going. I became an Amanjunkie. Has he a favourite? “I like very much Amanjena, Amanyara, Amangiri ...” He tails off at Aman-i-Khas, a tented camp on the edge of India’s Ranthambore National Park.
In 1993, however, having returned to Russia, he founded Capital Group, Moscow’s leading real estate developer, which has completed more than 70 major construction projects. Moving into the hospitality industry was, he says, a natural progression. “I had learned the business by building and developing hotels in Moscow and always thought I would like to buy a hotel chain.”
Not that he plans radically to transform Aman. Rather his intention is “to make it a better, more 21st-century company and to use new, talented architects”. He won’t name names, but clearly cares about design.
He is, however, prepared to talk up John Heah — “He’s very talented. I’m sure he’s going to be a big success” — the Hong Kong-born, London-based architect of Amanera, which opens on the cliff above the mile-long beach near Playa Grande on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic this northern winter. With a backdrop of the Cordillera Septentrional mountains, its 25 sea-facing casitas are set amid 810ha, 20 per cent of it rainforest, another 150ha of which is a golf course originally designed by Robert Trent Jones as the “Pebble Beach of the Caribbean”. Ten of its 18 holes are directly “on the water,” Doronin enthuses. Is he a keen golfer? I ask, noting that there’ll also be a golf course at Amanemu in Shima. “I play, yes. But the problem with golf is that you need to have a lot of time, and I’m quite busy.” Founded in 1988 by Adrian Zecha, Aman names its properties for the Sanskrit word “aman”, meaning “peace, security, shelter”. Among its favoured architects is Australia’s Kerry Hill, who has designed the new Aman Tokyo. More: aman.com.
Golf may not hitherto have been a pastime readily associated with Aman, but as Doronin points out, the original Aman regulars are the far side of 50 now. Does he worry that its demographic is ageing? On the contrary, for their children are now Amanjunkies too, and their grandchildren will soon be if the kids’ clubs that several resorts are introducing, meet expectations. “They’re very discreet,” says Jolivet. And low-tech. “No video games or anything.” At Amanyara in Turks & Caicos, for instance, “We’ve done some things with National Geographic.”
Having previously worked for the family-friendly allinclusive Club Med, one might suppose Jolivet’s appointment as CEO last year was a sign that Doronin wanted to broaden Aman’s appeal to a wider though still big-spending constituency (Aman rates tend to start at four figures). In fact, though, Jolivet was hired by Zecha and has been with Aman since 2008, one of the few senior management staff to have survived the regime change and clearly the custodian of Aman’s brand values.
So what is it, does he believe, that defines an Aman? “First, space,” he says. “Space informs everything. Second is intimacy. Even though you have space, you still want to be pampered, to feel comfortable. Number three is outstanding service. But lest this sounds as though Jolivet has memorised a checklist, he is quick to stress that actually at an Aman nothing comes as standard. “There are no standardised rooms, no standardised dimensions or designs. Everything is different. Everything is unique … When you go to Aman you feel like you’re at home.”
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Aman Canal Grande, Venice, left; Amangani, Wyoming, above