BT: You have designed luxury hotels and resorts across Asia and the globe. Time magazine even called you the “king of exotic luxury resorts.” As both a designer and landscape architect, where do you start when you’re designing a resort?
BENSLEY: It’s like writing a movie with a beginning, main plot, and an ending with a central theme and storyline woven throughout the property. This resort is located on “Monkey Mountain” so you’ll notice a running theme of monkeys throughout. But we get to have some fun with them in places like the bar and nightclub where we imagine what the monkey’s life would be like if he traveled afar. There are pictures of some of the monkey’s relatives and some of his keepsakes on display. It’s all about sticking to the storyline and providing a variety of special moments where guests interact and notice the theme in subtle ways.
BT: What is your biggest pet peeve in a hotel room?
BENSLEY: It’s the worst when you’re paying big bucks to stay in a fancy hotel, but you’re on your hands and knees looking for a power outlet. I also think it’s imperative to have a bedside master light switch so you don’t spend forever trying to turn off the lights at night.
BT: What is your biggest pet peeve about hotels in general?
BENSLEY: It’s disappointing when a hotel tries to be something for everyone. A hotel built for everyone is really built for no one. You can’t always please every taste and style; in fact, some people may hate the style of some of my hotels. But the ones that love it, really love it. That’s what a hotel should do – know your audience and stick to it without trying to please every possible guest.
BT: Do you check review sites like TripAdvisor when you travel or about hotels you design?
BENSLEY: Sure, everybody does, right? You can’t ignore it these days.
BT: The InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort is often listed among the top ten in Asia by many magazines. What do you think is so special that people are willing to travel across the globe to stay there?
BENSLEY: I think the key to a good hotel is putting people into situations that are not normal to them. This resort has beautiful villas and suites surrounded by nature, facing the stunning private bay, and amid frolicking monkeys. You pair that with signature Vietnamese hospitality and you have something truly unique. Luxury is no longer about pillow menus and butler service. It’s about giving people exceptional experiences that make them eager to travel.