In a sign of the times, Amanresorts is collaborating with Asian Trails to bring guests to the streets for local food.
While a reason for Aman junkies to pick an Aman stay has always been the F&B – peaceful settings and safe-to-eat food, both in hygiene and spice levels – the new partnership reflects the changing luxury traveller who is willing to rough it out for a taste of authenticity.
“There is a growing interest among guests for local food experience,” said Patrick Gauthier, Amanresorts’ cluster director of sales based in Bangkok. “We would like to present the rich local culture in all our destinations and show that we always strive to offer the most authentic, insightful and unique experiences to our guests.”
Exquisite Experiences, as the programme is called, offers a few nights stay in an Amanresort, with culinary journeys as the overriding theme. Guests will get the fine dining in-house handled by Amanresorts on some nights, and street dining handled by Asian Trails on others. Programmes are available for Amanresorts in Cambodia, China (including the new Shanghai property, Amanyangyun), Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
So how unadulterated is the street dining? Aman junkies can kiss ‘exquisite’ goodbye. It’s the real thing – “plastic chairs, wobbly metal tables, toilet rolls as tissue paper, and more of this stuff all the way”, according to Asian Trails’ group director of marketing and e-commerce, Niels Steeman.
“We avoid Western-oriented restaurants, high-end eateries, any Amanresort restaurant, or places where foreigners tend to go,” said Steeman.
A four-day Amanpuri package, for instance, brings guests to Phuket Town on Day Two for lunch – snacks and kerbside dishes such as khanom ahpong (crispy rolled-up crepe) – before heading for a museum unknown to many. It ends with a seafood galore “like only the locals know” where guests ‘blend in’ with locals.
“Our packages fuel the wanderlust by taking a different approach to something that is in demand but has not yet been offered. Travel is and remains an exploration which evolves as the years go by. If you’re not innovative, you’ll start to fall behind in the travel offers,” said Steeman.
Steeman is confident that Aman guests will relish the idea. Amanresorts itself offers local food experiences in Vietnam that “must be tried out”, he said, adding the hotel group has been open and enthusiastic about Exquisite Experiences.
“Working with their regional and global offices has been an eye-opening experience for us, seeing how such a respectable chain tackles such undertakings.”
Gauthier said Amanresorts has always looked for opportunities to collaborate with the travel trade since its founding 30 years ago.
“We consider DMCs as travel partner, and we need to work closely with them to offer the same level of guest experience,” he said. “We operate 31 resorts worldwide, of which 12 resorts, and two cruises, are located where Asian Trails provides ground services.”