Trying To Spark A Dying Fire
For those of you who have tried to keep the flames rising on a dying fire, you know it's no easy task. In fact, all too often the credo do-or-die tends to end up with a bad case of the latter.
In the tourism business, legacy brands have never been more challenged than they are these days. Take airlines for example, where national air carriers have not only had to contend with Richard Branson, but with the transformer-like multiplication of low-cost airlines.
The battle lines are drawn in the sand at every corner, with a blanket being thrown over the entire shooting match. Hardware, software and human capital are all on the front lines. Just take a look at Thai International versus Air Asia – who is wining that one is fairly clear.
For hotel brands, much of the legacy ideology remains at the top end of the luxury market. Here in Asia, players such as Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental and Raffles are now seeing inroads by groups such as Rosewood. You even have born-again one-offs, which have gone institutional as in St Regis and Waldorf Astoria.
Individual hotels have a similar challenge. One nearby example would be the Grand Hyatt Erawan in Bangkok, which for years maintained a high profile upscale clientele ranking among the top of the city's hotels. With room size creeping up and physical constraints, the hotel will soon step aside in the brand pecking order to a new, posh Park Hyatt near Ploenchit in the Central Embassy complex.
Growing old is not easy for people nor hotels, though one notable exception based on a single iconic location and reputation is Bangkok's Oriental Hotel. Though the CBD has shifted away from the property, the hotel has been able to maintain its mojo through thick and thin.
One option for hotels is the ability to change markets in chameleon style. Look no further than the Indigo Pearl who decreased rooms, took on an industrial chic theme and enlisted designer Bill Bensley to create an alternate reality. Smaller, in this case, has turned out to be better.
Here in Phuket, one redevelopment worth watching is the Royal Phuket Yacht Club which was the island's first luxury hotel. Its brand affinity included Mandarin Oriental and Le Meridien over the years.
As the hotel was sold last year, the industry is watching what the vision of tomorrow will be.
Another nearby hotel in Rawai, the former Evason has also traded and will soon be an InterContinental.
What a journey the property has taken, which started as one of the island's first international properties when it was tagged as the Phuket Island Resort.
Hotel owners continue to battle age in similar fashion to that of fading beauty queens.
Botox and collagen only go so far, as does the nip and tuck ritual. At one point the battle is far too furious and the white flag has to be hoisted. Either head down the chain scale by choice or be driven by customer trends.
Staying on top for luxury hotel brands continues to be a vicious cycle. Phuket's Amanpuri has managed to retain its cache some 25 years into the market, but it remains entrenched in a rate game with the newer Trisara for supremacy of the island's average-rate stakes.
Hotel brands of course ultimately have to look away from their age-old wives and court newer and younger mistresses who simply happen to have all those new bells and whistles that the grand old dames can't muster up anymore.
At the end of the day the true test of legacy hotels is not to traverse into the category of legends which most often applies to those dead, instead of the living in the here and now.