It is not all doom and gloom on the hotel scene, as some hotel companies are using the tourism downtime to catalyse their business evolution and bring about new opportunities for growth while supporting the community. TTG Asia reporters profile some players that have done things differently and successfully the past year.
Chroma Hospitality has undertaken several initiatives for three of its existing hotels and resorts, with two more brands – Grafik and Quest Residences – to grace the city of Baguio.
With Philippine destinations subject to frequent lockdown changes, the Travel Concierge at Crimson Resort and Spa in Boracay and Mactan, Cebu lessens guests’ confusion by keeping them updated with the latest travel regulations and helping them complete required documents.
The two resorts have also partnered with AirTaxi.ph to fly guests directly to the resorts and back, avoiding airport queues and crowds. “Demand is picking up as private point-to-point travel is becoming the new norm,” said country head James M Montenegro, adding that guests were also choosing to keep together in bubbles while in the hotels.
Over at Quest Plus Hotel and Conference Center Clark, the next goal is to partner with other countries to create event bubbles after successfully hosting a sports bubble in Clark New City for the Philippine Basketball Association, International Basketball Federation, and the Israeli swimming team. A volleyball bubble is now in the works.
Montenegro explained that such event bubbles are a growing market, and the company is now “fast-tracking vaccination of all our colleagues” to ensure that properties can continue to support and welcome future event bubbles. As of press time, Chroma’s Mimosa Plus Estate and Quest Clark team are 90 per cent vaccinated.
“We also want to create a bubble to attract South Korean golfers as our caddies are all vaccinated. This will hopefully jumpstart international tourism for the Philippines,” he enthused.
In terms of portfolio expansion, Chroma recently signed a partnership with the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, the developer of New Clark City, to build a Grafik Hotel and Quest Residences in a 5,700m2 site in Camp John Hay in Baguio.
Geared towards millennials and young-at-heart travellers, Grafik Hotel will offer some 180 rooms, two restaurants, a grab-and-go deli, a ballroom and a wellness centre. The first Quest Residences will sit in an independent tower but connected to Grafik Hotel via a sky bridge, allowing residents to enjoy hotel facilities. – Rosa Ocampo
Although Club Med has no resorts in Singapore, it has been able to maintain engagement with target customers in the city-state during the pandemic through its Body & Soul programme.
The Body & Soul programme has its roots at Club Med Bintan, Indonesia, where it has for the past decade welcomed guests from all around the world in need of a holistic wellness escape.
This year, the programme arrived in Singapore, via a partnership with Pan Pacific Hotels Group, providing travel-starved residents with a unique wellness retreat right in the heart of the city.
Rachael Harding, CEO, East and South Asia & Pacific with Club Med, said the programme was a hit, drawing mostly individuals and couples who were interested in fitness and wellness programmes, and “wanting to have a different staycation experience in Singapore”.
The programme marries the best of Club Med’s extensive schedule of fitness classes and wellness workshops with Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay’s lifestyle offerings such as farm-to-table experiences, garden-in-a-hotel surroundings, and more. From yoga and barre, to urban farm tours and mixology sessions, the programme elevated the typical hotel staycation programme.
The company is continuing to innovate its product offering, with the creation of Worktainment, a new approach to corporate teambuilding, as well as Work Hub, which invites guest to work from some of the most beautiful vacation spots in well-equipped spaces.
For the rest of the year, Club Med is preparing for the tourism rebound. It has maintained guest engagement through curated content. For example, Thrive Again by Club Med comprises digital content that highlights never-before-seen local destination insights for keen learners, exclusive travel tips as well as special features of go-getters within the organisation and inspiring personalities.
Harding shared: “We aim to instil a new spirit of optimism in our guests, partners and local communities, helping to renew and ignite their journeys to getting back to their best selves.”
Moving forward, Club Med will continue to expand its portfolio. It launched Club Med Seychelles this March, and will add two new resorts in China later this year. Come 2024, Club Med Borneo Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia will open with 400 rooms as well as Asia-Pacific’s first Club Med tennis academy. – S Puvaneswary
Dusit International has adopted a technological transformation strategy throughout the pandemic, with the aim of identifying new business opportunities to meet the shifting needs of the market and pursue sustainable post pandemic growth.
The Thai hotel chain has completed the first stage of this project, which includes investments in the latest cloud-based ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and data management software. The move enables group-wide efficiency across five business units – Hotels and Resorts, Hospitality Education, Food, Property Development, and Hospitality-Related Services.
The investment also seeks to leverage big data to create exceptional consumer experiences and identify new business opportunities in line with Dusit’s three-pronged strategy for balance, expansion, and diversification.
While the technological transformation was set in motion in 2019, it is now being expedited to increase business resilience in response to the pandemic. The project is far-reaching, involving Dusit International’s 24 different entities across 17 countries.
Group CEO Suphajee Suthumpun said these investments in such uncertain times might go against the grain, but the key to post-pandemic tourism recovery would require the company to precisely read customer needs – something data and intelligence could enable.
At the same time, Dusit International has continued to grow its footprint. It entered Oman with the dusitD2 Naseem Resort, Jabal Akhdar, and opened the third property in Thailand’s Hua Hin with dusitD2 Hua Hin.
“The pandemic will be felt for some time. However, we believe that travel will come back stronger than ever when the Covid-19 situation improves,” remarked Suphajee, adding that the moves taken now will allow the company to drive short- and long-term business, extend market reach, and cement its competitive advantage globally. – Suchat Sritama
Far East Hospitality
One mission stood out for the leadership at Far East Hospitality (FEH) when the pandemic set in – the tourism downtime finally presented an opportunity for the Singapore-headquartered hotel company to slow down and focus on a long desired transformation.
Arthur Kiong, CEO of FEH, told TTG Asia: “Transformation has been brewing in my mind for a long time…but we could not (do it) because we were so busy running at marvellous occupancies and delivering very high GOPs. We were trapped in a problem of success.”
As governments around the world established travel restrictions and closed their borders, Kiong set to work a transformation task force with the mission to reinvent the local mid-tier hotel operator into a world-class manager of lifestyle brands.
He believes that as successful as FEH has been, it cannot grow any further as a local mid-tier hotel operator. “We have to reinvent ourselves to do something else and grow,” he said.
The transformation entailed six major tasks: experience creation, where different guest experiences were programmed for each brand; geographical expansion, which saw the launch of new hotels in Japan (Far East Village Hotel Ariake, July 2020; Far East Village Hotel Yokohama, June 2021) and Australia (Quincy Hotel Melbourne, March 2021); new business creation, where FEH entered the luxury hotel segment with The Barracks Hotel Sentosa and The Clan Hotel Singapore as well as launched its own spa business with Oasia Resort Sentosa; product refurbishments; job redesign to allow the company to create jobs that will attract Singaporeans; and lastly, sustainability and productivity realignment to approach processes in a more holistic way.
Kiong is particularly proud of FEH’s success so far in experience creation through hotel stays. In a post-lockdown world, he believes that unique destination experiences are needed to compel consumers to overcome cumbersome travel procedures, and that hotels with holistic offerings can contribute to the destination’s quality tourism promise – one that will attract high yielding travellers that locals will be proud to serve.
Citing The Clan Hotel Singapore as an example, Kiong said the luxury hotel in the heart of Singapore’s business district has been programmed to tell “the quintessential Singapore success story that is not borrowed from our colonial past”.
The hotel weaves stories of Singapore’s resilient migrant forefathers into its architecture and design, service, dining experiences and curated precinct tours. It also highlights homegrown businesses and artisans across various guests touchpoints.
By offering a unique guest experience that is matched by exquisite service and theatre, Kiong believes that his hotels are in a stronger position to command better rates and avoid a volume strategy. He was able to test the concept with Singapore’s domestic staycation market – recognised as a very demanding segment – throughout the travel lockdown. The outcome: The Barracks Hotel Sentosa has been ranked the top hotel on Sentosa Island on TripAdvisor while The Clan Hotel Singapore is the top hotel in Singapore City. – Karen Yue
Travel challenges notwithstanding, Thailand’s Minor Hotels has chosen to grow its brands and presence in markets around the world with an asset light model.
Dillip Rajakarier, the company’s CEO, told TTG Asia that there was no better time than now for hotel developers and investors to expand their portfolio.
In January 2021, Minor Hotels signed an MoU with China’s Funyard Hotels & Resorts to form a hotel management joint venture that will lead the entry of more Minor brands into China. This came into force in June.
“We are already reviewing a number of potential opportunities as a result of the joint venture, and we are confident that this agreement will greatly expand our presence in China over the coming years,” Dillip added.
Minor Hotel’s sights are not on China alone. It has earned a number of new hotel signings across its brands for the Middle East. It will launch Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort in 4Q2021. These openings will join additions in Europe, the Maldives and other parts of Asia. – Suchat Sritama
Hotel isolation is no bed of roses, and when it comes to helping guests beat cabin fever in quarantine, Ovolo Hotels goes above and beyond the call of duty.
The Quarantine Concierge package was launched to inject an element of fun into compulsory isolation for visitors and residents returning to Hong Kong, while supporting both their physical as well as mental well-being.
Available at Ovolo Southside and Ovolo Central, Quarantine Concierge was rolled out in August 2020 just as quarantine rules were enforced in Hong Kong.
“Immediately, we noticed there was a huge stigma against hotels accepting quarantine guests; it was labelled as ‘taboo’. Ovolo, being a Hong Kong company, wanted to do our fellow returning Hong Kongers right by giving them a way to quarantine with dignity and also receive the usual great service they deserve,” said acting COO – Hong Kong & Indonesia, Marc Hediger.
The service considered what people would want if they were stuck in a room for a long period of time. With that thought, Ovolo packed complimentary meals, unlimited premium Wi-Fi, free local calls, fitness gear, a mindfulness kit, and more into the Quarantine Concierge package. Guests get to unwind with complimentary in-room tipples and treats throughout their stay during Happy Hour. Ovolo also tied up with Foodpanda to pick up essentials or grocery items for guests, with exclusive discounts on restaurants, groceries and shops.
A year on, more than 3,500 guests have benefited from the Quarantine Concierge service, with over 20,000 room nights completed, according to Hediger. Of these, 15 guests were from ethnic minorities who had stayed at either of the group’s two Hong Kong properties for HK$1 (US$0.13) per night under Ovolo’s Homecoming Project.
Customer feedback has provided valuable insights to improve the quarantine experience. Earlier this year, Ovolo begun hosted a weekly Zoom call dubbed Social Sessions wherein guests can interact with their neighbours.
“It’s hosted during their Happy Hour as a way for our guests to connect and share a drink virtually with each other – and us – and kill some time,” said Hediger.
On their final day of quarantine, guests are treated to a Last Supper, comprising an indulgent menu item paired with a drink of their choice.
In partnership with Mindful Studios, complimentary weekly Zoom yoga sessions are conducted, while Oxford University Press provides a variety of children’s books for young ones in quarantine.
As Hong Kong authorities extended the quarantine period from seven to 14, and then 21 days in December 2020, making it the world’s longest hotel quarantine, Ovolo swiftly moved to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6, becoming the first hotel in Hong Kong to do so.
As well, Ovolo upgraded all meal options, providing guests with more choices that support a range of diets.
“In particular, a major feedback from guests was that they were craving local food, so we worked with a neighbouring local restaurant to give our guests an extra option,” shared Hediger.
Another major upgrade to the package is introducing partnerships to Social Sessions, where the hotel group invites various partners to co-host the Zoom calls, while their food or drink is given to all guests for that day’s Happy Hour. F&B enterprises Ovolo has worked with include popular pizza and donut joint Dough Bros and wellness brand Goodleaf which offers water-soluble CBD powder sachets. – Cheryl Ong