JOHN SPENCE, CHAIRMAN & OWNER, KARMA ROYAL GROUP
JOHN SPENCE, CHAIRMAN & OWNER, KARMA ROYAL GROUP
With over twenty years experience at the forefront of the hospitality industry, John Spence sees himself more as an entertainer than a businessman. In the early ‘80s, Spence cut his teeth as a music agent in London representing bands such as Culture Club, the Eurythmics and Bananarama before moving into property sales and marketing where he excelled. The entrepreneurial chairman and owner of Karma Royal Group now has an impressive portfolio of brands – Karma Resorts, Karma Beach International, Karma Spa and Royal Resorts – spanning from Asia to Europe, Australia and the Caribbean, with development plans for the Bahamas, Cuba, Brazil, North America, the Seychelles and the Middle East. Clearly, he is not a bad businessman either.
When John Spence visited Goa, India, in 1993, he knew he’d found the place he wanted to develop his first resort property. Purely using a cash injection from his life savings, John founded Royal Resorts to pioneer vacation ownership in India and South East Asia. After the initial rapid growth of Royal Resorts, John realised that the
perception of vacation ownership limited his options in terms of what he could do with the company. In 2002, he founded Karma Resorts, bringing the concept of boutique villa resorts to Asia, allowing clients to purchase freehold villas. Most recently, John has developed Karma Estates, Karma Spa, and a chain of beach bars under the Karma Beach International label.
Currently, the Karma Royal Group has developed, manages and operates 24 Resorts on 4 continents, with has zero debt or leverage and is still 100% owned by John. It is the market leader in its field and is poised for dramatic growth.
John now operates two resort brands including 5-star Karma Resorts and 4-star Royal Resorts. The future looks even more exciting and impressive as Karma Royal Group continues to expand and venture into new markets. John’s ability to jump at an opportunity is further illustrated by the commencement of the company’s highly respected and award winning spa business, Karma Spa, identifying the growing trend of Wellness Travel.
Karma Resorts is an expanding portfolio of luxury villa resorts, currently in Europe, India, Thailand, Bali and Australia. Karma Jimbaran, the first Karma Resort, opened in Bali in 2005 when John once again recognised a gap in the market. Karma Resort guests benefit from the best of both worlds, the privacy of a villa, combined with all the amenities of a luxury resort. The group’s second Balinese property, Karma Kandara, opened in March 2008 on a spectacular cliff top high above the Indian Ocean at the farthest extremes of an elevated limestone peninsula at Bali’s southernmost tip. It was here that John’s passion and vision for something a little different saw him create Karma Beach Bali. Inspired by the legendary Nammos restaurant and beach bar in Mykonos and styled after a whimsical folly on some Greek island in the Aegean, complete with indigenous grass roof and bamboo platform, Karma Beach Bali presides over a pristine sweep of white sand and a tranquil turquoise lagoon whose only access is via Karma Kandara’s private inclinator, which carries guests effortlessly up and down 100 meters of sheer limestone cliff.
Born from the huge success of Karma Beach Bali, which succeeded in setting the highest standard for the Karma Beach Club concept, Karma Beach International was launched by John in January 2012; this was followed by the proliferation of Karma’s stylish beach clubs in hot spots around the world, in a newly launched location on Denarau Island in Fiji as well as Karma’s very own Little Harbour Island in the Bahamas.
Indicative of the company’s global expansion, Karma Pelikanos opened in Greece in July 2010 with developments all over the world to follow. As a father of three, John recognised that Karma Resorts needed to cater to the requirements of every guest, including families. The Resorts offer a safe and fun Kid’s Club so their parents can enjoy Karma’s wellness facilities, from a private beach club and gym to a standalone spa brand.
In the European summer of 2012, John acquired the magnificent former estate of the late British designer Laura Ashley in the medieval French village of La Garde-Frenet. Set on 150 well-kept acres, just 13 miles from St-Tropez, Le Preverger is one of the region’s most recognizable and well-preserved chateaus. The estate is available to VIP guests and Karma Royal Group Members, who will enjoy the magnificent setting in the Côte d’Azur, complete with private helicopter and pilot on the estate grounds. In October 2012, Le Preverger served as the setting for the film “Dom Hemingway” starring Jude Law and Richard E. Grant, who were also guests at the estate throughout filming. The film is scheduled for global theatrical release in mid-2014.
Late 2013 saw the opening of these Karma Resorts, Coconut Grove, Kerala on lake Vembanad in India and Karma Reef on Gili Meno, Indonesia whilst developments include a historic north Indian palace, or Haveli, in the city of Jaipur in Rajasthan; an Alpine ski and wellness retreat, Karma Bavaria, Germany; a brilliant sea and sand enclave on Rottnest island off Western Australia; and 8° South, a cliff-top playground under construction on the Bukit area of southern Bali. Most recently, Karma Royal Group’s portfolio further expanded with the addition of Royal Minoan Beach Club at Villea Village on the island of Crete in Greece and the acquisition of Karma St. Martin, part of the Isles of Scilly in Cornwall, England. Future projects are planned for Japan, Fiji, the Americas and Europe, providing a global reach and an array of distinctive destinations beyond any other boutique hotel group in the world today.
John is a passionate sports fan and patron of the Arts and his company currently sponsors Perth’s Western Force Super Rugby team and the Perth Fashion Festival. In many ways, he sees the parallels between work and sport.
“Your work has got to be taken seriously and earn you money, but it’s also got to be like sport — fun, challenging and something you do for enjoyment,” he says. “If it becomes just about feeding the family then you’re not going to enjoy it. And if it’s not enough of a job, then really it’s not going to be fulfilling. It’s a balance.”
John was the 2010 Ernst & Young Australian Entrepreneur Of The Year. “Karma Royal Group has taken on the big, global hotel brands and put a footprint in this very competitive market.” Said Catherine Brenner, Chair of the Judging panel, who were particularly impressed by the focus and quality of Karma Royal Group’s clear strategic direction. “Typical of many successful entrepreneurs, John Spence has seen opportunity where others did not. Most people would have looked at the global upmarket hotel sector and decided it was a saturated market. John looked at it differently and saw opportunity.”
In June 2013, John joined an exclusive group of international champions of industry and leaders of their professions to become just the fourth Australian member of the judging panel for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, held in Monaco. Previous judges have included Steve Case, Co-founder of America Online, Jack Cowin, Founder and Executive Chairman of Competitive Foods Australia Ltd and Yves Guillemot, President and CEO of
In July 2013, John was honoured by the Yale University School of Architecture by being appointed the Edward P. Bass Distinguished Visiting Architecture Fellow for the fall semester 2013/2014. Through the fellowship, distinguished leaders in the development community from the public as well as the private sector, such as John, participate as integral teaching members in Yale University’s advanced studios and seminars. “It is a tremendous honour to be the Edward P. Bass Distinguished Visiting Architecture Fellow at Yale University,” said John. “To excel in a given field, you have to love what you do. I look forward to sharing my passion for seeking, recognising and realizing opportunities in some of the most diverse global environments with the students.”
A Commissioner on the West Australian Tourism Board from 2006 until March 2010 and supporter of numerous charities, John was awarded ‘Philanthropist of the Year’ by the American Resort Developers’ Association (ARDA) in 2006. For several years, John’s company has been one of the major sponsors of Christel House, a children’s charity in Bangalore, India. The charity also supports schools in Mexico City, South Africa and Venezuela as well as an orphanage in Bali. The core premise of ‘karma’ is one John avidly believes in and since Bangalore was the location of the first city centre office for Royal Resorts, it is no accident that he gives a helping hand to the local community. His charitable work in Bali through the Bali Life Foundation reflects his respect and love for the Balinese people.
“Whatever you give to the universe comes back,” says John. “That’s where the whole ‘karma’ thing comes from. We support many hundreds of children in Bangalore and in Bali. I believe it’s everyone’s duty to do what they can to help the world. ”
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Source : http://www.ciousmagz.com/john-spence-chairman-owner-karma-royal-group/