Luxury Asia recently catches up with Karma Group’s John Spence in Singapore, during one of his regular visits. As Owner and Founder of Karma Group, John has overseen his company’s rise to become one of the largest independent travel and lifestyle brands in the world outside of North America, with the Group currently operating 30 resorts in more than 10 countries. John now has an impressive portfolio of brands under rapidly expanding and multi-award winning global Karma Group – Karma Resorts, Karma Retreats, Karma Royal, Karma Estates, Karma Beach, Karma Spa and Karma Boutique.
In 2002 John founded Karma Resorts and introduced the concept of boutique villa resorts in Asia, allowing clients to purchase freehold villas. John’s vision for Karma Resorts pioneered the luxurious private pool villa experience, offering expansive holiday residences with access to five-star amenities and memorable experiences ranging from holistic healing retreats to hedonistic wine tastings – further pushing the “Five Star Hippy” ideal. John’s philosophy that life is a celebration permeates his companies and this cultivated lifestyle is recognized by consistently achieving the industry’s top accolades.
2019 is another big year for John, having been awarded the Edward P. Bass Honorary Fellowship at Yale in the Fall Semester in the School of Architecture, marking the first time Yale has extended this to the same person more than once.
Currently, John oversees three global divisions; Asia and Australia; India and Middle East; and Europe and Caribbean. The company 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 with future projects providing a global reach and an array of distinctive destinations beyond any other boutique hotel group in the world today.
Karma Group comprises of
Q: Karma Group is constantly expanding, what have you been doing in the past 1 year?
John: There are several opportunities during the past years and we took that opportunity to build more resorts all over the world. For example, in France, Italy, Greece and UK we build several resorts with different characteristics. We are also expanding in Asia, especially in Thailand, Indonesia(Bali) and Vietnam. Some of it is ready for booking and they are listed on https://karmagroup.com/
We are pleased to announce the expansion of existing partnership with Diamond Resorts, a global leader in the hospitality and vacation ownership industries, to offer members, owners and guests additional vacation opportunities. As part of the expanded partnership, Karma Group opened a sales centre at Diamond’s Village Heights Golf Resort in Crete, Greece. Members, owners and guests of Diamond Resorts will be able to purchase additional Diamond Resorts vacation ownership points at the location and receive vacation certificate deals to stay at Karma properties. Karma Group has always been focused on delivering world-class experiences to our loyal members and guests. Karma Group is excited to expand their presence on Crete alongside Karma Minoan, their gorgeous property just outside the historical town of Agios Nikolaos. The resort’s 23 sea-facing rooms are a study in the iconic Greek island aesthetic. Whitewash walls, Aegean blue interior touches and, of course, unparalleled views of the sea, combine to produce spaces that are both relaxing and breathtaking. Amenities include a pool, Karma Spa offering local organic Cretan treatments, sea-facing yoga deck (and accompanying yogi), the Amphora restaurant which – like its namesake – carries an impressive volume of local and international wines and a large sundeck with spectacular views of Crete’s mountainous interior.
Q: What is your plan for the next few years?
John: The plan is to continue to expand in the region where it makes sense. Sometimes we come across really good properties at reasonable prices and we worked on it to build our resorts. There are opportunities all over the world. For example in Vietnam Hội An and Hue, Thailand Koh Samui. We continue to rejuvenate the existing club, like we renovated the Beach Club at Karma Kandara. In Europe there are places where we are keen to build resorts or convert existing resort into Karma resort through partnership. Probably in Laos, we may have opportunity for a beautiful resort in the mountain.
Q: Beside your business what other passion do you have?
John: I like to travel and experience a different culture. So during my spare time, I like to travel to different places to experience and to research for new ideas. I like winemaking and spend some time creating different wine in my winery. Most of the wine I produced goes to my restaurants in my resorts, under the Karma brand. Next time you visit our resorts, do try our wine, they are quite good. Also, I have been honoured for the second time by the Yale University School of Architecture by being appointed the Edward P. Bass Distinguished Visiting Professor of Architectural Design for the fall semester of the 2019-2020 academic year. This marks the first time that the faculty has offered this position to the same person on more than one occasion. I will be teaching graduate-level advanced studios alongside the renowned architects Patrick Bellew, Henry Squire and Tim Newton.
The University will be using Karma Group’s resort on the Indonesian island of Gili Meno, Karma Reef, as a test site for the students who will be challenged to design a resort on the island to be sustainable, economically viable, architecturally exciting and as resilient as possible to earthquake, tsunami and natural disasters.
Q: Where is your favorite resort within the Karma group and where is your favorite place for vacation?
John: This is like asking who is your favorite child, it is really hard to choose. If I have to choose a few, then I would say Karma Kandara and Chateaux De Samary – soon to be a Karma Estate in Carcassonne, France. The Chateau, close to Carcassonne and set in approximately 2.5 ha of parkland, this XIX Century, the period property offers 600 m2 of living space with beautiful original features including wood floors and lovely ceilings. Outbuildings include a housekeeper’s house with 3 bedrooms and an enormous barn. Situated 5 minutes from Carcassonne airport, 5 minutes from a golf course and 5 minutes from the nearest shops and services, it is extremely well located. The Mediterranean Sea is 45-50mins away and the nearest Ski fields are approximately an hour away. La Cite of Carcassonne is one of the most visited medieval cities in the world and coupled with the Canal de Midi, features amongst Frances most popular tourist destinations outside of Paris.
One of my favorite place for vacation is the Maldives. I am hesitant to build a resort there because I will not be able to relax completely once I have a resort there to look after. I usually visit the Maldives twice a year.
From soulful spas to happening beach parties, historic hotels to design resorts, Karma Group is created for five-star travellers who understand that reaching their destination is only the start of their journey. With family, with friends, with just the two of you, or simply on your own, they will be your guide to a life more extraordinary. Find your Karma at Karma Resorts, Karma Retreats, Karma Royal, Karma Estates, Karma Beach, Karma Spa and Karma Boutique.