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While most of Southeast Asia’s hotels went quiet during the pandemic, one of Thailand’s up and coming groups, Collective Hospitality has taken the opportunity to ramp up expansion.

Starting out the Slumber Party Hostels, Collective has moved into hybrid hotels with their Socialtel brand which is due to open in Koh Samui soon. They also have acquired the Bodega Hostels chain.

As for the space the group operates, perhaps can best be summed up as SoHos, or social hotels. While others would prefer the term hybrid hotels, SoHos is a much clearer vision of the segment.

Their footprint now is 23 properties across Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. A new project is underway in nearby Koh Phi Phi.

Interestingly Collective have also just undergone a round raising substantial investment for future expansion so watch this space.

I met with CEO Edmund Lowman early in the week in Bangkok and he shares the story in the video below.

Check out the video below as part of C9 Hotelworks and Delivering Asia Communications Thai Road Trip series

 

Today we take you inside Bangkok’s quarantine hotel experience as part of C9 Hotelwork’s and Delivering Asia Communication’s Thai Road Trip. Learn what really happens from check-in to check-out, as we highlight an entire stay at the Movenpick BDMS Bangkok hotel in the following video –

You might also want to watch STR’s Jesper Palmqvist’s view of Thailand’s hotel performance present and future trends –

And for those who missed the Thailand Tourism Forum 2021, here is a fast and furious highlights reel from the event –

and lastly, some smart talk with Bruno Huber on what’s it like operating a quarantine hotel in a pandemic, lessons learned and how the hotel prospered –

Despite a traditionally, highly slanted leisure resort model, the much-vaunted Aman brand is moving into more urban locations.

Just announced, is a new Aman branded residence and Janu (the new second Aman hospitality brand project) in Tokyo.

Part of a massive urban development project in the central part of the city. A mixed-use tower will have 91 branded residence units and a 120 key hotel.

In Bangkok, at the upcoming Aman Nai Lert Residences, the uptick in off-plan luxury real estate has been strong.

Aman’s move past the beach is certainly seeing the mojo of the brand have an urban attraction.

One of the most successful Thai resorts over the past decade in Thailand has been the Centara Grand Mirage Pattaya.

Its themed approach to getting out of the box and bringing some creativity and concept to a hotel has worked wonders.

Now, Centara has two new Mirage branded properties overseas in the pipeline that will open in 2021.

In Mui Ne Vietnam a 984 key property and in Dubai 607 keys.

It remains a mystery to us why so many resort developers remain stuck in the same bland space, when history proves that the bold can so often succeed and developers need to be just that, and not build what the others do.

My fascination with dinosaurs has been a captivating interest since childhood. Ranging from early indestructible toys and eventually morphing into the late-night watching of the Japanese movie Godzilla. Size mattered in the fight for world domination and big, bigger, biggest was the order of the day. Eventually, my attention drifted and dinosaurs remained cool but they lost their luster and moved way down the pecking order to aliens, zombies, time travelers, and goth pursuits.

Generally speaking, the extinction of the dinosaurs was some 65 or so, million years ago and the trigger was either climate change or maybe a geological event, but at the end of the day, the epic creatures were toast in short order. Gone, but not forgotten, though relegated to Jurassic streaming, theme parks, and Marvelmania.

Today, my mind wanders a zig-zag course about what will happen to the hotel industry after the present madness has subsided? Scale, economics, safety, and disruption are all things that keep me awake in those maddening pre-dawn hours. You know those right? The silent time, when you are alone to fight the madness that lurks just outside, but remain safe at least for the moment, tucked into your designer duvet with a threatening world looming outside. Seconds from disaster.

My current angst, amongst many, is one that is focused on the future of the hotel business. Over the past decade, I have watched the allure of our industry fade as the next-gen enters the workforce. Somehow the service sector has lost its mojo to the best and brightest minds rolling off the assembly belt. Silicon tech, private equity, start-ups, and blockchain typologies are captivating the talent pool, leaving hotels and hospitality out in the cold.

This winter of my discontent is only made worse when I realize this evaporating talent pool can best be summed up when you look at how hotel chains have addressed the advances of technology over the past two decades. Look no further than lame brand standards that have opted for dumbed-down technology solutions such as Fidelio or Opera that assume hotel staff are unable to perform any task beyond data entry. Filling in the blanks and close the ranks. Yes, while the lurking danger of the OTA industry basically backdoored the entire hotel business, the best response was again cookie cutter-led towards a staid revenue management regime which essentially was like showing up an hour after happy hour and getting fleeced for a V & T at full price. A day late and a dollar short.

Hotel chains with their ignominious brand standards have created a culture of clerks at a juncture of time when technology is changing our world day in and day out. So when we look around and wonder why the best minds are shifting to other businesses, we have to look no further to how the dumbing down of hotel tech and how it reflects an industry unable to empower, innovate, or adapt to the influence of trends beyond the safety of our own little box-like world of hotels.

What I wonder about most these days is just how relevant hotel chains will be in trying to recapture their momentum after the pandemic? Resource stressed, severed loyalty from customers, staff, and owners and increasingly non-competitive in the greater business world that requires talent to advance the industry? Suddenly hotels have to create their own new business streams with social media, or get beyond the antique, outdated business plan and tap into the amazing new technology that is changing our world. Only one thing is missing? The people who will drive change, as they seemingly have for the most part left our industry and departed the box for greener pastures. Will they come back, or will this business go the way of the dinosaurs? Only time will tell that story I’m afraid.

Remember when resort holidays were all about welcome drinks, buffets and trying to find an empty sun lounger was nearly impossible?

In the 1990’s Thailand was home to an evolution for hotels, and the tropical pool villa was born. Getting out of the box was amazing and decades later still defines luxury resorts.

We had the chance to sit down with Banyan Tree Resorts and Hotels Founder KP Ho who was pioneer in the sector to learn the story about how pool villas came into resort developments.

Take a few moments and watch our short talk, and  learn the secret of how it all started.

Watch on YouTube

On Saturday 9th January a new order from the Phuket governor that requires a 14-day quarantine for arrivals from Thailand’s ‘red zone’ areas has thrust the island’s hotel and tourism sector into unknown territory.

The impact over the past week, post-New Year on travel to the island has methodically ground down airlift to the point of a staggering level of increased cancellations of flights and hotel bookings. Airlines are groaning under the financial strain of mounting losses.

With the Phuket provincial restrictions now in place until the end of January or to a date as necessary, hotels are facing an absolute cash flow crisis. What is apparent is the national message recommending Thais to stay home equates to a virtual shutdown of domestic tourism.

While the latest string of restrictions now put individual provinces in control of travel limitation and protocols, there is a dire need for the national government to address economic measures to assist employers and employees of hotels.

At this point, a closure order for hotels and tourism businesses would be a welcome move by many given that the national social security system could trigger a 50% subsidy for staff pay similar to what transpired mid-last year. It’s a choice now of either interceding or potentially triggering wide-spread permanent closures and job losses.

Perhaps the most important issue hotels are facing is when can they expect the first domestic business to return and secondly international travelers. It’s unlikely the national government will look to reverse its position on asking Thais to stay at home anytime soon and the only real answer to resolving this is broad penetration of the vaccine, which is unlikely until the mid to later part of the year.

On the international front, as many countries now are actively vaccinating, an urgent protocol needs to be put in place that allows travelers who have been vaccinated and tested to enter Thailand. In fact, this may come sooner than the domestic penetration of the vaccine.

For hotels and tourism establishments, the first half of 2021 looks to be our darkest hour and the industry must continue to actively dialogue within the public and private sector for immediate measures and better information to be distributed on implementation and changes to restrictions.

The first week of the New Year has brought a new sense of high anxiety for Phuket hoteliers.

Despite the island having no reported current Covid-19 cases, the government issued a new set of recommended guidelines yesterday.

For clarity, there is no mandatory quarantine in Phuket for travelers from Bangkok and the airport is operating normally with domestic flights.

That said, the governor has recommended that travelers from ‘red zone’ areas undergo a swab test if there is a suspicion of symptoms and recommends a 14-day optional quarantine.

Post New Year air demand has been reduced considerably back of the proliferation of red-zone issues throughout Thailand and hotel cancellations have been widespread, hence flight reductions are a reaction to this.

While schools on the island have ordered closed from the 7th through the 20th of January, there is no work from home order for businesses at present.

The provincial government is set to launch a digital contact tracing app shortly that will reportedly be implemented on a broad basis. And the expectation is that more protocols will be forthcoming.

Meantime there is no lockdown but for hoteliers, the remainder of January and likely Q1 is expected to be highly volatile.

The vaccine remains a game changer but looks to be Q2 until traction is expected on that front.

Two of the best online resources for tracking Thailand’s Covid-19 tourism issues are:

Dept of Disease Control

Tourism Authority of Thailand Newsroom

The sustainable farm-to-table trend for hotels is now hitting the island mainstream. Given Phuket’s agricultural heritage, the connection to the land is a natural evolution from the days when luxury hotels touted imported products from abroad.

At the InterContinental Resort Phuket, Executive Chef Marco Turatti has partnered with island establishment Toltec Farms in Mai Khao to produce a steady stream of microgreens, edible flowers, and mainstream products like tomatoes. Entrepreneur Pearl Maneechot operates Toltec, which is increasing its supply of local produce to hotels and restaurants.

Some of the key benefits of going local is creating a sustainable footprint with lower fuel and materials consumption for transport, creating jobs for the community, and giving diversity to chefs in hotels. They can now be more creative and bin the same boring hotel menus to offer more choice and special items that elevate the dining experience? Club sandwiches could be headed off the deep end. You can’t tell me Chefs love to cook the same thing day in and day out.

But even more important is lower food cost for hotels and restaurants and that’s the real kicker.

InterContinental works with Toltec and also brings certain cooler-weather items from Chiang Mai. They now source over 50% of produce locally and aim to increase this to over 80%.

Interestingly the nearby cooler areas of Phang Nga are now emerging as likely premium local produce areas for both Phuket and Khao Lak hotels.

Despite the downturn, there are some strong positives of Phuket hotels taking the pandemic as a chance to change their playbooks.

Check out a brief video talk with Marco Turatti and Pearl Maneechot: