Aman is Launching Janu as an “Affordable” Luxury Brand, with its first property as Janu Montenegro. Color me nearly as skeptical of Janu as I am of Four Seasons Lanai at Koele, a Sensei Retreat. It's not that I don't think there's a market for affordable luxury–there definitely is–but it's not clear at all to me that there will be enough travelers willing to pay $1000 per night for Janu (vs. at least 30% more for Aman, depending on the Aman) for one room of 120 in a mid-rise building, with edgier arts and wellness offerings and an emphasis on “soul” and greater social connection. It's also not clear to me that Aman can successfully execute on its strategy, given the lack of consistency of certain Aman resorts.
The Janu Concept
Roland Fasel, Aman's COO, is quoted as claiming that between Amans and ultra luxury resorts vs. lifestyle drive brands such as Edition and Nomad, “nobody in the luxury space has explored the middle ground between them.” That may be correct for certain destinations, but hotels such as Andaz, Kimpton, Equinox, and non-chain boutiques definitely occupy this space.
Meanwhile, the Janu Web site describes Janu's story as: “Alignment, equilibrium, wholeness, wellness: Janu is founded on the belief that the best things in life can also be the things that are best for the body and spirit.”
It makes sense that Janu would also focus on wellness, which is supposed to be an Aman strength; the difference appears to be that Janu will provide more group classes and experiences, such as group meditation or yoga, so as to provide a sense of social connection, whereas Aman emphasizes peace and seclusion.
This will carry over into activities and dining as well; while Aman generally provides custom, private experiences for guests, Janu will offer street art tours and other local experiences for several guests together. Where Aman would set up a private candlelit beach bbq, such as the one depicted at the end of our Amanpulo Video Review below, Janu will immerse guests in lively culinary events with chefs and other guests.
Why I'm Skeptical of Janu
Many aspects of Janu sound great on paper. But a few things give me pause:
1. First Location: Janu Montenegro
Now, this is not to knock Montenegro, as I'm sure there are many wonderful and warm people working in hospitality. But Montenegro isn't known for its great luxury hotels, traditional, lifestyle or otherwise, and the existing Aman Sveti Stefan, while it has a great location, tends to get very mixed reviews when it comes to service, with many guests commenting on the inexperience of the staff. Another destination, perhaps in Southeast Asia, with a more traditionally hospitable culture and deeper pool of experienced luxury hotel staff, might have been a better fit, especially for the first Janu property.
2. Third Location: Al Ula, Saudi Arabia
While Al Ula in Saudi Arabia is unquestionably a fascinating destination for its archaeological wonders, it remains to be seen whether Janu can source strong enough talent to provide excellent service, as well as attract enough visitors to the area.
3. Very Uneven Quality of Aman Resorts
It would be one thing if all Amans provide a similarly excellent level of service. They don't. The best Amans are incredible. But there are other Amans where one wishes there was much better recruiting and training in place, and poor service at Aman price points can't make up for an incredible location. That makes it harder for me to envision Janu, because if there's this much variance from the best to the worst Amans, the logical thing to do would be to first work on product consistency and get that right, rather than launch an entirely new brand.
4. Is Janu Aman's Way of Trying to Increase Profitability?
I've noticed some steep rate increases and reduction in inclusions at several Aman resorts recently, and it leads me to believe that Aman's owners are trying to increase profits but are up against the built-in limit of the number of current Amans, the small number of casitas or villas at most Amans, seasonality of many of them, and the high costs or providing a 6-1 staff to guest ratio.
Frankly, I think it's the tail wagging the dog: it's not that there's such a big gap in the marketplace leading Aman to launch Janu, but rather the drive to make Aman more profitable by launching a lower cost brand that doesn't require a pricey bespoke architectural design and building or the higher staff to guest ratio.
What do you think of the new Janu concept by Aman?
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