Alila’s Doris Goh talks about how to make a difference in the business of leisure, luxury, and inimitable experiences

Doris Goh, Chief Marketing Officer for Alila Hotels and Resorts, is someone you’d want to have a long, meandering conversation with. She exudes grace and effervescence, much like the Alila properties she usually waxes lyrical about. Her graciousness lights up a room, and her excitement for luxury travel, meaningful experiences, and the brand she represents is contagious.

Doris wears a diamond necklace and bracelet from the Tiffany Victoria collection by Tiffany & Co.

With the privilege of being employee number one, it’s safe to say that no one knows Alila quite like her. “Sometimes, life throws you a rare opportunity to start up a new brand for experiential travel with the hope of doing something good,” recalls Doris. She further shares, “Building a brand from scratch starts with formulating core values and pulling together like-minded individuals to bring the idealism to life.”

In order to find out what her journey has been like so far, we caught up one rainy afternoon in August and indulged in a meandering conversation that took us to places near and far.

Can you share with us what the core essence of the Alila brand is and how does it help define your role as head of brand and marketing?
The Alila brand essence is in crafting experiential travel with the integration of community engagement and conservation practices while delivering warm, personalised service with local hosts. In turn, this gives our guests a sense of place and home.

Alila is strongly committed to social, cultural, and environmental responsibilities, which we regard as essential for sustainable business. My role is to help hotels and development teams with the commercial application of the brand values, inculcating Conscious Living as the foundation of eco-luxury and the Alila Experience.

Experience, bespoke journeys, and eco-luxury are at the heart of Alila. Can you share a particular property that clearly showcases these elements? 
Alila means surprise, which is reflected in the hotels that the brand represents. Hence, each hotel is unique in its own way, but conceptualised with the Alila brand values and reflects the brand essence. If I were to name one property, it would be fair to go back to the very first resort that was designed and built upon the Alila core values of artisanship, passion, authenticity, innovation, and responsible tourism – Alila Villas Uluwatu in Bali.

Sunset cabana at Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali

It was the first resort in Indonesia to receive the highest level of certification from EarthCheck as a Best Practice Building Planning and Design (BPDS) development. The project was completed in 2009 and was helmed by WOHA Architects with Landscape consultant, Cicada, and the Sustainable Built Environments company.

In all your years spent at Alila, what were your best impressions so far?
Here I’ve learnt invaluable lessons in humility, harnessing the can-do spirit, of giving before receiving, that respect begets respect, and seeing things from the ground up. My journey helped me see how fortunate we are as compared to many others. It taught me to first determine the source of the issue to understand the ”Why” instead of judging the situation from my own perspective.

Pool villa at Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali

Who is Doris Goh outside of work?
For someone who preaches the luxury of time… that’s what I find lacking! I make time to spend with family, my best friends, and people that I care about, embarking on slow travel, having cook-ins together, supporting my girlfriends’ many meaningful causes, reading, trekking, music jamming. It may sound pretty mundane, but it is definitely a luxury to have!

Where was your last holiday and what did you enjoy most about it?
Berlin. This was my 20th visit to the city, but it’s the first holiday weekend for me. I went on the Third Reich Tour for the first time with an Israeli guide who brought me through the Nazi era and showed how Berlin emerged from its dark past to become one of the most exciting cities in Europe.

His narration about the Nazis and the Jewish struggle brought history to life and prompted me to wait in line to visit the impactful Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. I can’t say I “enjoyed” the tour, but I was given a rare insight into Berlin and the opportunity to look at history from an Isreali perspective, of which I was most grateful.

The definition of luxury changes from person to person. What is luxury for you and what is your ultimate indulgence?
For me, luxury is having the time and space to spend however and whichever way you want. I would say “luxury is a state of being”, and that’s my tagline for one of our latest openings. Luxury is dependent on the way you feel at that moment in time.

My ultimate indulgence is to be on a month-long holiday with my loved ones in a beautiful destination. Perhaps something I would consider a home away from home, with the forests behind and the sea ahead of me, with the chance to enjoy total immersion in the culture and the environment. Now, that’s paradise.

Photography by Chino Sardea
Shot on location at Andaz Singapore

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