Midweek Interview

Midweek Interview with Karma Resorts’ John Spence

This week, Karma Group’s chairman tried to serenade us with a rock ballad from his glory days, but graciously took the hint when we whipped out our noise-cancelling headphones.

The challenge of the industry is…

Many things depending on the area. I think there are certain we operate in that lack that local governmental or regional support. I am troubled by companies like Airbnb which I find are disruptive and not necessarily in a positive sense that affect pricing. And another major issue we’ve had over the past year or so is the natural disasters, whether that’s the earthquakes in the Gili islands where we are or bushfires in Australia. So there are challenges but in my 36 years in the industry there are always challenges. If there aren’t there’s nothing to keep you on your toes. There’s nothing that’s particularly problematic.

Things that I like about my job are…

I love travelling. I was born at the end of Gatwick Airport with the smell of jet fuel in my nose. I lived in hotels a lot when I was young; when I started out I was in the music business and I looked after various groups so I used to stay in hotels a lot. I genuinely enjoy flying, staying in hotels, visiting new countries; I’m immensely lucky in that I enjoy what I do.

And the frustrations are…

Sometimes they’re the result of things that I like; I’m away from my family, my home, I get tired. But at the end of the day I’m privileged. I feel like a footballer player who is moaning because he has to play football. I love hospitality, hotels and travel and I get to do exactly that.

If I didn’t work in travel I would be…

Well, I’ve only ever done things that I’ve loved. I was in the music business which I loved and I’m in travel because I love it. Though I supposed growing up I wanted to be a fantastic rock guitarist. So if I could wave a magic wand that’s what I would love.

My favourite airline is…

Singapore Airlines. It’s a coin toss; if I have to say my favourite three it’s Singapore, Emirates and Qatar, probably in that order.

My proudest moment was…

I have many. My children being born, marrying my wife, being made entrepreneur of the year of which I was extremely proud. Being awarded a fellowship to teach at Yale University for a second time. I’ve been very fortunate. And really from a work point of view, these offer recognition of the people around me as well.

The naughtiest thing I’ve ever done…

That was a long time ago. These days I try to relax by reading a book, listening to music, working out, going to the gym. I do relax quite easily I find that I’m able to switch off from work at times.

The last time I feared for my life…

A few years ago I went on a scuba dive and did all the thing you’re not supposed to do. I went on a night dive, my equipment wasn’t very good, I was swept away by the current, and I was seriously worried that I wasn’t going to make it back. But luckily I did, I had done my advanced diving course beforehand and a few tips I learnt managed to get me out of it so I survived.

If I can I try to avoid…

Long daytime flights.

I really wish I had…

bought more land in all the destinations where we have resorts.

The best advice I’d ever received is…

Be nice to people. Treat other people as you’d expect to be treated. Respect people. When you’re doing a deal, leave something in it for the other party. Don’t be rapacious; it’s the general concept of why we call ourselves karma. What you give gets back.

I don’t understand why…

The world isn’t more emphatic, why people don’t listen to each other and have empathy for each other.

My greatest weakness is…

Probably drinking too much red wine although I enjoy it quite a lot. Maybe it’s also parallel to my last question, maybe I trust people too much or assume that they’ll act the way that I do.

My greatest strength is…

I think I’m good with people. I like people and I like working with people. I think my strength is that I’m able to listen to people and give them what they want not what I want.

If I won a $1 million lottery ticket I would…

Give it to charity. I’m fortunate; I don’t need a $1 million lottery upside.

If I was Prime Minister, I would…

I think if I was Prime Minister I would like to quit – it’s certainly not something that I would like to do. As much as I’m not a supporter of many particular politicians I do understand how difficult that job would be.

If I could be someone else for one day, I would be…

I would be a rock guitarist, of course, playing up on the stage. Not quite sure which one but I’d be up there having a great time.

I’ve always wanted to travel to…

Many places. People assume that I’ve been everywhere but I really haven’t. Bhutan is on my list, I want to go trekking up in the Himalayas and I’d like to see more of South America.

My favourite holiday was…

I have so many. I love the Maldives. We go frequently there to Soneva Fushi and I just love it, I would say it’s my favourite holiday destination excepting my own resorts. Or in the summer I just love Greece. We have a property in Mykonos and we travel there quite a lot. We’ve recently discovered Hydra which is where Leonard Cohen lived for a while and it’s just magnificent there.

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