Sun Resorts’ new CEO François Eynaud talks to Can Faik about the new challenges ahead and the exciting opportunity he has been given to lead the Sun Resorts team on a journey to develop the brand ...

Sun Resorts is one of the leading hospitality groups in the Indian Ocean, with over 35 years of experience in the hospitality industry and five luxury resorts in two of the world’s most coveted holiday destinations, Mauritius and the Maldives. This year will see the much-anicipated relaunch of one of the group’s five-star resort, Sugar Beach. Here, CEO François Eynaud discusses the ongoing growth development plan.

What was your background prior to working for Sun Resorts? And what does your current position involve?

Prior to joining Sun Resorts as CEO, I was the CEO at Veranda Leisure & Hospitality where I was managing the Hotels Division of Rogers Group, which included both Veranda Resorts and Heritage Resorts. I was president of the Mauritius Hotel Association (AHRIM) in 2013 and 2014 and developed a strong knowledge of the hotel industry in Mauritius and the Indian Ocean region. 

I have followed the success of Sun Resorts and am excited to bring my knowledge and experience to the next development phase of the Sun Resorts brand, especially with the relaunch of Sugar Beach this year. 

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing to improve the guest experience today?

The biggest challenges are to innovate and offer new experiences to match the evolving travelling trends and clients’ expectations, and the digital revolution disrupting the hotels market distributing channels (which also create new opportunities).

Another challenge – but also a great opportunity – is the international scale and reach of the modern traveller. Guests have numerous options when they are looking to book their holidays. At each of our properties we offer guests a five-star experience with unique selling points that distinguish each property in the portfolio. 

For example, we relaunched Long Beach with a new identity and positioning with new amenities and partnerships that extend and heighten the guest experience. Looking ahead to later this year, we will be relaunching Sugar Beach which will have a new range of experiences enhancing the Sugar Beach offering.  

Where do you see hotel design in the future?

Hotel design continues to be a top priority for international guests. Their expectations have increased when it comes to design as they are expecting certain amenities and facilities from a five-star offering. It is also important that the design of the hotel is in line with the hotel’s positioning and gives a clear sense of the destination. For our resorts, guests want to ensure they have the modern amenities but also feel they are in Mauritius – whether they are looking for a traditional Mauritian design at La Pirogue or a taste of the modern Mauritian lifestyle and culture at Long Beach. The hotel design and concept must match the new travelling trends and address clear market segments with clear promises. 

How can design be used to manage the guest’s expectations of the hotel experience?

The design of each hotel needs to reflect the overall experience you are looking to deliver for your guests and understanding your guest profile is key to ensure the key amenities they would be looking for are included within the design. For example, if you are a family focused hotel there are design elements which need to be built into not only the rooms but the overall facilities and offering for guests when they are staying in your hotel. Similarly, it is extending the design experience outside of the room into the main areas of the hotel to ensure the design, aesthetic and guest experience is consistent throughout. The offer and choices offered to travellers are getting so wide that each hotel must have clear differentiation factors. 

For Kanuhura, Sun Resorts’ hotel in the Maldives, we worked with Inge Moore to bring to life the pure and natural elements of the islands, which can be seen with the use of local cowrie shells, soothing greys and white and soft textures throughout the island’s design.

How high on the list is revenue creation for designers?

Working with a key designer and name is important. For us it is important to ensure that the design is in line with the resort’s ethos and promise to the market. For the renovations taking place this year at Sugar Beach, we have approached numerous designers and decided to work with a local Mauritian team that really understood the essence of Sugar Beach and the modern plantation style we are looking to  enhance, and we are also working with the international designer Paul Bishop for our restaurants. 

With social media, especially Instagram, becoming an increasingly important marketing tool for hotels, what are your thoughts on the development, and do you take it into account with your properties?

While social media, especially Instagram, needs to be a key asset of the marketing strategy, it does not dictate the design. There are some hotels in Mauritius that have been created with a clear Instagram/Millennial focus in mind, ensuring that every element is Instagrammable. 

For us at Sun Resorts, we create timeless memories that guests want to share, and have hero images which have become iconic for each resort – for example, the entrance at Sugar Beach, where you have a stunning view down the stairs through the palm trees overlooking the ocean. This is one of the most captured images and continues to be shared on social media. Alongside these natural photo moments, we have also created the Sun Memory Lab, which helps guests capture photos of their timeless memories on-property and extend their experience to their return back home.  

This being said, some features and Instagrammable scenes are important in a hotel to capture clients’ attention – especially Millennials and those in emerging markets. 

How do you think the influence of new technology affects the luxury traveller today, and how might it in the future?

I think guests expect modern technology – such as steady Wi-Fi, sound docking stations, etc – to be included in the rooms, but some hotels are approaching technology in different ways. Some hotels are making their rooms very technology focused, but this can also be off-putting to some guests, who are looking to disconnect. At all of our Sun Resorts properties, we ensure we are offering guests the modern technology and amenities they require, but we won’t be taking this too far. Our guests are looking to embrace the modern art of Mauritian hospitality and our teams go above and beyond to deliver this service. We have created the Sun Mobile App which can provide the guest with all information on the hotel features, activities and events. 

What are your thoughts on the wellness trend in luxury hotels?

Wellness has become one of the largest trends and revenue-generation factors at hotels. Everyone is trying to embrace certain elements of wellness, as guests are becoming time-poor and want to unwind on their holidays. At Long Beach, we launched the world’s first Cinq Mondes Spa and Wellness Retreat, and are continuing to build a holistic wellness offering for guests at every touchpoint, which include body, mind and health specialists. We offer everything from yoga, pilates and fitness bootcamps to retreats with experts such as Olivia Cooney, and will be announcing more retreats and amenities over the next couple of months. 

Is there anything exciting you’re working on that you can tell us about?

2020 will be an exciting year for Sun Resorts. In October, we will be relaunching Sugar Beach following an extensive renovation to all the facilities at the resort. Last year, we completed the initial phases which included the renovations and redesigns of the majority of the rooms, and the opening of Buddha Bar at Sugar Beach and Citronella which is our modern Mediterranean restaurant. In May, we will continue the renovations in our signature Manor House, the lobby entrance experience, as well as the rest of the F&B offerings including Mon Plaisir and the Brasserie. 

We realise that travellers are looking more and more for transformational, meaningful and immersive experiences, and we are developing experiences and packages accordingly – for instance, the 20 most attractive things to do around each of our hotels, sustainable and inclusive experiences such as planting coral and coral propagation.  

Which would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed?

Personally, my family and I like to visit small charming hotels in Tuscany, south of France and staying in Casbah/Riad hotels in Morocco, which all give you a very strong sense of place.