Amorita Resort, meaning “little darling,” is a favorite of expats based in Asia and European tourists for its quiet luxury and intimacy
When Amorita Resort in Bohol celebrated its 10th anniversary last weekend, the owners Nikki and Ria Cauton also marked 10 years of married life — and several awards.
Amorita is the only resort in the Philippines to earn the prestigious Condé Nast Johansens’ Excellence Award 2017 for Best Service, and last year it was awarded as an ASEAN Green Hotel. It has been on the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame and is a Certificate of Excellence recipient for seven consecutive years. Nikki and Ria gave awards to its top travel agents in an event sponsored by Delsey, The Travel Club, Moet and Hennessey, Forth and Tay, and Philippines AirAsia.
Amorita also launched its 16 newly renovated villas, each with a private plunge pool, two of which are two-bedroom family villas. The villas are either surrounded by lush greens or facing the ocean.
Like the 82 deluxe rooms and suites, the villas have a quiet elegance that speaks of luxury — gray stone, earthy palette, wood, sulihiya, and other local materials.
“We both appreciate good design,” says Nikki.
Outside, the grounds of Amorita feature more than 50 species of trees and plants in landscaped gardens and clusters of natural growth.
The Cautons say it’s the kind of design that they, too, look for when traveling abroad. In fact, this kind of subtlety carries over to the service from the staff — always friendly and smiling, but never intrusive; it’s in the way they treat guests from the time they check in to the time they go out on tours of Bohol or island hopping, to the time they get back at the end of the day.
It’s a long, long way from what this property was before Nikki and Ria took over — a dilapidated 34-room resort on a 1.8-hectare property at the edge of Alona Beach.
Amorita is the couple’s first “baby.” In fact, Ria found it a few years before they actually bought it. It was, she says, “lukso ng dugo” or a strong emotional connection for someone or something you haven’t seen before. In this case, she and her brother were eating on Alona Beach when she looked up and the saw property on a hill, but the broker said it had just been sold the week before.
Ria, who comes from a family of entrepreneurs and whose grandfather founded Victory Liner, told her dad about it. He said the property was offered to her uncle in the past but he declined.
That was that. Or that was supposed to be that. Two years later —apparently the previous deal fell through — they were able to buy it.
“We had never actually stepped in it when we bought it,” Ria says. “This wasn’t a big corporate plan. Everybody said, what was it that you saw, it’s so ugly. We came in and we said, we have to renovate pala. We decided to make it for adults, for honeymooning couples. When Nikki and I got married, we said, let’s make this happen. For our honeymoon, we originally wanted to go to an ashram in India, but instead we went to Siem Reap, when Cambodia wasn’t yet a hot destination for Filipinos. We stayed at Hotel de la Paix (now Park Hyatt) and thought, wow, there’s a place like this in Siem Reap!”
The name Amorita came from Ria’s mom, Ditas Hernandez. The couple did everything in the beginning. They were serving guests in the restaurant, checking them in, carrying their luggage and arranging tours. At one point, Nikki and Ria were getting tips from guests, and Nikki was mistaken for the gardener.
Through the years, Amorita expanded — as did the business. The Cautons established a management company that now includes resorts in Dumaguete and Coron, and in the future, in El Nido and San Vicente in Palawan — all serving different markets and budgets with Amorita being the high-end.
“Our training is to always be the best. We’re disruptors. Wherever we are, we level up,” says Ria.
“It’s better to make a quality product than hilaw. The profit will always be there because it is a business, not just a passion project, but first you have to make the guests happy. We weren’t so obsessed about the returns. We’re always asked, what’s the biggest difference between 10 years ago and now? Before, we’d look at our restaurant and pray, ‘Sana may kumain dito tonight’ because resort guests would usually go down to the beach to eat.”
But now, Amorita’s dining outlets, Saffron restaurant and Tomar bistro, are destinations also for Bohol’s locals and are loved by the resort’s guests.
Amorita is also a favorite of expats working around Asia, and European tourists. A big chunk of the market is local families, especially in the summer months.
“They like the design, the layout, the ambiance, and the service,” says Ria. “An excellent benchmark of how a place impacts people is what our children talk about when we get home from a vacation abroad. It’s always the experience they remember. We want our guests to feel that they’re in their mom’s house. You want to have a nice dinner as a couple? Get our baby sitter or we can set up a movie for your kids on the lawn while you enjoy a romantic dinner. I think that’s the real meaning of luxury.”