Araw Hospitality Group’s “chief enlightener” believes that travel is a necessary experience.
Anything that began in 2019 was hit with the harsh reality of a global pandemic. Just three months into 2020, worldwide lockdowns were implemented. During this time, leaving our homes for the grocery store had restrictions, so the idea of leisurely travel felt farfetched.
So, what happens when you enter the travel and hospitality industry in 2019 while it’s thriving, then see it temporarily shut down a year later?
For Jean Henri Lhuillier, the “chief enlightener” of Araw Hospitality Group, it would have been “an easy excuse to feel frustrated or disheartened.” However, instead, the team used the period to “refine” and “polish” their ideas.
Two years later, the world started opening up again, and Lhuillier says their properties were “more than ready.” At the same time, their target market was craving to see the world in a unique, transformative, and enriching way.
With their properties, the Araw Hospitality Group highlights underrated facets of a destination. For instance, Lihim Resorts’ idea is “El Nido’s best-kept secret,” catering to luxury travelers. For those seeking tranquility, One Hagdan Villas means to showcase “a different side of Boracay” away from the bustling party areas of the island.
However, if you want in on Boracay’s vibrant social scene, Kommon’s No Alone Zone stands as a hotel accommodation where you can work during the day and meet new friends at night.
You also don’t have to fly from the Metro to experience Araw’s tropical offerings. In Makati’s Poblacion, they’ve opened WYP (What’s Your Poison), a tiki-themed restaurant serving grilled dishes and a full bar menu.
In Poblacion as well, Unwnd is a luxury hostel that invites you to practice “the art of being chill” with amenities like a rooftop lounge, sauna, and spa. Unwind will also open in Dumaguete, Caticlan, El Nido, and Siargao—other destinations frequented by local and global tourists.
The multiple options are in line with Araw’s goal of being an “experience group” that curates travel for their guests, whether they’re looking for wellness and solitude to excitement and adventure.
They’re constantly developing plans with an inclusive and collective mindset, says the president and CEO of multi-industry firm PJ Lhuillier Group of Companies.
In addition, the company desires to leave a positive impact on everything they encounter, from their guests to a destination’s local community to the planet.
At Lihim Resorts, their high-end wellness property, the advocacy includes emphasizing the “luxury in simplicity,” believing that the most priceless things are from nature. Besides offering nature leisure tours, including island tours and waterfall visits, Lihim has no single-use plastic policy. They encourage visitors to do the same and encourage guests to join them in energy conservation and waste reduction.
“That, above all, is formative to the thought process that goes into all our developments,” he adds. “This is the code or ethos that we want to impart to guests—whether it be the quintessential luxury traveler, Gen Z adventurers, millennial wellness enthusiasts, and seasoned world travelers.”
With all the new concepts, Lhuillier could have noticed a gap in the market he wanted to fill.
But in contrast, he was driven more by inspiration than lack. “After exploring various parts of the world, I was compelled to create something that would also highlight the beauty of the Philippines, in a unique and transformative way,” he shares.
There are so many undiscovered places and destinations in the country that are globally-competitive, he points out. “Araw Hospitality was a concept born out of a desire to tell the story of the Philippines through unique luxury experiences,” Lhuillier says.
Together with Raffy Ladao, the group’s “chief astounder,” the company embraces a culture of creativity, openness, curiosity, and dynamics. “That said, it seemed only right that we depart from the standard and formal designations. This would explain why we prefer to go by more creative titles,” Lhuillier says.
As the chief enlightener, the entrepreneur provides his team with direction comparable to a north star or compass. “As mentioned earlier, a lot of my inspiration is drawn from travels around the world, which I then share, dissect, deconstruct and apply to the projects we are engaged in,” he continues.
On the other hand, Ladao thinks up the “wow factor” in Araw Hospitality’s undertakings, bringing in an eye for detail and out-of-ordinary ideas.
Travel to live
After founding the “experience group” in 2019, a year before all the activities under that umbrella were put to a pause, Lhuillier shares his pivotal learnings.
Firstly, he believes that travel is a necessary human experience. “It is neither capricious nor is it a vain pursuit,” the 52-year old says.” After endless months of travel restrictions and lockdowns, the key takeaway was that we as humans all need to travel as a means for enriching our lives.”
Secondly, he learned that technology knows no bounds. Lhuillier says that in the pandemic, Araw managed to share its experiences online, which will continue as they engage and communicate with customers.
On his realization that travel is an irreplaceable means of experiencing life, Lhuillier shares, “this key experience–whether local or international [travel]–is here to stay.
This story was first published in the March 2022 issue of Lifestyle Asia.