RADHA ARORA, PRESIDENT, ROSEWOOD HOTELS & RESORTS
Radha Arora is a leader in the industry. In conversation with SPACE, he discusses his role as President, plans for future growth, and Rosewood’s commitment to sustainable luxury.
Where did you grow up and what are your earliest memories of travel and hospitality?
My father worked with the Foreign Diplomatic Service, so I moved around quite a bit as a child and was exposed to the allure of the world’s most iconic hotels at a very young age. One of the first hospitality experiences I can remember was at The Savoy Hotel in London. Even at that age, I was mesmerized by the exceptional service that the team provided and knew that I wanted to learn more about the world of hospitality. That stay left such an impression on me that I eventually went back to work at the property later in life.
Could you share a little about your background and your journey into hospitality?
My first experience in the industry was at the age of 18 when I worked as a waiter in a small restaurant in England. The time I spent there solidified my interest in hospitality and instilled in me a strong desire to really immerse myself in the industry. I took a number of different roles in those early days – when I made it into hotels, I worked in a linen room, a laundry room, a kitchen, an accounting department – the list goes on. I wanted to experience as much as possible and really understand the inner workings of a world-class hotel.
When you became President of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts in 2011, what was your vision for the brand, and how does that compare to your vision in 2023?
When Sonia Cheng acquired Rosewood Hotels & Resorts in 2011 and brought me in as president, our mission was to transform the brand into a global leader in luxury hospitality and lifestyle. At that time, the Rosewood collection encompassed some truly incredible properties and was very well known in North America, but there was not much awareness around the brand in other parts of the world. We set out to thoughtfully introduce the brand to new markets, with a focus on expanding in Asia and across Europe. All the while, we made sure we were staying true to Rosewood’s guiding A Sense of Place philosophy which has always been the key differentiator for the brand.
Today, we have 30 hotels in 18 countries, with another 26 and counting in the pipeline. We have also built an impressive footprint of branded residential properties, offering brand enthusiasts the opportunity to experience the Rosewood lifestyle every day. Looking ahead, we continue to focus on thoughtful growth and expansion for both our traditional hotel business as well as our branded residential segment, but perhaps more importantly, what we are passionate about at Rosewood is providing enriching lifestyle experiences to our guests that encourage exploration and discovery, both within and beyond the walls of our properties.
How do you see your role as President at Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, and what do you consider your biggest challenges?
I try to be involved in every element of the business. That said, I am fortunate to be able to lean on such an incredible team alongside me that delivers the very best experience for our guests, owners, associates and partners. Supporting our talent and watching our associates develop into the next generation of leading hoteliers is one of the most rewarding elements of our work.
In terms of challenges, in the hospitality world today there are two shifts that the industry as a whole is working to respond to. The first is the definition of luxury travel and hospitality itself. Where a decade ago people’s perception of luxury was about opulence and grandeur, today the key indicators of a luxury travel experience are all about service, personalization, access and insight. Travellers want to discover new things in a way that speaks to their own personal passions. Further, they want to connect with different cultures and communities to gain that added context and facilitate a true sense of belonging. Consumers are also now willing to spend more on these experiences if it means supporting brands that are socially, environmentally, and culturally responsible. This brings us to the second opportunity that I see in our space right now, which is redefining the idea of luxury hospitality to make it synonymous with responsibility and impact. At Rosewood, we are focused on meaningfully integrating positive impact into everything that we do. This is no small feat and we recognize that there is much work to do, but we are committed to the betterment of both people and planet and feel strongly about sustainability’s role in safeguarding the industry for the future.
What would you say have been the most significant milestones over the past 12 years?
There have been so many significant milestones and defining moments for the brand over the past 12 years – from relaunching Rosewood in 2013 to opening our first hotel in Asia, Rosewood Beijing, and our first new hotel in Europe, Rosewood London. Some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had have come from the opportunity to breathe new life into several of the most beloved legacy properties across the globe. In 2017 we reintroduced the iconic Hôtel de Crillon in Paris under the Rosewood flag following a four-year renovation which was hugely fulfilling. Last year, we announced plans to introduce Rosewood Hotel Bauer in Venice and Rosewood The Raleigh Miami Beach in Florida, both of which will reimagine their beloved namesakes and usher in the next chapter for these storied sites. We’ve cemented the Rosewood brand as a true steward of historic and landmark buildings, and it’s an honor to help restore these magnificent spaces to their former glory and preserve them for future generations. That said, we are equally focused on and passionate about new development and creating something from the ground up, which allows us to really be creative and bring something entirely new and innovative to life.
Are you noticing any current design trends specific to particular regions or countries?
With wellness being a foremost priority for many people, we’ve seen a newfound appreciation for the benefits of being in nature and this has led to a rise in biophilic design, or design that brings the outdoors in. Our new property in Brazil, Rosewood São Paulo has beautifully integrated this design approach through a vertical garden tower designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel. Rising 328 feet into the sky, the tower is covered in wood and wrapped in 10,000 trees and plants, including several native species from the Mata Atlantica rainforest.
We are also prioritizing sustainable design practices globally. We have a responsibility as hospitality leaders to both design and operate our hotels in a way that protects the environment and safeguards our planet for future generations. Our soon to open property in Hawai’i, Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort will showcase some exemplary solutions in this space. From the earliest days of construction, the team showed an unwavering commitment to building responsibly, partnering with a local non-profit organization to effectively repurpose the remnants of the original site and then adhering to the strictest sourcing policies to select new materials. Upon opening, the property will operate using 100% renewable energy and also has a very sophisticated wastewater treatment plan that will recycle 200,000 gallons of water a day to use for irrigation and other property maintenance efforts. The property will serve as a leading example of sustainable luxury development and we are incredibly proud.
Could you tell us a little about the intent behind the recently launched Rosewood Impacts?
At Rosewood we recognize that the need to protect our planet by identifying sustainable solutions and practices is no longer a nice to have, but a need to have. We channel our efforts through our brand-wide Rosewood Impacts program which seeks to inspire, enrich and positively impact both people and planet. We measure the success of the program and our contributions to the world through two pillars of programming: Rosewood Sustains, wherein we look to embrace a sustainability approach that puts circular hospitality at the core of our business; and Rosewood Empowers, which works to empower people across our entire ecosystem through opportunity. We have set ambitious goals for our brand through Rosewood Impacts and, while we realize that we have a ways to go, we are proud of the work that we have done so far and look forward to continuing to evolve every layer of our business with the goal of positive impact at the forefront.
Which of Rosewood’s current developments are you most excited about?
Right now I am very much looking forward to the upcoming opening of Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort. Opening on The Big Island of Hawai’i this summer, the resort will build upon the legacy of its storied namesake, which first opened in the 1960s and quickly captured the hearts of travellers from all over the world for the immersive and convivial experience it provided. Staying true to the identity of the original property, the new Kona Village has been carefully conceived to honour the history of this special piece of land and celebrate the culture of the generations of Hawaiians that have inhabited it for centuries. We are also eagerly anticipating the debut of Rosewood Munich later this year. Our first property in Germany, the hotel will be housed in two historical buildings including the former headquarters of the State Bank of Bavaria. Its design and amenities will celebrate the very best of German culture.
Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort (2023)
Rosewood Munich (2023)
Rosewood Amsterdam (2024)
Rosewood Mandarina (2024)
Rosewood Mexico City (2024)
Rosewood Rome (2024)
Rosewood Schloss Fuschl (2024)
Rosewood Miyakojima (2024)