Business Traveler (USA) - - UPFRONT -

BT: You have de­signed lux­ury ho­tels and re­sorts across Asia and the globe. Time mag­a­zine even called you the “king of ex­otic lux­ury re­sorts.” As both a de­signer and land­scape ar­chi­tect, where do you start when you’re de­sign­ing a re­sort?

BENSLEY: It’s like writ­ing a movie with a be­gin­ning, main plot, and an end­ing with a cen­tral theme and sto­ry­line wo­ven through­out the prop­erty. This re­sort is lo­cated on “Mon­key Moun­tain” so you’ll notice a run­ning theme of mon­keys through­out. But we get to have some fun with them in places like the bar and night­club where we imag­ine what the mon­key’s life would be like if he trav­eled afar. There are pic­tures of some of the mon­key’s rel­a­tives and some of his keep­sakes on dis­play. It’s all about stick­ing to the sto­ry­line and pro­vid­ing a va­ri­ety of spe­cial mo­ments where guests in­ter­act and notice the theme in sub­tle ways.

BT: What is your big­gest pet peeve in a ho­tel room?

BENSLEY: It’s the worst when you’re pay­ing big bucks to stay in a fancy ho­tel, but you’re on your hands and knees look­ing for a power out­let. I also think it’s im­per­a­tive to have a bed­side mas­ter light switch so you don’t spend for­ever try­ing to turn off the lights at night.

BT: What is your big­gest pet peeve about ho­tels in gen­eral?

BENSLEY: It’s dis­ap­point­ing when a ho­tel tries to be some­thing for ev­ery­one. A ho­tel built for ev­ery­one is re­ally built for no one. You can’t al­ways please every taste and style; in fact, some peo­ple may hate the style of some of my ho­tels. But the ones that love it, re­ally love it. That’s what a ho­tel should do – know your au­di­ence and stick to it with­out try­ing to please every pos­si­ble guest.

BT: Do you check re­view sites like TripAd­vi­sor when you travel or about ho­tels you de­sign? BENSLEY: Sure, ev­ery­body does, right? You can’t ig­nore it th­ese days.

BT: The In­ter­Con­ti­nen­tal Danang Sun Penin­sula Re­sort is of­ten listed among the top ten in Asia by many mag­a­zines. What do you think is so spe­cial that peo­ple are will­ing to travel across the globe to stay there? BENSLEY: I think the key to a good ho­tel is putting peo­ple into sit­u­a­tions that are not nor­mal to them. This re­sort has beau­ti­ful vil­las and suites sur­rounded by na­ture, fac­ing the stun­ning pri­vate bay, and amid frol­ick­ing mon­keys. You pair that with sig­na­ture Viet­namese hos­pi­tal­ity and you have some­thing truly unique. Lux­ury is no longer about pil­low menus and butler ser­vice. It’s about giv­ing peo­ple ex­cep­tional ex­pe­ri­ences that make them ea­ger to travel.

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