As the General Manager of The Danna Langkawi Resort and Villas, Karan Singh has an impressive track record in the hospitality industry. With years of experience in managing luxury properties around the world, Singh brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his role. Under his leadership, The Danna Langkawi has become one of the most sought-after destinations in Southeast Asia, offering guests a truly unforgettable experience. In this interview, we sit down with Singh to learn more about his vision for the resort and his insights into the industry.
Please give us a bit of your own background.
Born in New Delhi, India, Karan spent his childhood having stayed or dined in hotels almost a week every month due to the nature of his father’s business. He was inspired by a tall Sikh doorman to join the hotel industry. He realised his true passion was in hospitality and subsequently pursued an education in Hotel Management at Pacific International Hotel Management School,New Zealand. He officially made his foray into the world of hotels as a Night Auditor at Rydges Auckland in 2000 and soon after, he moved to Hilton Hotels & Resorts in 2003 where he spent 17 years, steadily climbing up the ranks to his first General Manager position in 2016 at Conrad Osaka, Japan. Now in Malaysia, Karan looks forward to exploring the country’s vibrant scene and flavourful culinary landscape. A fitness buff, outside of work, he is seen cycling, hitting the gym or traversing the globe.
Karan has a strong vision to uplift The Danna Langkawi Resort & Beach Villas’ brand image and takes the stakes higher in terms of its repositioning. He resonates the core philosophies of the resort when it comes to ensuring unique and memorable guest experiences, connecting with people and creating a sanctuary of elegance. As a leader, he places enormous importance on striving to make the workplace environment enjoyable, diverse and healthy. He also champions the sustainability arm at the resort to ensure that every decision is made with environmental consciousness in mind, including phasing out single-use plastics, energy conservation and food wastage management in order to promote sustainable development through the resort’s many bespoke activities.
Why / how did you choose the hospitality industry?
You meet the best people here with the most interesting personalities – always looking out for guests, taking care of them and ensuring they have the best possible experience, paying attention to the smallest details, keeping up with new trends and being present – it’s the whole package. I realised this is where my true passion was and still is. Knowing the philosophies and values of being in service, adjusting in styles and accommodating to changes. Being part of the hotel industry is now an integral part of my life and my career goals have continued to evolve as I have learnt a great deal from each person (colleagues and guests alike) whom I have had the privilege of connecting with. This has been memorable to me to gain personal and professional knowledge and I would not change this experience.
Is this your first time being posted to Malaysia? How long have you been here? What are your thoughts and some observations about expat living in Malaysia / Langkawi? I have visited Malaysia several times in the past for leisure and business, however it is my first time being posted here for work. I moved in September 2021 to join The Danna Langkawi Resort & Beach Villas and it has been a great journey thus far. The expat community in Langkawi is rather small I would say and they are close-knitted. Nevertheless, I have spent a lot of my time with the local community since my move. I love cycling and I join the groups here often which consist of locals as well as expats.
What steps did the hotel take to survive during the unprecedented challenges of the long pandemic? Would you say business has returned to normal at this point; if not, when is that anticipated?
One of our challenges was the lack of reputation purely as we were not part of any international hotel chains. Additionally, competing with other branded properties, we missed out on our fair share of business from international markets where we did not have the distribution as the international chains do and the perception that other luxury brands do. Our asset is in great shape, our software and service ratings are one of the best in Langkawi now, consistently beating competitions. By building a better, improved perception and expanding our presence in key source markets we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Being part of this consortium, we have the unique opportunity now to further elevate our resort’s commitment to providing world-class vacation experiences on an internationally recognised platform, where guests can enjoy the exclusive range of local experiences with exceptional service standards. It’s still a little early to comment if trends will revert back to that of in 2019 or pre-pandemic but we believe new markets will emerge. Since the travel bubble started last year, we have seen a recovery with lesser Covid-related checks or restrictions.
The beach villas at The Danna are certainly among the most beautiful to be found anywhere in Malaysia. They were added on to the property fairly recently (relative to the hotel itself), what can you tell us about these villas?
We have one of the newest, spacious and largest one-and-two-bedroom private pool villas in Langkawi, each with direct access to the beach and lavish Salvatore Ferragamo bath amenities, designed to provide guests with top-class luxe experience. Moving towards a tropical design with perfectly manicured garden terrace, the 10 private beach villas are an extended luxury lifestyle getaway for the trendy affluent travellers. Generously spaced from 490 sqm to 1,080 sqm, there are 9 units of 1-bedroom villas and 1 unit of 2-bedroom villa, each with their own private infinity pool and sun loungers, private spa therapy treatment area, living room and dining area, for a truly special home-away-from-home comfort and stay. These breath-taking beach villas are perched along the pristine and secluded beachfront of Pantai Kok overlooking the majestic Andaman Sea, and are located adjacent to the main resort. Fittingly named the Princess Beach Villa and Empress Beach Villa, highlights include a dedicated Guest Relations team attending to the careful and tailor-made needs of guests 24 hours a day for the duration of the stay, ensuring award-winning and authentic service from the heart, undivided attention, and unrivalled privacy to provide an opportunity to experience the wonders of this mystical island, from intimate in-villa dining to arranging excursions. With high thread count plush linens, each of the exclusive villas present a 65” smart TV with unlimited Netflix and YouTube access, iPad, iPod dock and Bluetooth audio system, a separate bath with rainforest shower, sunken bathtub, complimentary minibar replenished daily and an outdoor deck that is ideal for families, friends or groups.
Anything special or new to expect from The Danna in 2023?
12 years since opening our doors, we have certainly come a long way and we have also established a few programs to uplift our resort – of course this will take time as we are planning the changes in stages and it will take place in phases. This includes our sustainability efforts and refurbishment works which have been a key focus alongside creating more awareness in the market and tapping into new segments. We will also be partnering with a new renowned luxury brand for amenities and embarking on a styling project for tailor-made room offerings. In addition to that, we have recently completed refreshing our fitness centre that overlooks the mountains and marina, fully fitted with the latest state-of-the-art Technogym equipment – including the Technogym Ride; the first of its kind in Malaysia. The spa was also refurbished and guests can restore balance to their bodies, minds and souls in a serene space. We will officially announce the developments of our new initiatives in times to come. This is part of our journey to keep up with changing times and improve our standards. We are on the right track and we foresee an exciting year ahead as we move along and achieve greater heights while continually building our brand. This is a year of recovery and the country’s tourism and hospitality sector has been reviving. Our core emphasis remains to welcome guests to our island, from all around the globe, and make them feel at home although in a different place – by giving them an opportunity to experience our traditions, culture and gastronomy in a world-class setting. We are undoubtedly working towards considerable efforts to attract and accommodate travellers in terms of added-value service, facilities and offerings