Dedicated to providing exceptional service in unique and sophisticated environments, Centara Hotels & Resorts is a Thai hospitality management and holding company that places a strong emphasis on providing its inimitably warm and gracious service style across all its brands. Here, RLI speaks with Markland Blaiklock, Deputy CEO of Centara Hotels & Resorts about the brand and what the future has in store.
Some 37 years ago back in 1983, the Central Group of companies – Thailand’s leading retail group – formed Centara Hotels & Resorts and opened its first property, a five-star hotel together with the Bangkok Convention Centre, located in the expanding northern suburbs of Bangkok.
In 2009, Centara opened its first overseas hotel, the five-star Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives which has proven to be a huge success in the years since. The portfolio includes six brands, Centara Reserve, Centara Grand, Centara, Centara Boutique Collection, Centra by Centara and COSI. Centara Hotels & Resorts currently has 75 properties in operation or in development spanning all major destinations in Thailand and 13 other countries, including the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, China, Japan, Oman, Qatar, Cambodia, Turkey, Indonesia and the UAE.
“2019 was a milestone year for the major progress made toward establishing the Centara brand as a truly international hospitality brand,” explains Markland Blaiklock, Deputy CEO of Centrara Hotels & Resorts. “We secured new agreements and partners with leading companies in Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Qatar and Japan, representing a historic expansion for Centara.” This year is shaping up to be another exceptional year for the brand, with eight new properties set to open, with new countries being added to the company’s world map. This will increase its room and suite count by also 2,000 and is in line with its strategic growth plan to make Centara a top 100 global hotel operator within the next five years.
The brand is focusing on adding several key destinations to its current portfolio over the next few years, with further sites in Laos, China, Cambodia and Japan along with locations in the Middle East and Europe. “We look for new properties located in attractive destinations that show long-term growth potential; with laws and regulations that welcome our investments and properties that are aligned with our target customers and can grow along with the family of Centara brands.” Each property within the portfolio has its own signature and unique set of strengths, and they keep developing new ideas, products and themes to ensure they remain able to give its guests the desired on-site experience. They design their hotels to be destinations in their own right, with distinctive facilities and activities guests find engaging. They also put extra care into making sure that their food offerings are delicious and venues are innovative and impressive.
“Our resorts and hotels embody the very best of Thai hospitality, including gracious service, exceptional food, pampering spas and the importance of families. We also continue to run our global loyalty programme, Centara The1 which reinforces our guests’ loyalties with rewards, privileges and special member pricing. When combined, our customers feel at home and build an attachment to the brand, enticing them back,” says Blaiklock. Key drivers behind the success of the brand to date include staying true to its values as a family business, having an effective growth strategy which includes incorporating new investments, acquisitions and management agreements both in Thailand and overseas.
The digital team of the business continues to grow in size, staying ahead of digital trends and tech innovations to ensure they are constantly improving the online user experience. Beyond developing its website, its digital strategy focuses on increasing its presence on social media platforms as well as mobile apps, playing special attention to its relationship management systems and loyalty programmes. As they continue to expand its global footprint, the company are planning to support this with international brand awareness using mass media, new media, event and relationship marketing.
They deliver and celebrate the hospitality and values Thailand is famous for including gracious service, exceptional food, pampering spas and the importance of families. Its distinctive culture and company ethos allow them to serve travellers of every age and lifestyle. As the interview nears its end, we ask what the greatest challenge is moving forward? “The greatest challenge in our midst is the COVID-19 outbreak. It is a situation that is still unfolding on a global scale, and it is difficult to know what the full impact is going to be,” explains Blaiklock. “Once any restrictions are lifted, we look forward to welcoming back our guests. In the meantime though, the safety of our guests and employees remains our first priority, and we have further strengthened our protocols to ensure they receive the best possible protection at every Centara property.”