Travel broadcaster Phil Blizzard discovers the ‘Grand Dam’ of the Seychelles hospitality has undergone an extensive renovation and rebranding.
The entrance to the resort looked familiar, but the writing on the wall was distinctively different, to my last visit. But then again it was more than ten years since I had been to Barbarons Bay, one of the most stunning and unspoilt beach on Mahe. Mind you each bay or beach in the Seychelles claims to be the ‘most stunning’, the ‘most beautiful’, the ‘most unspoilt’ - the list of accolades could go on and on and on.
The AVANI Seychelles Barbarons Resort & Spa reopened on March 15th 2015 after a period of renovation and rebranding by it’s new operators the Minor Group from Thailand. I had previously known the resort when it was Le Meridien Barbarons Resort & Spa, hence the different ‘writing on the wall’.
The resort had recently won the the accolade of being the Indian Ocean’s Leading New Resort in the World Travel Awards 2015 and announced at a glittering ceremony held in the Seychelles during June, this year. Following the event I spoke to Manish Jha, General Manager of the hotel about the renovation of the resort and it’s facilities, the Minor Group and what it meant to win the World Travel Award.
Manish Ja: “We’ve just opened the resort on 15th of March and we’re really, really happy and the team has done a great job to win the award of Leading New Resort in Indian Ocean. This resort, again, going back with the history, Barbarons is a name, is an icon in Seychelles. A lot of people have grown with Barbarons and we took over this property in 2014. The property was shut for big renovation and since we have opened we have had fantastic feedback from our guests.”
Phil Blizzard: So, as you say, for people living here and coming here on vacation over the years, this has been a landmark hotel, it’s changed enormously. So tell us know about Avani as a brand and also the Minor Group.
MJ : Minor the hotel group is in Bangkok and within Minor International, we have different brands. We have Anantara, we have Avani, we have Per Aquum, we have Oaks. In Indian Ocean we are present in Maldives and in Seychelles this is our first resort.
What we did in the renovation of the resort is that we kept the structure same, we have changed the interiors, we got more colours, it’s more vibrant, hired young people and all the service, food wise, it’s very honest food. It’s like you’re having a nice meal at home, what your mom cooks in the home, so these are the changes we have done. “
PB: So Avani, upscale, funky, aimed at a younger and you might say the new generation of travellers in many ways. So along with that sector, what about the more ‘traditional’ guest?.”
MJ: This property is good for honeymooners as well, we have created some fantastic things with the restaurant, with special dinners on the beach. The resort is also good for families, we have a fantastic kids club called, “Avani Kids”. We we give different arrival experiences for kids, they have a separate registration form. We treat them as VIPs, the kids.
PB: So Manish run through with us what you have in terms of rooms and restaurants.
MJ : We have 124 rooms, we have two restaurants. One is called Tamarind, which is all the dining, a buffet/restaurant for breakfast where everybody meets for breakfast. It’s open for lunch and dinner; we have our specialty restaurant, Tamarind, which is Pan Asian. One of the key things in this market, we have realised is that there’s a lot of Italian, there’s a lot of barbeque, Mediterranean, we want it to be different.
PB: So I got to say something about Tamarind, if you come here, try the catch of the day, the red snapper is absolutely delicious. Moving from Tamarind, which no doubt is your flagship restaurant, onto the activities you can offer elsewhere.
MJ: If you look at the beautiful beach here, some guests, if they just want to chill out we have picnic set menu. We can do a proper setup so they can spend the whole day at the beach or they want to go any location in Seychelles, we’re happy to take care of them.
PB: The beach is absolutely stunning. I’ve got my eye on the hammock over there which I’m going to try it a bit later on, but when it comes to leisure activities, what do you offer?
MJ: We offer snorkellng, we offer diving, we offer cooking classes. We are one of the few resorts in Seychelles where we teach guests cooking, be it Thai food or Creole cooking, the local cuisine. We have tried to merge the local culture as well and once a week we hold a Creole Evening, where local artists will come and play, do their own market, something all our guests enjoy.
PB: Local flavour is so important and now getting back to the World Travel Awards, what do you think it will mean to the Seychelles the fact that it has been hosted here.
MJ: I’ve been in the trade for 15 years, I think hosting in Seychelles, this is something very good for the country and for the tourism industry as well. It’s going to definitely bring a lot of guests and it will put Seychelles up in the world map.
For more information about the AVANI Seychelles Barbarons Resort & Spa visit the website - http://www.avanihotels.com/seychelles-barbarons/
Note: Manish Jha, General Manager who oversaw the re-opening of the resort has now moved on to another hotel refurbishment project with-in Minor International. The new manager for the AVANI Seychelles Barbarons Resort & Spa is seasoned hotelier Thomas Barquil.