Amangiri thinks it’s time to take your company on a retreat
With views of Utah’s starkly beautiful desert landscape and the iconic mesa rock formations of the Southwest, Amangiri (meaning ‘peaceful mountain’) is situated in the Grand Circle region of the US. Five national parks, extraordinary monuments, and the expansive Native American Navajo Nation Reservation all surround the resort.
The idea to operate an Aman hotel within a national park was extremely ambitious. The Aman brand has been around for over 30 years, though they’ve never once paid for marketing. All brand exposure happens organically by word of mouth, and they rely strongly on travelers themselves to become the loudest advocates of the organization.
“Over time, the name Aman has become synonymous with a place that’s a destination in its own right,” explains Julien Surget, general manager at Amangiri. “When this iconic hotel opened 11 years ago, ownership envisioned the development of a luxury group camping element, though at the time they didn’t know exactly how that would manifest in the years to come,” Surget says.
Introducing Camp Sarika
While the high-end hotel group is a long-established name for luxury travelers, Utah’s Amangiri has just recently undergone extensive expansions and changes in order to host programs for larger groups of leisure and business travelers alike.
Though the project has only recently been introduced to the market, it has been years in the making. On the first attempt, they built a space based on the traditional Mongolian yurt. Next, they evolved to create a series of teepees on the property, but neither of those options had staying power. After extensive research, Aman owners found Luxury Frontiers, a South African company that handcrafts high-end tent accommodations.
Together with the Aman, Luxury Frontiers developed a hybrid material for the structures that make up Camp Sarika. Sprawling across 55 acres of vast desert, the camp consists of a collection of 10 beautifully appointed tented pavilions. Inside, every corner is made to evoke a camp feel with draped cloth walls, fabric-covered ceilings, large bay windows, and outdoor showers.
The camp can host thirty guests and a total buy-out of the property can be made available for larger groups and corporations. With these tented group rentals, guests have access to their own private amenities. There’s a common building with its own restaurant, pool, spa suite, and a guest reception area—it’s essentially a resort within a resort that’s making both leisure and business gatherings accessible onsite.
But all of this growth hasn’t come without its challenges. “During the worst possible time to open the space (late 2020), Camp Sarika was born. Interestingly enough, Amangiri also opened during one of the worst recessions we’ve ever had in 2009. So it’s funny that we’ve come full circle with this sister property, which also had to find its footing during the midst of a crisis. However true, we’re seeing great success and interest in the newly opened property. So ironically, it seems the timing was just right,” Surget says.
In spite of everything, the camp was exactly what Amangiri needed. By nature, Aman hotels offer generosity of space, private services, and a sense of seclusion and isolation. Camp Sarika even pushes that envelope further with its innate intimacy, seclusion, and air of escape. “We’re realizing now that there’s such a demand for people wanting to make up for lost time, missed celebrations, gatherings that didn’t occur, and families or businesses being broken up for the whole year.
“This is an ideal time to remind people what we’ve always been doing—providing spaces for business, leisure, creativity, and escape,” he says. “We’re fortunate to be in a country that has a strong economic market, that’s also accessible by car. Pre-COVID, our guests might have rolled their eyes at a four- or six-hour road-trip. Now, it sounds fun. The market has been completely reconditioned, and the purpose of travel has changed. It’s now more about making up for lost time, coming together, reconnecting, finding inspiration, and healing. That applies to everyone from families and friends, to businesses, and group gatherings.”
For Amangiri, corporate business clients are almost always tied strongly to leisure travel. “The clientele we attract is the creative think-tank, people who often travel and work for months at a time, or families that have family and business intertwined. So even a ‘corporate business gathering’ generally looks like a leisure stay. Perhaps it’s an incentive trip, maybe it’s a large company that’s coming with its senior leadership or a business group that’s coming on a creative retreat. A lot of companies are now rethinking how and where they do business. With Camp Sarika, we can provide space for that.”
It’s true that organized corporate travel as we once knew it seems like a foreign concept, as these such gatherings will perhaps be non-existent for quite some time. “In the past, we’ve hosted product launches, new car reveals, and large events. I don’t see that happening—corporations aren’t prepared to take on the responsibility of forcing employees to travel on their behalf. So instead, we’re rethinking the business travel landscape as a whole. And I feel it’s going to be replaced with small groups getting away, traveling together, and coming here to stay with us while also working to reimagine their business structures and concepts.”
With a large majority of the world working from home, the whole work-force has been reimagined over the past year. The thought of working on the road, or working while traveling was once a luxury for freelancers and remote workers, but it’s now become the norm. “It will be interesting to see how that freedom allows for changes on the corporate level, and how this freedom will affect the actual worker and his/her ability to work and travel at the same time. The workforce has already seen significant changes. I feel it’s going to positively impact leisure travel because of the flexible work-from-home nature, and we expect to see an influx of business travelers here at Amangiri.”
Another interesting trend that Surget’s team has noticed is the number of considerably local clients who’ve recently left urban areas such as Los Angeles or San Francisco, and headed west to open or continue their business ventures. “What once was a leisure destination for skiing and outdoor activities, is now being seen as a working destination for the right demographic—mostly tech businesses, start-ups, and entrepreneurs.”
With that in mind, Amangiri just underwent a full tech up-grade in order to attract and keep such clients and to actualize their ability to host corporate business groups and specialized retreats. “More technical upgrades, more private spaces, more programming—we’ve invested almost $200,000 into this venture, which consists mainly of new technology, revamped wifi, and overall better connectivity for the hotel. We’re seeing more people coming here who work and travel at the same time, and they need the ability to carry on their working lifestyle without having to change their habits. Connectivity is the key, so we invested in order to make our offerings even better.”
In addition to all the amenities at Camp Sarika, wellness will be a large factor for 2021 with group programs set to roll out soon. “Currently, we’re working to finalizing a meditation retreat, a silence retreat, and a sleeping retreat. 2021 is going to be a year of healing for a lot of people, and wellness has always been a focus for the Aman brand. People are realizing that our health is fragile, and we have to protect it in order to have a full life.”