SMALL LUXURY HOTELS of the World (SLH) sees growth potential for its luxury hotel brands in Southeast Asia, according to its chief executive Filip Boyen.
“Southeast Asia is an emerging region for luxury boutique hotel operators as governments are starting to recognise the economic potential of the tourism industry and more destinations are getting developed for tourism,” says Boyen in an exclusive interview with The Nation.
“As a result, we see more luxury boutique hotels opening in the Southeast Asia region including 7 Secrets Resort and Wellness Retreat Lombok, Akyra Sukhumvit Bangkok (June 2018) and Cape Fahn Koh Samui (August 2018). At SLH, we are actively looking for suitable hotels to join the brand in this region, with some of the top Southeast Asia cities requested by our guests being Hanoi, Langkawi, Yangon, Manila and Ho Chi Minh,” he said.
Boyen said that SLH was started in London in 1991 to provide a distribution platform with sales and marketing solutions that enable independent hoteliers to compete in a global market against branded hotels. Over the past 27 years, SLH has grown from a collection of 70 hotels in 11 countries to over 500 hotels in more than 80 countries around the world, including hotels with cutting-edge design and city-centre sanctuaries, along with historic country mansions and remote private islands.
Thailand, with 21 SLH hotels, has the largest cluster of the 43 hotels in Southeast Asia.
“We are growing quickly in the Southeast Asia region,” Boyen said, pointing to recent additions including 7 Secrets Resort and Wellness Retreat in Lombok, the Seminyak Beach Resort & Spa in Bali and Mangala Resort & Spa in Kuantan. The company will also soon welcome its latest properties: city centre hotel Akyra Sukhumvit Bangkok this month and private island resort Cape Fahn (Ko Samui) in August.
Boyen said that SLH treats its hotel members like family and is happy to grow together with them. In Thailand, SLH have three such hotel groups:
1 137 Pillars Hotels: SLH started with their first hotel in Chiang Mai in 2013 and added their second hotel in Bangkok in April last year, with more to come.
2 Akaryn Hotel Group: SLH has six of their hotels under the portfolio, including the soon-to-open Akyra Sukhumvit Bangkok.
3 Cape and Kantary Hotels: SLH started with Cape Nidhra and added Cape Kudu last year, and in August will welcome their third hotel, Cape Fahn.
“Our strong characteristics are independently-spirited; intuitive personalised service; and attention to detail. With every one of our hotels being independently owned, the very nature of an SLH hotel – small in size, luxury and boutique – means that every single hotel can provide a bespoke hotel experience for each of its guests,” he said.
“Luxury today means offering a personalised experience, and guests come to us knowing that we have the perfect hotel to fit their individual requirements. Asean travellers are becoming savvier and more discerning in their hotel choices too,” said Boyen.
“There is a general fatigue with global consolidation, mass production and uniformity, which means that consumers now seek authenticity, community and more emotional connections across all areas of their life, particularly with their travels.
“Southeast Asia’s growing middle class has been experiencing stable income growth as their economies are going through development as emerging urban hubs,” said Boyen. “With more disposable income, they are demanding more personalised experiences when they travel, and are increasingly choosing luxury boutique accommodations over branded conventional alternatives. More luxury brands have also started to court affluent consumers from Southeast Asia (in particular Thailand and Indonesia) as growth slows down in developed markets such as Hong Kong and China.
“Today, technology can help you facilitate guest experiences and problem-solving all the way from pre-stay to post-stay, which is essential for maintaining good relationships with your guests and delivering on the intimate, high-service ethos that boutique hotels are known for.”
SLH now has 528 hotels under its portfolio, with 43 in Southeast Asia. “We’ll be continuing our expansion in Southeast Asia and throughout Asia Pacific. We hope to grow to 600 hotels by 2020,” said Boyen.