HotelsWorld Day One: Driving experience amid change
HotelsWorld Day One: Driving experience amid change
25 JULY 2017 8:27 AM

Alternative accommodations and creativity grabbed the spotlight as the annual HotelsWorld event opened in Sydney.

SYDNEY—Disruption and design were the primary focal points on the first day of the 2017 HotelsWorld conference—and judging by the rapid-fire conversations during the “Alternative Accommodation World” and “Hotels Creative World” portions of the event on Tuesday, there are plenty of changes afoot for Australian hoteliers.

The thread that weaved its way through the event, which was held at the Ashurst law offices, proved to be all about the desire of guests to have unique experiences.

From discussions about serviced apartments and shared accommodations to creative room design tips, “experience” popped up throughout the day.

Kevin Wallace, the Bangkok-based managing director of the Asia/Pacific for Dream Hotel Group, said the hotel industry needs to learn to go with the flow in terms of dealing with disruptions and changes of pace brought on by consumer demands.

It’s a big reason why Dream Hotel Group wants to work with Airbnb rather than against it, he said during the “What alternative accommodation means for hotels and where to from here?” session.

“Airbnb is going into the experience business, and we’re trying to do packages with them in the various places we’re opening up,” Wallace said. “We’re working with people like this because it’s part of building that business.

The experience factor knows no boundaries when it comes to hotels, as it must be considered from the very beginning of a hotel’s life, panelists said.

“It’s a very nebulous concept,” said Peter Israel, principal and managing director for Project Tourism International Architecture, during the “Architecture world: Form follows function?” session. “Tourism is a pleasure business. People are wanting an experience that shocks the matter of their normal life.”

That philosophy has led to a number of experiential trends in room design and hotel amenities.

Dave Baswal, chief operation officer-Australia for Ovolo Hotels, said during the “Creative room design” session that the hotel’s story is an important factor when convincing guests to venture out of their rooms and experience the amenities.

“The idea is to get people to come down,” he said.

Others agreed.

“What you are trying to do is to entice the customer to utilize the (public) space,” added Nikhil Manchharam, managing director Asia for Yotel, during the “Creative” panel discussion.

“People don’t mind having their own private spaces, a small one, but they like sharing spaces,” said Iwan Sunito, co-founder and CEO of Crown Group, during the “Shared space world” session.

Much of the attention hoteliers are paying to guests is at least partially because of the advent of short-term rentals and the sharing economy, panelists said.

Penny Rafferty, executive officer for Luxury Lodges of Australia, said during the “Luxury lodges and B&B world” session that all parties have benefitted from the widening of choices.

“The demand is very much consumer-driven, and the measure of success is managing those expectations,” she said.

The technology revolution has aided the acceptance of more options.

“The reason it’s growing so quickly is because it’s very easy for hosts to plug into the system,” said Tomas Johnsson, COO for Mantra Group, during the “Where to from here” panel.

“Above all, the new platforms have been great on technology and the two-way communication between the hosts and the guests,” added Julian Ledger, CEO of YHA Australia, on the same panel.

Stat of the day
55% of the world’s population is living in cities, said Crown Group’s Sunito during the “Shared space world” session. That has led to more mixed-use development, which Crown Group specializes in. It is now adding hotel development to its portfolio.

Slide of the day

STR’s Matthew Burke presented hotel and Airbnb data for three markets in the Asia/Pacific region. The data was taken from STR’s “Airbnb & Hotel Performance” analysis. (STR is parent company of Hotel News Now.)

Quotes of the day
“We want to be less uniform, less stuffy. We’re a little bit braver the way we deliver our product now. The battlefield is about the consumers’ hearts and minds into the future.”
Mantra’s Johnsson during the “Where to from here” discussion.

“Luxury isn’t about glitz; it’s more about connectedness. Connectivity is the new luxury.”
—Crown Group’s Sunito during “Shared space world” session.

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