Voted as the world’s best hotel by Travel + Leisure two years in a row, Nihi Sumba takes a holistic approach to hospitality. Putting community, sustainabiliity and its tranquil environment at the forefront, the luxurious barefoot island retreat has remained resiliient throughout the pandemic, welcoming an influx of locals rediscovering Indonesia during the ongoing travel restrictions. We speak to Partner and CEO James McBride on his recent healthy holiday experience in Peru, what guests can expect at Nihi Sumba, and how the five-star resort has adapted during the pandemic.
What was your first healthy holiday experience? I actually just came back from my first healthy holiday experience—it was ten days in Peru for Christmas and New Year. It was a mix of eating amazing organic food, hiking every day, learning how the grew Inca their vegetables and just integrating into their experiences. We stayed at Inkaterra hotel and visited Machu Picchu. It was an immersive experience of lots of exercise and eating beautiful clean food.
How do you reboot after a hectic week? I don’t reboot after a hectic week as my life is seven days a week. It’s an integration of work and pleasure. My business is a lifestyle, not a typical Monday to Friday job. Every day is a part of the week for me.
Who are your role models and why? I admire Nelson Mandela greatly for his resilience, triumph, courage, simplicity, and most of all, his humility.
Who do you admire professionally, and why? I admire Elon Musk the most professionally. I think he is going to change the world more than anybody. He actually went to the same prep school as me in South Africa. I admire everything that he does, he’s so brilliant and irreverent to the point that it makes sense because it’s substantiated by fact and extraordinary technology. I love his work ethic and beliefs.
What was the incentive behind opening Nihi Sumba? The incentive for Chris Burch and I to create Nihi Sumba was to build something extraordinary to help the people of Sumba and for the guests. We wanted to make this a viable business philanthropically and commercially.
What do you hope guests will take away from their stay? What we hope guests will take away from a stay at Nihi Sumba, is to learn from the strength and humility of the Sumba people. We want them to embrace the beauty of space, the power of the ocean and the power of being free and being able to let your dream run wild and to recharge for when you go back to the congested world. More than anything, we hope guests will understand empathy and beauty and to soak up the energy that Sumba has that can just recharge you for another year.
How have you taken a weakness and turned it into a strength? I think I had a huge fear of leaving a corporate umbrella. But with Chris Burch’s help, it enabled me to take the leap (ten years ago) and to achieve success and become entrepreneurial, with great courtesy to our excellent team. It was daunting and difficult but I was able to turn the weakness into a courageous strength.
How do you remain aware and mindful of your thoughts and catch yourself when you’re in a negative thought pattern? What puts me in a negative mindset is lack of sleep from jet lag which can cause my negativity. It’s best for me to recharge from that before seeing people to avoid that negative projection. I’m very conscious of what I’m omitting and I do my best to be aware of tonality and vibes towards people.
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 definitely have turned a crisis into an opportunity. We were very unknown in the local Indonesian market before the pandemic and we are now one of the most successful hotels in Indonesia. People who can’t travel abroad have discovered their own backyard here in Nihi.
We were in lockdown but it was one of the greatest gifts not being able to travel for a while—I was able to sleep in the same bed for a while, make relationships with people in across the whole of Indonesia, develop a deeper relationship with people in Sumba—these were all turned into positives amid the pandemic and I’m grateful for that.