The Pavilions Hotels and Resorts' Scot Toon shares his favourite destination and the importance of going tech-free
New Zealander Scot Toon, who boasts a stellar resume with reputable brands such as Qantas, Hayman Island resort in Queensland and Stamford Hotels and Resorts under his belt, is — if you ask us — quite the experience maker. Currently the Managing Director at The Pavilions Hotels and Resorts, we got him to spill his favourite destination, the importance of location-unique scents and embracing a tech-free approach to hospitality.
What can one expect from a stay in a Pavilion property?
All our hotels and resorts are about service and experiences. Our properties are located in interesting and stunning locations to take advantage of the best that the city or destination has to offer. This combined with excellent luxury service is what our guests can expect during a stay at the Pavilions Hotels and Resorts. They are all individual properties with their own unique style and a team of staff dedicated to delivering exceptional, above-and-beyond experiences. Whether it is enjoying our luxury gers (a traditional yurt) and riding horseback across a Mongolian valley to an ancient city or enjoying a Dutch gin tasting in our bar at the Pavilions Amsterdam, you will be guided by one of our passionate and knowledgeable guest service staff. Our aim is to always give our guests unique and immersive experiences of the destination.
How has the hospitality industry evolved since you've entered in 2000? What are travellers looking for these days?
Since joining the hospitality industry in the early 90's, it has changed dramatically. It has gone from solely supplying a room and a meal to delivering memorable experiences. Guests want something more out of their accommodation of choice: they want to be immersed in the destination and expect the staff and the hotel to be able to deliver not just a room but an experience. This is what all our hotels and resorts offer to our guests. This experience is not only what's within the hotel and our knowledge of the area, but also of dining experiences, secret little places and off-the-beaten-track spots that you are unable to find in tourist guidebooks.
Where is a destination that you would visit again and again? And why?
For me that would be Amsterdam, I love the architecture and canals of the city. I can walk the streets for hours. Getting lost in Amsterdam is fun — coming across amazing little boutique shops, cafés, bars, markets. On top of that, there is a wealth of history to the city and connections to many parts of the world through its history.
We understand that two new Pavilion hotels and resorts are set to open in the Himalayas and Rome. How do you pick new locations?
That's top-secret! We are always looking for exciting new destinations where we can offer our guests experiences of places that have a history or amazing cultural or adventure experiences around them. The hotels and resorts all have a sense of place. They are a starting point for exploring, relaxing or imbibing in the city or destination.
Where is one destination that you would recommend people to visit before they die?
I think this would have to be Mongolia. The Pavilion Mongolia set in UNESCO Heritage listed Orkhon Valley is a very special place, a place like no other. The pop-up camp operates each year only from June to September where we welcome up to 25 guests at a time. Staying in luxury gers with local guides who have lived for generations in the valley. Exploring ancient cities that were built in 500 A.D., 16th century monasteries with caves in the cliff for meditation, horseback riding through the valley. Visiting the local nomadic people watching the weekly Mongolian wrestling matches that of been played for centuries. Nights lit up by the stars of the Milky Way. This is truly a unique experience and holiday that very few people have experienced and is a must-do.
Having based in Phuket, where are the top restaurants or food spots that you would recommend?
Phuket has so many great dining options, but the first one I would recommend is our own restaurant The Plantation Club. Our new Executive Chef Rey uses locally sourced ingredients in his exciting modern European menu, and the restaurant boasts killer sunset views over Layan Beach. Don't forget to try one of the local restaurants in Phuket town: Raya restaurant for traditional Royal Thai cuisine with Phuket flavours or a street-sde duck noodle shop for real local favourites. Head down to the Boat Avenue market on a Friday night for plenty of local food and soak up the market atmosphere. Our resort runs a complimentary shuttle to the market.
What is your definition of a good hotel/resort?
For me, I like a hotel that offers great service, has amazing knowledge of the destination and makes you feel welcome and at home. I like hotels that I can easily experience the destination but also retreat away and relax.
Most recent memorable hotel experience you've had?
Recently for work, I stayed at the SO Sofitel Bangkok, the service was outstanding. The little things are what makes your stay special, as simple as remembering my name from the day before, paying attention to details and approaching and helping rather than being asked.
The resort in Phuket has their very own scent. Tell us more about other scents that have been curated for Pavilion. In your opinion, how important are scents to a hotel?
Scents are important, we use them all the time and they are something we remember. You can smell a scent and it takes you back to another time. Our amenities in Phuket, like our other properties, are unique to the location, again to immerse our guests into the destination. Not only is it about the scent but about locally sourced products. Why come to Phuket and have Italian amenities and fragrances? In Madrid, why have lemongrass amenities from Thailand? Our Madrid hotel has La Chinata made from Spanish extra virgin olive oil.
What are your thoughts on technology aiding or impacting the hospitality industry? And do you see Pavilion heading into a digital-savvy direction? Why or why not?
Technology in hotels is important to be able to deliver service and experience. Technology should aid and not replace people or genuine service. I believe that people do not want to interact with machines and want genuine hospitality that can only be delivered by people. We use technology within our hotels to allow us to do this to improve on the delivery of an experience or service. We have seen robots come into hotels and AI devices, but we are also seeing them being removed again. I do not think that our type of hotels will become robotic any time soon. A genuine smile and greeting is still so very important.