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Written by Aksel Ritenis

John Spence , Chairman- KARMA ROYAL GROUP






With over twenty years experience at the forefront of the hospitality industry, John Spence sees himself more as an entertainer than a businessman. In the early ‘80s, Spence cut his teeth as a music agent in London representing bands such as Culture Club, the Eurythmics and Bananarama before moving into property sales and marketing where he excelled. The entrepreneurial chairman and owner of Karma Royal Group now has an impressive portfolio of brands – Karma Resorts, Chakra Resorts, Karma Beach International, Karma Spa and Royal Resorts – spanning from Asia to Europe, Australia and the Caribbean, with development plans for the Bahamas, Cuba, Brazil, North America, the Seychelles and the Middle East. Clearly he is not a bad businessman either.


When John Spence visited Goa, India, in 1993, he knew he’d found the place he wanted to develop his first resort property. Purely using a cash injection from his life savings, John founded Royal Resorts to pioneer vacation ownership in India and South East Asia. After the initial rapid growth of Royal Resorts, John realised that the perception of vacation ownership limited his options in terms of what he could do with the company. In 2002, he founded Karma Resorts, bringing the concept of boutique villa resorts to Asia allowing clients to purchase freehold villas. Most recently, John has developed Chakra resorts as a brand, along with Karma Estates, Karma Spa, and a chain of beach bars under the Nammos and Karma Beach labels.




John now operates three resort brands including 5-star Karma Resorts, 4 star Chakra and Royal Resorts. The future looks exciting and impressive as Karma Royal Group continues to expand and venture into new markets. John’s ability to jump at an opportunity is further illustrated by the commencement of the company’s highly respected and award winning spa business, Karma Spa, identifying the growing trend of Wellness Travel.


Karma Resorts is an expanding portfolio of luxury villa resorts, currently in Europe, India, Thailand, Bali and Australia. Karma Jimbaran, the first Karma Resort, opened in Bali in 2005 when John once again recognised a gap in the market. Karma Resort guests benefit from the best of both worlds, the privacy of a villa, combined with all the amenities of a luxury resort. The group’s second Balinese property, Karma Kandara, opened in March 2008 on a spectacular cliff top high above the Indian Ocean at the farthest extremes of an elevated limestone peninsula at Bali’s southernmost tip. It was here that John’s passion and vision for something a little different saw him create the Nammos Beach Club. Styled after a whimsical folly on some Greek island in the Aegean, complete with indigenous grass roof and bamboo platform, Nammos Beach Club presides over a pristine sweep of white sand and a tranquil turquoise lagoon whose only access is via Karma Kandara’s private inclinator, which carries guests effortlessly up and down 100 meters of sheer limestone cliff.


Born from the huge success of Nammos, Karma Beach International was launched by John in January 2012 with a view to rolling out stylish beach clubs in hot spots around the world.


Indicative of the company’s global expansion, Karma Pelikanos opened in Greece in July 2010 with developments all over the world to follow. As a father of three, John recognised that Karma Resorts needed to cater to the requirements of every guest, including families. The Resorts offer a safe and fun Kid’s Club so their parents can enjoy Karma’s wellness facilities, from a private beach club and gym to a standalone spa brand.


In the European summer of 2012, John acquired the magnificent former estate of the late British designer Laura Ashley in the medieval French village of La Garde-Frenet. Set on 150 well-kept acres, just 13 miles from St-Tropez, Le Preverger is one of the region’s most recognizable and well-preserved chateaus. The estate is available to VIP guests and Karma Royal Group Members, who will enjoy the magnificent setting in the Côte d’Azur, complete with private helicopter and pilot on the estate grounds. In October 2012, Le Preverger served as the setting for the film “Dom Hemingway” starring Jude Law and Richard E. Grant, who were also guests at the estate throughout filming.


The Karma Royal Group’s Chakra Resorts is John’s latest brainchild and offers an energizing blend of the traditional and the modern, the aesthetic and the practical, the hedonistic and the spiritual. Each Chakra Resort location is chosen with this core premise in mind and will provide a range of opportunities for guest satisfaction. First to be launched are: a historic north Indian palace, or Haveli, in the city of Jaipur in Rajasthan; an Alpine ski and wellness retreat in Bavaria, Germany; a brilliant sea and sand enclave on Rottnest island off Western Australia; and 8° South, a cliff-top playground under construction on the Bukit area of southern Bali. Future Chakra projects are planned for Japan, Fiji, the Americas and Europe, providing a global reach and an array of distinctive destinations beyond any other boutique hotel group in the world today.


John is a passionate sports fan and patron of the Arts and his company currently sponsors Perth’s Western Force Super Rugby team and the Perth Fashion Festival. In many ways, he sees the parallels between work and sport.


Your work has got to be taken seriously and earn you money, but it’s also got to be like sport — fun, challenging and something you do for enjoyment,” he says. “If it becomes just about feeding the family then you’re not going to enjoy it. And if it’s not enough of a job, then really it’s not going to be fulfilling. It’s a balance.”


John was the 2010 Ernst & Young Australian Entrepreneur Of The Year. “Karma Royal Group has taken on the big, global hotel brands and put a footprint in this very competitive market.” Said Catherine Brenner, Chair of the Judging panel, who were particularly impressed by the focus and quality of Karma Royal Group’s clear strategic direction. Typical of many successful entrepreneurs, John Spence has seen opportunity where others did not. Most people would have looked at the global upmarket hotel sector and decided it was a saturated market. John looked at it differently and saw opportunity.”


In June 2013, John joined an exclusive group of international champions of industry and leaders of their professions to become just the fourth Australian member of the judging panel for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, held in Monaco. Previous judges have included Steve Case, Co-founder of America Online, Jack Cowin, Founder and Executive Chairman of Competitive Foods Australia Ltd and Yves Guillemot, President and CEO ofUbisoft.


In Autumn 2013, John was been honoured by Yale University School of Architecture by being appointed as the Edward P. Bass Distinguished Visiting Architecture Fellow for the 2013/14 academic year.


A Commissioner on the West Australian Tourism Board from 2006 until March 2010 and supporter of numerous charities, John was awarded ‘Philanthropist of the Year’ by the American Resort Developers’ Association (ARDA) in 2006. For several years, John’s company has been one of the major sponsors of Christel House, a children’s charity in Bangalore, India. The charity also supports schools in Mexico City, South Africa and Venezuela as well as an orphanage in Bali. The core premise of ‘karma’ is one John avidly believes in and since Bangalore was the location of the first city centre office for Royal Resorts, it is no accident that he gives a helping hand to the local community. His charitable work in Bali through the Bali Life Foundation reflects his respect and love for the Balinese people.


Whatever you give to the universe comes back,” says John. “That’s where the whole ‘karma’ thing comes from. We support many hundreds of children in Bangalore and in Bali. I believe it’s everyone’s duty to do what they can to help the world.”


Please see the following web sites.




The Karma Collection was conceived by visionary British entrepreneur and philanthropist John Spence, who at the start of the new millennium, set out to create a genuinely new template for luxury travel and lifestyle. At its heart, the Karma Collection is an expanding portfolio of elite boutique villa developments and stand-alone residences in some of the world’s most fascinating and desirable locations. The enviable surroundings are matched by the resorts themselves, which marry architectural ingenuity, state of the art amenities and an approach to service that is not merely attentive, but also creative. The result is a pioneering approach to hospitality that is garnering rave reviews internationally.

Karma Resorts currently operates two exclusive oceanfront luxury villa resorts, both situated on Bali’s spectacular southern peninsula and a third on the island of Koh Samui, Thailand. We also operate a luxury villa residence on the Greek island of Mykonos. Each has earned the highest accolades from industry and media alike.

The passion and indeed their very approach to luxury is to conjure destination experiences that are above all memorable and to build a diverse yet integrated portfolio of select products and services that are unique – and uniquely Karma. This involves creating an ever-evolving range of facilities, amenities and activities connected to our resorts.

Within your villa, you’ll find carefully selected furnishings and artwork of the highest quality, creating a contemporary setting that still pays homage to tradition. Facilities are of the highest order, from the latest home entertainment systems to state of the art kitchen appliances and you’ll love to lounge by your private pool. More than likely you’ll have views of the ocean.

Karma eateries are run by some of the best chefs in the business and are also attended by a dedicated sommelier. Karma Spa is a burgeoning brand in itself, offering an array of treatments and wellness experiences by rigorously trained in-house staff and visiting masters as well as sublime environments in which to experience them. Karma Spa has received much recognition within the global spa industry, its most recent accolade arriving in 2011 when it was voted the Best Spa in Bali by trend-setting lifestyle publication the YAK magazine.

They have developed activities programmes built around artists in residence programmes, wellness weekends, culinary happenings featuring the world’s top chefs and sommeliers as well as performances and parties featuring top DJs. And off resort, guests will be introduced to the very best any destination has to offer, from sporting adventure to cultural immersion to retail therapy.


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Aksel Ritenis

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