It’s been an undeniably tough 2020 for the hospitality industry—and all industries for that matter—yet many have remained resilient and quick on their feet amidst the ongoing pandemic. Secluded away in Indonesia’s remote Anambas Archipelago, Bawah Reserve is enveloped by lush greenery and azure seas, far away from any urban noise. Since the outbreak of COVID, the private-island resort has been powering through, upgrading its décor and furnishings, as well as investing in marketing and staff training. Chief Operating Officer at Bawah Reserve’s Paul Robinson speaks to us on his inspirations, what a guest can expect when staying at the stunning retreat and how to turn a weakness into a strength.
What was your first healthy holiday experience? The first time I travelled overseas was to France where I camped with family in Normandy and Brittany, picking mussels off the rocks along the seashore. We used these mussels to make Mussels Mariniere, whilst it poured with rain and we even had to dig a trench around the tent to stop it from flooding. It was sheer bliss as a child—a really wholesome holiday— learning about new cultures, being outdoors, trying new food and making new friends. I have very happy memories of so many of these healthy holidays.
How do you reboot after a hectic week? A great Friday night out with friends and family for a long dinner and loads of red wine paired with any cuisine—although my favourite is simple French or Japanese dishes. I also like to be out on the water over the weekend with my Dragon Boat team here in Singapore. It enables fresh air, exercise and a great bunch of people to be around.
Who are your role models and why? The Dalai Lama has to be right up there for me—have you ever stopped and listened to him talk with anyone? He’s reflective, calm, considered and yet with a quick wit and fantastic sense of humour. His compassion and desire to heal the world are wonderful.
I take great inspiration from my parents—they have worked hard all their lives and come from good solid UK ‘working class’ backgrounds. They have endeavoured to show our family the wonders of the world—be that people, places or landscape.
Who do you admire professionally, and why? I admire many of my friends and the people I work with actually, rather than personalities or people I see in the media. So many friends and people I have met in my life are admirable. I like to see a drive, that light within, or sparkle in an eye, when you see them at work and play you know that person has inner strength and is someone special. They don’t have the arrogance or that aggressive me-first attitude. When people I know have succeeded at building great lives, families and wealth security for themselves that’s who I admire.
What was the incentive behind opening Bawah Reserve? Bawah Reserve was created to be a place people can come and stay, learn about themselves and those around them, understand the world more, recharge, rethink and rediscover. We want Bawah Reserve to be that place people know is that bit different, from the staff serving them to the physical resort, focusing on providing people with an earth-first resort where wellbeing comes naturally.
What do you hope guests will take away from their stay? We hope that they leave feeling refreshed, relaxed and renewed, with a vitality to look after themselves, the people they come into contact with, and with the environment. We are killing this world with our excessive waste and superficial lifestyles. Stop, think, act, and change for good—this is what Bawah does, and Bawah will change you.
How have you taken a weakness and turned it into a strength? I was born with some problems on my right leg and it does mean I have to wear a leg brace. Most people would never know that when I’m wearing trousers. Having this has shaped me in life to look at the bright side, to think positively and, above all, enjoy life. We just get one shot so make it count!
What is an interesting routine that you do daily that sets you up for success? My daily routine includes a mug of hot water and then a good old fashioned cup of British tea to get me going, then I like to have face to face meetings, and/or video calls with people. The human touch and interaction is so important and makes everyone feel special and appreciated. You can see the difference in people.
How do you remain aware and mindful of your thoughts and catch yourself when you’re in a negative thought pattern? I don’t think I’m good at this at all, I say what I think and I tell the truth and how it is. My natural English reserve and manners do kick in and keep me in check most, well some of the time. I really don’t get down and I am annoying, for some upbeat all the time. This has been a very difficult year for the entire world, with the troubles that have unfolded for all of us, it’s trying, taxing and stressful. But we must seek out the good and that light at the end of the tunnel as things will always get better.
The most powerful transformations can come through difficult times or a crisis because people are forced to have a breakthrough. How have you changed a crisis into an opportunity? I think we have been able to change this crisis into an opportunity at Bawah Reserve during this Covid period. Being so young (we only turned two in 2020), we have been able to reinvest and really lift the overall product. We have upgraded all our Overwater Suites with new sofas and soft furnishings and we have been able to create new two-bedroom pool villa options. The list goes on through to new marketing material that is truly world-class. We have supported staff, including teaching some of them to dive and to discover new opportunities. They are our greatest ambassadors after all. Our owners have been fantastic, so supportive of all my ideas and the direction I want us to take, their financial input and behind-the-scenes desire to see us come out better, and more beautiful.