Property Writer Desperately Seeks Mayan
The Phuket Gazette.
As we near the end of the decade, we find ourselves immersed in the public hysteria of yet another end-of-the-world scenario. This time around, as we close out 2009, we edge closer to the ominous doomsday of 2012.
Of course, as many now know (thanks to Hollywood), 2012 is the end of the Mayan calendar, and some say the infamous killjoy-psychic naysayer Nostradamus, who predicted the end of world.
All lineage set aside, the end of days controversy rages on, with all sorts of paranormal and psychic conspiracy theories flowing through pop-culture media, widely maintained by lunatics writing doomsday blogs all over the internet.
My quest to find a Mayan on Phuket, who could clarify some of the aforementioned apocalyptic predictions has proven fruitless.
If any readers know of a Mayan here in Phuket, please ask them to contact me, as I do have questions.
While the end-of-the-world hype continues to rage on, let me get to my main thought: the tourism industry.
Despite the world about to turn into a giant fireball and turn us into charred mounds of remains, at least we can go out now starting to understand what it is about the public's fascination with endlessly creative doomsday scenarios: It's all about the options.
Big internet companies, like Amazon and Ebay, found their success in shaping their business models around customer options, so it was only a matter of time before the travel industry followed suite.
Despite the fairly sad state of the global economy, airlines actually make a lot of smart moves in terms of adopting new technology and management practices. Asia has seen a boom of low cost carriers (LCC's) in the past few years, with models such as AirAsia creating virtual highways in the sky, connecting destinations in a spider web of routes across the region. Whereas the US and Europe have immense highway and railway systems, the division by ocean expanses here creates a need to move mass markets by air.
Now a similar model is being presented by the common shareholders of the company TuneHotels.com. With seven properties under operation in Malaysia and Indonesia, and with rates starting from just a few hundred baht, the chain is looking to add 100 hotels across the region in the next 4 years.
A recent development has TuneHotels partnering in a master franchise deal with Thailand-based Evolution Capital PCL for 44 limited service hotels, spanning a territory of Thailand, China, Philippines, Indonesia, and Bangladesh by 2012. Many know the name Evolution as one of the principal companies of The Similan, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve luxury hotel under construction in Phang Nga.
It has been reported that the group is eyeing Patong for its first property, which could include multiple units, and then of course Bangkok. TuneHotel's tag lines include, '5 Star beds at a 1 star price, power showers, great locations, clean and secure'. All that is offered in their 12sqm rooms, though at this time the existing properties don't have TVs.
They are following the airline model on same idea of customer options, relying heavily on online booking that lets customers choose from extras such as air-conditioning, breakfast packs, WiFi, towels/toiletries and hair dryers. Rates move in a way similar to the way the low cost carriers do, depending on how far in advance you book, promotional offers, and prepayment.
In Asia, the 'limited service' sector is mainly served by two global brands: InterContinental Group's Holiday Inn Express (HIEX) and French Chain ACCOR's IBIS. In layman's terms, 'limited service' refers to properties that don't have a restaurant, though both brands offer a lounge with breakfast. A key difference is that these two international brands typically have rooms in the range of 20-22sqm and do have TVs. IBIS already has properties located here in Patong and more recently in Kata.
Worldwide, both HIEX and IBIS are two of the fastest growing hotel units on the planet, and this looks to continue unabated.
TuneHotel, however, is arriving on the scene and hoping to take 'limited service' down a notch. As we have seen with AirAsia, models work on scale, customer loyalty and the golden mantra of cheap. If you look into the business of buying 'key words' on the internet today, some of the highest prices are garnered by the words discount, free, cheap, low price and budget.
I recently attended a hotel conference in Singapore titled, 'Budget and Economy Hotels in Asia'. Perhaps the most apparent flaw was the institutional way that hotel chains try to compartmentalize in a consumer unfriendly way. I can't imagine many people doing web searches for limited service. Despite the phrase 'low cost carrier', when most people fly, it come down to budget. In the end, cheap sells, but I'm not sure many hotel brands want to say they are the 'cheap' leaders in their target markets.
While the first thing people used to do was check into a hotel and turn on the tube, today it's all about finding plugs and getting connected. 12 square meters and no TV may have once sounded too cheap to market, but the age of the internet is also the age of luxury guilt. It's all about having what you need, and not paying for what you don't.
As for the end of the world,Y2K is still a fading memory, but I might still try Google to find my Mayan.