Amanresorts has ultra-luxury resorts in such exotic locales as Thailand, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, France, French Polynesia and Mexico, among others.
"And soon Kane County will be added to that."
Those words from Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. heralded Tuesday's announcement that an investor group will build its second U.S. resort a $125 million investment including a hotel, spa and villas just west of Lake Powell. Singapore-based Amanresorts is the hotel management partner for the project, expected to be ready in about two years.
The project will be called Amangiri. Most Amanresorts complexes begin with "Aman," and "giri" in Sanskrit means "rock formations," common in the Lake Powell area.
On one side of the buildings will be 400-foot-high rock walls. The other side will feature sand dunes. Investors are hoping tourists about 135,000 loyal guests are called "Amanjunkies" will be attracted by the opportunities for water sports, boating, fishing, rafting, golf, heliskiing, helicopter tours, a spa, sports, hiking and mountaineering.
"One of the things about Aman, they really do their hotel according to where they are, and it's not a box which is the same all over the world," Christoph Henkel, a lead investor, said during a Wednesday news conference. "So you will find whichever property much more attuned to the local landscape, culture you name it so each hotel is very, very unique, and that is their strength."
"The most important thing is they come into the destination and they learn and understand that destination first before they put pen to paper," said Guy Heywood, country manager for Amanresorts Americas.
The investors have been acquiring land along the Arizona border for four years and will have about 670 acres in the first phase of Amangiri. The total includes 320 acres purchased from the federal government.
"You start with one thing, it works well, then you keep investing," Henkel said. While the Phase One investment is about $125 million, "from there it will go north. It will be substantially more in the future, but keeping within the spirit of 'small is beautiful,' " he said.
Henkel said great landscapes often lack a "fantastic place to stay." While many European friends of his are "perfectly happy" driving around great landscapes in their RVs, Henkel thought "we could do something else."
"Only Aman is capable of bringing the kind of name and brand recognition to attract that kind of audience that we're looking for, to afford staying in the hotel," Henkel said.
Heywood said Amanresorts' "vision and philosophy" are unique.
"For us, it's all about the destination, bringing our guests to a unique destination," he said. "When you look at our portfolio . . . you look at all of them, they're in fairly unique destinations, with the culture, the rich heritage and obviously the landscape, and that's what we see in southern Utah."Comment on this story
Amanresorts specializes in a "less is more" philosophy, "offering a unique lifestyle experience along with the destination itself," Heywood said.
While Amangiri remains in the design stage, Huntsman said it will lead to 150 construction jobs and 200 permanent jobs.
"We're going to have people knocking on our door from around the world, those who are looking for all kinds of destinations," he said. "And I think this helps the state in terms of expanding the range of possibilities that will be offered to people visiting our state, so it is very much in keeping with our overall travel and tourism theme."Amanresorts' other U.S. resort is Amangani in Jackson Hole, Wyo. That facility faced the same challenge confronting Kane County's: accessibility. But Amangiri will be a 25-minute drive from an airport in Page, Ariz., that is served by international airports in Denver and Phoenix.