But they don’t stop there. Five decades into his devotion to hospitality, Paul maintains an entrepreneurial soul, but not in a manner you might anticipate. Having first studied hospitality in 1965, Paul’s dedication has led him around the world, and then some. He now manages The Lux Collective from Singapore, whose portfolio is defined by fresh, sensory, and transformative experiences for guests. His contribution to the tourism industry in Mauritius alone earned him the Dignity of Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George, awarded to him by none other than the late Queen Elizabeth II herself.
When not working from the office in Singapore or at the exquisite SALT of Palmar hotel in Mauritius, the affable and good-natured Paul can be found photographing landscapes in Iceland, practicing Ashtanga yoga, and eating aromatic curries by the sea.
Well, I’m a very passionate hotelier and I’ve been in the business all my life. I started out wanting to be a chef but I was, you could say, persuaded to become a hotel manager. I moved to South Africa in 1968, and then moved to Mauritius in 1975 to open a hotel—that's a long time ago! I think that move changed my life. Prior to that I had no clue where Mauritius was or anything about it, but I landed and immediately fell in love with the island, and stayed for the following decades.
I live on the east coast. I love it because I'm a morning person, and the sun rises right in front of you in all its glory. There’s literally nothing between us all the way to Australia so it feels like you're getting very fresh, oxygenated air. It’s absolutely magnificent. And of course the sand is powdery white and the waters are turquoise blue. But what I love most is how unique the people are: it is one of the greatest multi-ethnic societies in the world, with waves of immigration from South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Europe: from Arabs, Dutch, and French, to British, Indian, Portuguese, and more.
Well in particular, 70% of Mauritius’s residents are of Indian origin, and I admire them for their gentleness. It’s a trait that really attracts me, to be on the happier and gentler side; it brings a beautiful sense of humanity to the island. They’re known for their celebratory, inclusive nature too: sometimes they invite guests to their homes for dinner and even to their weddings. There’s a very special dish called “Sept Cari”, which translates to “seven curries”: it’s a Mauritian adaptation of an Indian dish, seven little curries served on a huge banana leaf and eaten with your hand. It’s just such a wonderful experience. I really think it is so important to celebrate and blend cultures together; it brings multiple religions, experiences, and worldviews.
I do meditation on a regular basis and I practice Japanese Buddhism. It’s quite a disciplined practice, and there is a temple in Singapore that I visit often. I also seek out the temples in Japan and even London when I’m there for work. In Mauritius we have a large Sangha group of very nice people (the monastic communities of monks and nuns), and some of the teachers go from Singapore to teach in Mauritius, with many members becoming teachers themselves. So that's very fulfilling to see, and to be part of a group of wonderful people. You feel very safe.
Every morning I switch between either yoga or the gym. I love Ashtanga yoga; it’s quite vigorous and disciplined. I actually did my teacher training, which takes you through the theory of it in a holistic way. It’s all about the philosophy behind yoga and if one keeps that in mind, your practice becomes more intentional and less about the physical side. But I've also added the gym because as one gets older, you’re fighting against the natural degradation of the body. This informs my view on wellness and how important it is to have it. And if I can do it, then I'm sure many guests can too!
Absolutely. The food here is beautiful; we’re right on the sea so we get the fisherman to bring fresh fish, shellfish, oysters, mussels, you name it. Freshness is critical here. The thing about Mauritian cuisine is it’s all about those waves of immigration: French, Chinese, Indian, Creole. My favorite is chicken curry. I can taste it right now; it’s served with “piment écrasé” on the side, a spicy condiment made from crushed chili, garlic, and ginger. Delicious.
[Laughing] Yes, I was involved in the development of a number of hotels with the Hotel Association and did a lot of promotion of Mauritius as a destination, so the prime minister, you know, sort of recommended me to receive what was an extraordinarily high honor. It was a very nice day at Buckingham Palace receiving the award from her majesty. We had a little chat and she even laughed at my joke.
Yes, it was very surreal.
SALT of Palmar symbolizes a happy spirit. We really wanted to give people a transformative experience, to liberate them momentarily from the confines of their situation. It’s about bringing your mind to a receptive state so that you can just soak it all in and relax. I had so much fun with the artist Camille Walala who designed the interior; she’s just such a happy person. She's very famous for her use of color and shapes, and mixing crazy things together. So I think the environment really reflects that.
I think in our post-Covid world, people are really seeking connection again. The best way to do that is through genuine, in-person experiences. At SALT of Palmar we take our guests to the market one-on-one with a team member, who explains all the local produce, beverages, and snacks and interacts with the vendors in the Creole or Bhojpuri languages, giving the guests tastings and showing them around. Which if they were on their own, they might not necessarily be able to experience. You know, we don’t put TVs in our rooms–because, well, do people really come all this way to a stunning paradise to sit and practice an isolating activity like watching TV inside? We wanted to get away from the idea of a traditional hotel, because it’s about being together.