Services with Deloitte, where he served as a partner for 20 years and was based in London and the Gulf. In this role, he served a wide spectrum of clients, including private family/HNWI’s; PE, SWF, institutional, RE; and corporates, and encompassing owners, investors, lenders and operators. The range of services provided included commercial strategy and development advice; M&A/transaction services; operational/profit improvement reviews; capital-raising/IPOs; assurance; tax advice and restructuring.
Nick spent the early part of his career in hotel operations in Africa and Europe, working with Holiday Inn, Sun International, Gleneagles and Meridien. He has subsequently consulted in over 80 countries and 250 markets. He is a sought-after speaker and was the organiser and chairman of the highly-regarded European Hotel Investment Conference (EHIC), in London. Nick served on the board of global industry data provider STR from 2011 to 2017, and is a member of the advisory board of Bench Events.
Luca Franco Chief Executive Officer & Founder – Luxury Frontiers
Chief Executive Officer & Founder – Luxury Frontiers
A genuine adventure-seeker, Luca’s passion lies in experiential travel, which heightens travelers’ environmental awareness, immerses travelers into the local culture and communities, and crafts perspective-altering and life-changing journeys. In 2010, Luca founded Luxury Frontiers after identifying the growing consumer demand for experiential travel as well as environmentally and socially responsible tourism.
Having worked with Aman, Four Seasons, One&Only, Six Senses and Belmond among others, Luxury Frontiers is a leading international expert in the design and development of high-end adventure eco-lodges, resorts and camps. Luxury Frontiers designs experiential lodging concepts and operational programming, allowing its clients to quickly and efficiently increase returns from underperforming land and boost the public profiles of their properties.
Prior to forming Luxury Frontiers, Luca was owner of LLPI, an international advisory and management company servicing developers and investors in luxury mixed-use hotels and resorts, and he was an equity Partner with Strategic Hotels and Resorts. Luca earned his engineering degree from Pavia University, Italy and was subsequently an architect for the Icehotel project in Sweden.
Adrian Gardiner Chief Executive Officer – Mantis Collection
Chief Executive Officer – Mantis Collection
Born in Zambia in 1943, Adrian Gardiner’s passion for nature coupled with his strong entrepreneurial skill was forged from an early age. His love of wildlife came from his father who worked for a cattle ranching business and who took his son camping in the bush and hunting from an early age. His entrepreneurial skills were formed when he attended Falcon College in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. As one of the first 60 boys who were the initial intake of the new school, he was instrumental in helping to build the school from the ground up, from literally building their school classrooms to planting the sports fields. He soon understood that success was only possible with a good team, a clear vision and a focused passion.
From Zimbabwe he travelled to Cape Town to further his studies but, like many successful business people, he struggled at college taking 7 years to do a 3-year course. Academia was not for him. Whilst learning the ropes working for various Cape Town firms, it was evident that Adrian was not content working for other people and by the age of 29 he had moved from Cape Town to the Eastern Cape where he embarked on his first venture, to help build the Spar franchise in Port Elizabeth.
And so began a love affair with the city of Port Elizabeth (also referred to as PE, now officially called Nelson Mandla Bay). As a rapidly developing location, PE offered exciting new business opportunities which Adrian relished. For the next 20 years, he embarked on a rollercoaster ride of building companies in a multitude of industries from swimming pool development to garage swing doors, pagers to crane hire. Today, as the home of his major business developments, Adrian’s affection for PE continues and has caused him to keep his company HQ in the city rather than relocating to larger markets such as Johannesburg, Cape Town or London.
Having enjoyed commercial success, Adrian was able to ‘return to the land’ so to speak by developing a new venture into tourism in the early 1990’s. He began with 2,000 hectares of eroded, degraded and abused land. A small insignificant piece of valley bushveld, and from this, he grew Shamwari Game Reserve, which is now 25 000 hectares in size and has seen the re-introduction of all the large game that once thrived in the Eastern Cape. He was the first person to put the Eastern Cape on the tourist map and today the area is a booming tourist destination and home to countless other private game reserves. Shamwari has since become a blueprint internationally for successful sustainable conservation tourism, and its development was instrumental in forming the next phase in Adrian’s life.
On seeing the success of Shamwari, Adrian was able to replicate the model a few years later, by creating Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in the Western Cape (54 000 hectares). With two wildlife reserves flourishing, Adrian then founded the parent company Mantis in 2000. The name Mantis relates to the San people who revere the Praying Mantis and protect it as the most important animal in their ecosystem as ‘if you look after the little things, the big things take care of themselves’. Rather than only securing the inbound business within his game reserves, Adrian recognised the opportunity in providing a consistently high-quality tourism experience from start to finish where properties could join forces under one group, thus providing a one-stop shop for international visitors wishing to travel from West to East along the Garden Route.
The Mantis Group, while maintaining its origins in South Africa, then developed their model worldwide understanding that consumers could use Mantis as a mark of quality, consistency and character with their portfolio of over 85 properties worldwide. Today the Group comprises the finest examples of privately owned boutique hotels, game reserves and eco experiences. Each property is unique and seeks to bring to life the real character and spirit of its location.
As the company has grown, Adrian’s ambitions for Mantis have also grown in two distinct directions; developing Mantis’ global footprint of properties worldwide and using the lessons learnt when developing Shamwari to educate, support and develop major conservation tourism projects worldwide. In this vein, he is also consulting on wildlife regeneration in numerous African countries. Adrian sees this as a tangible way of giving something back to nature and creating a positive legacy where communities can see the financial benefits in conserving their environment and wildlife. Thus fulfilling the philosophy that is entrenched in our name: Man And Nature Together Is Sustainable (MANTIS).
In light of his work in the arena of conservation, in 2011 Adrian was invited to join the highly respected African Wildlife Foundation whose mission is to conserve and protect critically important wildlife and landscapes in Africa. Adrian is looking forward to supporting the Foundation to further protect the land he so loves. In particular, he is keen to highlight the rhino poaching crisis which is currently at catastrophic proportions in Africa. Adrian feels that ’as global populations grow, Africa is set to be the food basket and mineral basket of the world. With such extensive natural resources, exploitation is happening so we need to protect Africa from the global influx. Tourism plays a part in this. However, we need to think of the bigger picture’. Adrian has reiterated his commitment to conserving Africa’s natural heritage through the joint venture with Accor Hotels announced in April 2018 and the resultant formation of the Community Conservation Fund for Africa.
Education is one of the Mantis Pillars, and the first groundbreaking move to in this sphere was through the establishment of Stenden University in Port Alfred. Adrian together with colleagues and Stenden University in Holland opened the campus in 2001, and Adrian currently serves as chairman of the Board. Stenden is the only university in Southern Africa where you can qualify with a Bachelor degree in Hotel Management and Hospitality and a Bachelor degree in Disaster Management.
Adrian has been married to his wife Shirleyanne for 50 years; they have 3 children, Paul, Murray and Angela all of whom have adopted their father’s entrepreneurial ways and run their own businesses. Paul is the CEO of the Mantis Group in the UK, and Murray is a partner in their travel business, Giltedge.
James McBride Partner & CEO – NIHI Hotels
Partner & CEO – NIHI Hotels
Recently recognized as “One to Watch” by Bloomberg Businessweek’s Bloomberg 50 and awarded Independent Hotelier of the World by Hotels magazine, James McBride is a global hotelier who has led some of the world’s leading hotels during his twenty-five year professional career. Known for his limitless creativity, clever marketing techniques, and exceptional hotel experiences, James has raised the bar in the hospitality industry, paving the way for inventive ideas and competitive spirit. He recently shared his unique stories and unconventional journey at the Skift Global Forum 2018.
James transitioned to hotel entrepreneur in 2012 when he partnered with long-time friend and investor Christopher Burch on the acquisition of Nihiwatu, a small surf destination on the Indonesian island of Sumba recently voted the #1 Hotel in the World for Travel + Leisure magazine’s World’s Best Awards in both 2016 and 2017 and its Mamole Villa received top honors from The Telegraph among the world's best Treehouse Hotels. Nihi Sumba Island is now a philanthropic resort dedicated to preserving Sumba’s culture, heritage and traditions— while empowering its villages with the resources to prosper—all through the operational support of the Sumba Foundation. The result is a rare collaboration between a resort and its local community that today co-exist with compelling interdependence: the resort has become the biggest employer on the island and the Sumba Foundation gives back to local communities. A portion of Nihi Sumba Island's profits, and donations from hotel guests, help foster projects such as clean water, medical clinics, and lunches for schoolchildren.
The swift success of Nihi Sumba Island led to the development of Nihioka, a satellite spa resort also on Sumba, with a vision of local and international expansion that connects at the core of Nihi: cultural immersion, exotic adventure, and unlimited fun. James and Chris are enthusiastically planning expansion of the brand to further realize opportunities grounded in its doctrine, “The Edge of Wildness.” Soon, the expansion of Nihi Resorts will include the current model of a luxury resort that emphasizes ultimate services and endless experiences; and the addition of a larger, less expensive format that the millennial traveler can enjoy on a similar, more cost-efficient level.
James started his journey globally at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, where he remained for fourteen years. His work is the focus of a Harvard Business School case study that remains the number one best seller taught in many academic programs “that details a new hotel launch, focusing on the unique blend of leadership, quality processes, and values of self-respect and dignity, to create award-winning service.” James was then selected to run two of the most preeminent properties, in quick succession: In 2002, James became General Manager of The Grosvenor House of London's Park Lane; and in 2003 he was appointed by Rosewood Hotels as Managing Director of The Carlyle in New York. James' six years with Rosewood Hotels included the Regional Directorship of all Caribbean Resorts.
James then seized another international opportunity when he was approached by Asia’s YTL Hotel Group to assume the role of its global President. It was in Asia that his lifetime network, resources, and original concepts all culminated for James to pursue another revolutionary phase: Nihi Sumba Island.
As a global ambassador for the hotel and hospitality industry, James is also a founding partner of Zanadu, a Chinese luxury members-only online travel agency that launched the Global Travel Experience Awards in 2014.