THE ROCKSTAR HOTELIER
Just URBANE|June - July 2021
We chatted with John Spence, owner of international travel and lifestyle brand Karma Group on his fascinating journey spanning decades and continents, the future of the travel industry and why luxury means simplicity to him
SAMREEN KHOJA

THE PASSION TO EXPLORE the unexplored, enjoy exciting experiences and create memories worth treasuring, are the primary factors for any luxury vacation. And the Karma Group has emerged as one of the frontrunners in the experiential travel space, with its diverse and curated offerings. It includes world-class restaurants and bars, beach clubs, fashion shows, spas, and more.

However, it was an impromptu visit to Goa in the early ’90s that transformed John Spence, an aspiring guitarist and music band manager, into a property mogul. A strong believer in the Indian philosophy of Karma, you reap what you sow; Spence has set up a unique chain of boutique hotels.

HOW IT ALL STARTED

“My early life was quite interesting; I thought I was the best guitarist in the world. I swiftly learned I was the worst guitarist in the world. This was back in 1980 in London when you had to be pretty bad to be deemed a bad guitarist. So I drifted onto the business side and became a tour manager.

A total twist of fate was when I came to Goa in the 90s, it was like a light switch that went on and I fell in love with it. I thought it was an amazing place with great beaches, great people and great food. I noticed the emerging Indian middle class, that wanted to holiday in Goa and in the Western way. And I saw international tourists wanting to come to India and specifically Goa for the winter sun, which is a lot cheaper than them going to Seychelles on Christmas or the Caribbean. So I did a bit of a gamble and got my first piece of land. I tried to persuade the company I was working for to back me and they refused. They thought I was crazy and that India was just poor. And so, I gambled everything and sold the flat and car in London, persuaded a few brave colleagues to come with me. And in 1993, we opened our first resort, which was vastly underfunded on the beach of Goa,” recalled Spence.

CREATING A LIFESTYLE BRAND

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