Tucked away in a pristine private peninsula on the Northeastern coast of Mauritius lies One&Only Le Saint Géran. This high-end resort has maintained pride of place at this secluded spot on the island for 42 years, since renowned property magnate Sol Kerzner was first enthralled by the natural beauty of the area and recognised its potential to captivate future guests in much the same way. However, the key to success in longevity has always been to move with the times, and this message has not been lost on One&Only. The international luxury hotel brand pushed forward with nine months of renovation at the resort and officially re-opened in December 2017. ABN finds out how One&Only Le Saint Géran is redefining ultra-luxury for its guests.
The multi-million-dollar investment in the resort’s redevelopment has been a truly extensive process, with major improvements made to almost every element of the resort all of which serve to elevate the overall guest experience.
The return of a legend
The resort’s transformation involves a completely re-designed range of accommodation options with each of the 143 guest rooms, suites and Villa One incorporating a contemporary beach-inspired design while maintaining the retreat’s much-loved exterior colonial architecture.
Furthermore, a dynamic selection of fresh culinary experiences will greet the eyes and taste buds of guests at One&Only Le Saint Géran, who can also expect to reap the rewards of several re-imagined public spaces at the resort, from a state-of-the-art new spa to exclusive children and teens play zones.
“In terms of improvement and where we define ultra-luxury, we worked on accommodation,” says One&Only Le Saint Géran’s general manager Charles de Foucault.
“We’ve really stripped down the resort, keeping the structure but creating 20 less rooms and having 20 additional suites. We beautifully redesigned 2 and 3-bedroom suites with up to 50 interconnecting rooms because we have a lot of families that stay here.
“We’ve also redesigned Villa One, which is our villa at the resort,” de Foucault continues. “We utilised a designer from South Africa who has sophistically blended African expertise with local art. We found that Africa offers really beautiful craft materials which furnish our rooms.”
A lot of thought has also gone into the development of the resort’s five restaurants. The average length of stay at the hotel is very long, so the One&Only team aimed to ensure that guests are spoilt for choice in terms of culinary experiences.
The resort appointed a Michelin star chef to lead its new culinary programme (the only Michelin star chef in the Indian Ocean), and launched the jewel of its dining offerings – the Tapasake restaurant, a contemporary pan-Asian tapas eatery located in idyllic surroundings overlooking the lagoon.
“We’ve also created a lot of new family-orientated experiences, notably at la Pointe with its family pool and two others spread across the resort to please all our guests.”
Furthermore, the hotel’s energy centre for adults and children alike is Club One. Facilities include an indoor-outdoor gym, a group cycle and TRX room and a mind and body room which has been dubbed the soul studio. One&Only Le Saint Géran also provide three tennis courts, two padel courts and a multi-use playing field.
Looking back to One&Only’s roots in Mauritius, Le Saint Géran was first formed in the mind of Sol Kerzner back in 1972 when the island, in all its beauty, fanned out below him from the vantage of a helicopter.
“He was flying over the island in the helicopter and he saw the area and said ‘this is where I want to put my hotel’ because the magic was there,” reveals de Foucault.
“The magic of the beach, the magic of the lagoon, the point where nobody can disturb you from either side. He just said we can create magic here and magic he did create.”
The resort was built not long after Kerzner’s aerial epiphany and quickly became the benchmark development not just for hotels on the island, but for the entire nation’s budding tourism sector.
In the years and decades since the arrival of the resort on the Eastern coast, the national tourism sector has evolved from a small-scale local trade to an internationally acclaimed holiday destination that is typified by 5-star resorts and luxurious experiences.
Although today Mauritius boasts a wide range of star-studded resorts, this was not always the case and One&Only proudly claims to have produced the first 5-star hotel on the island. This is something that de Foucault believes was a key driver of growth in the tourism sector, particularly in shaping Mauritius’ reputation as a luxury holiday hub.
“I have to say that we spearheaded this process [of tourism growth] in the early days. More recently in 2005 Mauritius went on a mission to get 2 million arrivals a year by 2017 and this created lots of further investment in 2006.”
Having weathered the storm of the global financial crisis (GFC), Mauritius recorded around 1.3 million tourist arrivals in 2016, which although below the pre-GFC target, represented an 11% rise on the previous year.
While the presence of luxury hotels such as One&Only Le Saint Géran continues to attract high-end visitors, de Foucault also highlights the importance of the island’s infrastructural developments over the last decade.
“The infrastructure is excellent I must say, I’m impressed by the roads, the power, the water. Everything in Mauritius is ready to handle the type of volume that was laid out in 2005.”
50 years of independence
It is somewhat fitting that One&Only Le Saint Géran’s grand reopening has arrived in time for a major milestone in the history of Mauritius.
On March 12th 2018, Mauritians across the island will celebrate 50 years of independence, and as the resort has shared 42 of those post-colonial years and played a key role in the island’s socio-economic development, it will take great pleasure in joining the festivities.
“We wanted to ensure that we had our festivities without taking the magic date of March 12th, because that day is for the Mauritians, it’s not for us. So on the 13th One&Only Le Saint Géran will throw its opening party, with key public officials and the prime minister in attendance.
“The resort will be open, but it is just a chance to say thank you and gives us the perfect excuse for a party.”
While renovations to the historic resort have only just been completed, One&Only Le Saint Géran has pledged to not stand still and will continue to find ways of improving guest experience.
For instance, exciting plans to launch a private homes initiative was recently announced, where a selection of 2 to 6-bedroom villas will become available to buy from the first quarter of 2018 and will be ready by 2020.
Beyond this new offering, the resort will continue to strive for excellence only in its ultra-modern, ultra-luxurious surroundings.