We check in with the chair and CEO of Harilela Hotels for a quickfire chat about what stirs his wanderlust.
Charm, discovery, adventure – these are some of the things that beckon to us from faraway lands, now perhaps louder than ever. Yet Aron Harilela knows better than anyone not only the allure of travelling, but the joy of returning to a home away from home that captivates the visitor just the same – one that in a way, becomes a destination in and of itself. He was, after all, the man who led family business behemoth The Harilela Group into creating and managing its first hotel brand, The Hari. The Hari London and The Hari Hong Kong, towering over the pulsing heart of Wan Chai, are two such hotels, where their distinct brand of warmth with an edge echoes the colourful layers of their surrounding neighbourhoods.
Over a rapid chat, the hotelier and avid traveller talks to us about his favourite trips, carry-on essentials, and what you’ll find him sipping at a hotel bar.
If you could hop on a plane to anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would it be and why?
I would go to Argentina to play some polo and to Europe to go skiing in the Alps. In fact, I did leave Hong Kong in March to go skiing, which was a joy.
What continues to spur your passion in travelling and hospitality?
I believe that life is a mixture of experiences, meeting people and knowledge. Travelling and hospitality is that perfect mix.
What have been your most memorable trips and why?
Most memorable would have to be Iceland, where I went on a horse safari on my own. It was eye-opening. I went with some people I had never met; we rode for five days and six nights on small Icelandic ponies.
I have also been on an amazing trip with The Asia Society to Mongolia and Siberia. The most special part was when we took some helicopters up to the middle of the Mongolian Steppe and, because the wind picked up, we could not fly back. And so, we stayed overnight in Mongolian yurts with not much food, no change of clothes or overnight supplies. I can certainly say this is one of my most cherished memories.
After decades of owning and managing hotels, what inspired the Harilela Group to start its own hotel brand with The Hari?
We have been in the industry for 50 years. It was time for us to start our own brand. The world has also changed; people are not looking for just a standardised experience anymore. The Hari is as personalised as it gets.
The Hari recently launched its first ever brand of gin, The Hari Gin. What’s your go-to drink order at a bar?
A very dry gin martini, stirred with both a twist and olives.
What can’t you travel without?
I have to have three books with me wherever I go. In case I leave one on a plane, I still have two to choose from.
Originally published in ECHELON Issue 8