He has hotels in the Maldives, Mauritius, Tunisia and Zanzibar, but Gary Xie’s just scratching the surface.


He has hotels in the Maldives, Mauritius, Tunisia and Zanzibar, but Gary Xie’s just scratching the surface. We get to know the avid traveller behind the cool hotelier, and what his plans are for the future of The Residence by Cenizaro.

Aside from the Maldives, The Residence by Cenizaro is present in unique locations such as Tunisia, Mauritius, and Zanzibar. What was the idea behind opening resorts in these locations?
Gary Xie
We wanted to invest in commercially attractive opportunities in emerging markets and economies as we continue to build on the company’s global competitiveness. For example, we had taken to Africa in setting our first overseas footprint in 1996. Those off the tourist trail spots have now become some of the most sought-after exotic destinations to travel to today. We pride ourselves on uncovering the natural beauty of these uncharted, untouched destinations through authentic travel experiences that are as immersive as they are inspiring; targeting discerning travellers from diverse locations towards cultural interests and adventure-based holidays.

Is The Residence by Cenizaro looking to expand its portfolio in the next five years?
Yes, to widen our global footprint. Part of the expansion strategy is to grow the brand name globally in key cities and resort destinations — a long-term fit with the overall business development strategy — as new markets will help grow our business. Following the success of our first overseas hotel in Tunisia, we opened our second hotel in Mauritius in 1998. By the time we opened our third in Zanzibar in 2011, we had a strong and loyal clientele, who recognised the brand as a trusted, award-winning hotel group in Africa. We opened our fourth hotel in the Maldives in 2012 and another is scheduled to open next year. We are also due to open our first Asia property in Bintan, early 2017, and another two Tunisian hotels; the first in the south, a new desert resort in Douz, the gateway to the Sahara, the other a boutique hotel in the heart of the Tunis Medina, a UNESCO World heritage site.

How do you create unique experiences for your customers?
We listen and take guest feedback seriously. We consistently look to enrich individual experiences, unique in every way to suit specific tastes and interests — it’s why we get repeat guests within our group. Social media has greatly helped in facilitating this listening and partaking in the conversations about our brand or services. By keeping an eye and ear to these conversations, we have a deeper understanding of our guests’ needs, issues and trends, which in turn can influence our marketing efforts.

What are some new initiatives that The Residence by Cenizaro has introduced?
We are paying close attention to wellness travel. The pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing while on vacation is something we have built into our recreational and culinary offerings at our resorts. These health and wellness options allow our guests to eat well and stay active, feel rejuvenated and restored instead of having over-indulged, which happens on vacations.

Has the age of social media been a boon or bane to your business?
Social media, like hospitality, exists to bring people together. It has created opportunities for sharing experiences in a personal and, at most times, a visually captivating way. It engages and inspires travel across like-minded communities as recommended by key influencers. Social media is immediate and has become a great word-of-mouth channel. Word-of-mouth and getting impartial reviews are key to any business, more so to hospitality since more and more people search for a hotel review before they book a room. We are ever mindful too as negative reviews can go viral easily and cause harm if not addressed immediately.

Photography: Darren Gabriel Leow
Fashion Direction: Desmond Lim 
Hair and Make-Up: Cheryl Ow/Indigo Artisans, using Dior
Location: The Residence Maldives by Cenizaro