Independents reach out for marketing representation

Why do some hotel owners prefer to be independent and how do they choose a hotel marketing company to represent them? Raini Hamdi, Xinyi Liang-Pholsena, Paige Lee Pei Qi, Mimi Hudoyo and S Puvaneswary find out

11-july-onefarrerNo. of rooms 250

Positioning Five-star luxury hotel, three hotel concepts in one, trend-setting urban resort. Opening in phases from August

One Farrer Hotel & Spa is the hospitality/lifestyle centrepiece of a mixed use development called The Connexion that includes a state-of-the-art conference centre, a private hospital and specialist clinics.

The owning company, The Farrer Park Company, believes that being an independent hotel gives One Farrer Hotel & Spa full autonomy to tailor its offerings and establish a unique hospitality, wellness and F&B experience for its guests.

The hotel has chosen Preferred Hotel Group (PHG) to represent it, saying PHG will give it a global platform, the endorsement of a renowned brand, connectivity to online and travel agency reservations systems, and on the consumer front, its point-based loyalty programme iPrefer. PHG also has a network of 36 global sales offices and access to 16 frequent flyer programmes.

Richard Helfer, director of The Farrer Park Company and chairman of One Farrer, likes that each member hotel is required to meet or exceed the Preferred standard of excellence, which is anonymously reviewed yearly.

He added: “PHG’s integrated quality assurance measurement programme, which allows member hotels to aggregate and analyse reviews and comments from 45 consumer review and social media sites, is also a valuable platform for helping the hotel to understand residents’ experiences. This will be a significant tool that aids the hotel’s efforts in continuously improving its standards.”

11-july-thepatinaNo. of rooms 157

Positioning Experience-led hospitality, celebrates individuality, art, architecture, heritage and culture. Opening 1Q15

The Patina, Capitol Singapore, is owned by the Kwee family, which owns luxury hotels such as The Ritz-Carlton, Capella, Conrad and Regent in Singapore. The Patina represents an amalgamation of over 50 years of expertise and experience in luxury hospitality, and the move from owning to operating a hotel.

For representation, it has picked Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) as its collection of luxury hotel brands fits the bill, and has track record and international presence, said Marc Dardenne, CEO of Patina Hotels & Resorts. He likes its “bespoke” rather than “cookie cutter” sales/PR efforts based on each hotel’s needs.

“With their global sales, marketing and PR presence, we can leverage and tap on their databases and expertise in target markets, especially emerging markets like India, Russia and China,” said Dardenne, adding that LHW’s loyalty programme, Leaders Club, also enables Patina to reach out to high net worth individuals.

11-july-princehotelNo. of rooms 445 (plus 157 serviced apartments)

Positioning A corporate hotel located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur

The hotel is a franchise of Prince Hotels & Resorts Japan and is operated independently with affiliation to Worldhotels.

Being independent allows autonomy on decision-making among the hotel executive committee team on strategies pertaining to branding, positioning, providing a unique guest experience and driving profit, said general manager Tim Quarm. Hence, senior managers are trained to be entrepreneurs of their own business units and to be creative hoteliers, he said.

The challenge commonly faced by independent hotels is a lack of awareness of the property and connection to the international travel trade as compared to international hotel chains. A marketing representation gives that exposure, and it picked Worldhotels for “its relevant tools, up-to-date innovations/strategies and experienced marketing personnel based in various regions”, said Quarm, who also likes the bridge to multinational corporations that Worldhotels provides.

11-july-indigopearlNo. of rooms 177

Positioning Offering cultural, design and architectural lifestyle experiences

Indigo Pearl is owned by veteran hotelier Wichit Na-Ranong who prefers to be independent so he can embrace the brand pillars of cultural heritage, creativity, design and architecture and a close connection to north Phuket with its rich history, national parks, high-quality beaches and tin-mining origins.

For representation, it needed a company that understands this positioning and its unique product. Thus, it settled on Design Hotels which, said general manager Christopher Oakes, also shares its entrepreneurial spirit and enables it to reach high-quality niche markets.

Said Oakes: “Indigo Pearl is not a typical resort; it is very art- and design-focused with a deep connection to the destination. So it is not mass market, but attracts a more refined guest profile.

“We feel Design Hotels demonstrates a strong understanding of our ideals and, with its ability to open up new regional markets to us and increase business across direct and retail channels, we believe they are a good fit.”

Oakes said the resort has expanded its visibility and profile with new travel consultants at events, exchanges and sales missions organised by Design Hotels.

11-july-aleentaNo. of rooms 44 (plus 44 in development)

Positioning Luxury, “all suites, all private” concept, smallest room being 80m2

Aleenta Phuket is owned and managed by AHMS-The Collection, a hospitality management company under the leadership of founder/MD Anchalika Kijkanakorn, who aims to cater to like-minded hotel owners/developers around Asia.
For representation, it picked Small Luxury Hotels (SLH) as it shares the same ethos as AHMS. Anchalika is also chairman of the board of SLH, the first female and Asian representative to be elected to this position.  “SLH has a wide reach globally and their selection of hotels guarantees the correct brand associations and connotations for us at all times,” she said.

“SLH has regional sales and PR teams worldwide including key emerging markets like China, India and Russia as well as all traditional markets.”

On the technical side of distribution SLH provides a state-of-the-art Internet booking engine, seamless packaging opportunities, full GDS connectivity with systems support from a dedicated account manager, she said. It audits all hotels each year. SLH Club Members also has over one million customers who book SLH hotels at least twice per year, and Anchalika said they are “perfect guests with the highest ADR and incremental spend”.

11-july-thebaleNo. of rooms 29

Positioning A hideaway for couples, adults-only policy, luxury pool villas, butlers, gourmet cuisine, spa

The resort is owned by an Indonesian-based company and is managed by Lifestyle Retreats, a Singapore-based boutique hotel management firm. It ended its hotel representation partnership last year as the actual room/revenue production had decreased yearly while production from OTAs and the hotel’s websites increased.

“This is a market shift which I believe is affecting marketing affiliations across the board,” said Jose Luis Calle, managing director, Lifestyle Retreats. Calle believes representation firms can help properties without a brand or solid marketing team to penetrate markets, but once these hotels have positioned themselves, it is a challenge to justify the expense of representation if it’s not supported with actual production of room nights and turnover.

“Representation companies are not always necessary, although I sincerely appreciate their contribution especially during the pre-opening of The Bale in 2002. It put The Bale on the map and gave us the right exposure in a number of magazines. Production through their website represented a significant amount of the overall turnover of the property. Those were the good days definitely,” he said.

11-july-royalscottsNo. of rooms 511

Positioning Deluxe business hotel

After being part of a hotel chain for 25 years, Royal Plaza on Scotts, owned by Sajahtera Investments, went independent  to “allow us the flexibility to respond to a fast and ever-changing market”, said general manager Patrick Fiat, who believes personalised service delivery is a challenge for chain properties around the world to implement and manage.

Saying it takes two to tango in all partnerships, the first criterion in selecting a representation firm is to ensure it has similar business practices and ideals. He thus settled on Preferred Hotel Group (PHG).
Fiat said: “We have seen a healthy growth in business every year since we embarked on the partnership more than 15 years ago.

“We have gained support from various regional offices to secure corporate RFPs from global MNCs. This translates to a substantial amount of direct business from frequent business travellers of these corporations. PHG also helps to enhance our brand in the global market.”

He added that PHG also reaches out to global travel agencies online and offline, which is a good source of business. “The hotels can use this to their advantage by balancing out the seasonal demands and booking costs,” he said.

Additional reporting from Xinyi Liang-Pholsena, Mimi Hudoyo, Paige Lee Pei Qi and S Puvaneswary

This article was first published in TTG Asia, July 11, 2014 issue, on page 14. To read more, please view our digital edition or click here to subscribe.

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