Park Hotel Group is an asset management company that owns, develops and manages real estate with a strong focus on hospitality. In this interview, RLI sits down with the Executive Director Shin Hui Tan to speak about the growth of the organisation in the last few years and what its upcoming development goals are.
After acquiring its first hotel, Park Hotel Hong Kong in 2003, the Park Hotel Group has never looked back and today they have almost 30 properties either operating or under development in 11 key destinations across Asia Pacific in locations such as Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Hong Kong, China, Japan and the Maldives.
“Over the years, we have found success in being owner-operators of hospitality assets,” explains Shin Hui Tan, Executive Director of Park Hotel Group. “Our brand portfolio includes the luxury Grand Park, upscale Park Hotel, and midscale Destination, as well as Park Rewards, the dedicated loyalty programme that rewards guests, diners, and corporate bookers.”
Other business interests for the company include the hospitality and services sectors, where they are focused on learning and training institutes, and working on the development, ownership and management of lifestyle brands and assets that span retail, restaurants and bars.
When discussing their portfolio, Shin Hui Tan explains that amid the pandemic, they acquired a 114-room newly-built hotel along the popular Oike-dori Street in Kyoto. It was rebranded to Park Hotel Kyoto and opened its doors back in March last year. Looking forward, she explained that they expect to open a hotel and branded residence in Malaysia in 2023 and that this will be their first flagship site in the country.
“The pandemic has brought about new hospitality investment opportunities that are hard to find in a real estate peak cycle i.e. 2019. With the reopening of borders and a strong return in demand for travel seen in markets that have fully opened, we are seeing more optimism from owners, lenders and operators. Sentiment is improving in key markets and we are actively evaluating opportunities in Thailand, the UK and Australia,” highlights Tan.
As the company continues to look for new sites, the first thing they consider in a new property is location, while the country’s investment laws and legal framework is also a critical consideration along with the respective asset’s location and future potential. Additionally they look for opportunities to value-add to the asset, whether through a renovation, repositioning and sometimes simply a change in operator is needed to increase property yields and performance.
When discussing how their portfolio remains attractive and exciting and why guests remain loyal to the concept and their destinations, Tan highlights that the destinations they choose to be in frequently have their own unique selling points. As examples, she says that Maldives has its picture-perfect sun, sea and beach, Kyoto comes with rich culture and the highest number of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites (17) in the world and Wuxi in China is well-known for being of the major art and cultural centres in China.
“Competition is extremely tough in this industry, and perceived consumer loyalty to a brand is undoubtedly optimistic. A guest can return for many reasons, such as company mandated hotel, loyalty points that come with the stay, a discount and more. However, they can also disappear with just a small hiccup in the stay experience. Therefore, we have found that constant investment in guest listening tools, training the team to focus on continuously working on the feedback, and improving on consistency through training and digitisation, are ways to continue competing in a race that has no finish line.”
During the period when international travel was not possible, Park Hotel Group used the downtime to evaluate the consumer journey on their website, which is usually the first touchpoint for guests considering their hotels, and made searching for information much easier.
Meanwhile storytelling and delivering inspirational content pieces on social media are more important than before as the perception of travelling has evolved and the cookie cutter approach is no longer viable according to Tan. Through purposeful partnerships, they conducted attractive giveaways and content that created excitement among their followers, attracted new fans and improved their engagement rate.
A hot topic across the world right now is that of sustainability, and the pandemic did not deter the brand in this environment. In fact, they saw it as an opportunity to double down on their efforts. They installed a solar power system at their luxury resort Grand Park Kodihipparu, Maldives in April last year. It is estimated to produce more than 478,000 kWh of clean energy per year, the equivalent of planting over 5,500 trees annually.
They also introduced their Room For Trees sustainability programme last year, which plants a tree for every room booking made on their website. This initiative sees mangrove trees planted in Biak Island of Indonesia to restore the ecosystem and support the lives and livelihoods of the villagers there. To date, they have contributed close to 9,500 mangrove trees.
As the interview with Shui Hui Tan draws to a close, we ask her what does she consider to be the key drivers behind the company’s success to date?
“It is important to remain grounded and not to take things for granted.
Ultimately our success is only made possible because of the dedicated team members we have. We have always believed in our privileged responsibility to drive the triple bottom-line of People, Planet and Profit and positively impact the lives of our guests, team members and people in the communities, and the environment while operating a profitable business through the operations.”