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Pursuitist Q&A: Acqualina Resort & Spa’s CEO Deborah Yager Fleming

Pursuitist Q&A: Acqualina Resort & Spa’s CEO Deborah Yager Fleming

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Deborah Yager Fleming - HeadshotEarlier this year, Pursuitist had the pleasure of visiting Acqualina Resort & Spa in Miami. The five-star hotel and resort is currently celebrating their 10th anniversary and has cemented its place in history as one of the top luxury hotels in the United States.

We spoke with CEO Deborah Yager Fleming about how Acqualina is managing to differentiate itself in a crowded luxury market in this week’s exclusive Pursuitist Q&A

You’ve been there since the very beginning. What drew you to Acqualina? 

 I came because I’d never opened a property and I wanted to be part of the creation of the story. I met Jules and Stephanie Trump  [no relation to the presidential candidate]  and we instantly bonded. The opportunity to be part of the process from ground zero was really exciting.

When we looked at creating this brand, obviously we wanted to create a beautiful setting and have expansive amenities that really set us apart. But beyond the design, we wanted to have exceptional experiences and really differentiate ourselves. There’s a book called Blue Ocean [about] how to to create uncontested market opportunity for yourself.

We wanted to create share and demand for ourselves and we wanted to do things exceptionally well. The family market was really critical for us. At the time I had a 4-year-old – I was a new mother and thought about the relationship of what you’d have with your child during a vacation time, etc. For me, I value my family time … when I have that time the qualitative time is very important for me. I’m also a lover of spa, so I wanted to feel comfortable going there and have my child in a safe … place that would impart delight to him. All of these things drew me to the resort.

What’s your favorite / most requested room type, and why?

The classic suite – the bedroom and living room both face the ocean. You have a crescent-shaped balcony — this is a feature I love. I like the feature. The bathroom has a window facing the ocean. For me, it’s my honeymoon suite. It is very well programmed for a couple.

The property is owned by the Trump family – no relation to Donald Trump. They’re very involved, in a way that many hotel owners are not. How has this changed how you run the property? 

They [the owners] live in this establishment. Being present in this establishment every day they know it really well. It is unique to us and how we do things. We are better charged as owner/operators than perhaps a company that is not physically here.

60% of our business is repeat and our customers know [the difference that having an active owner brings].

Of course, people ask if there is a relation to the presidential candidate. I am probably more sensitive than they are about it!

What’s planned for the 10th anniversary? 

We couldn’t just do one thing – we have new mini treatments by ESPA, wine programming, new kids activities. We’ve also released a video series highlighting various aspects of the resort.

What’s your favorite part of the property?  

From an aesthetic perspective, I love  the fact that we are open to the sea. I could be in 100 different locations in the property, but when I look out and see the color red [an Acqualina signature] with the white sand and the blue ocean and the green grass, it’s gorgeous.

But what really touches me is the team members. We respect each other’s talents and together we deliver exceptional experiences.

If Acqualina was a person, who would he/she be? 

Sophia Loren. Men love her because she’s glamorous. Women lover her because she’s unique. She’s iconic and memorable.