Keeping up with the times

Talent mobility is set to be a key business issue in the aftermath of global developments last year. The serviced apartment sector, in particular, will be closely monitoring proceedings in 2017. Choe Peng Sum, CEO of Frasers Hospitality, shares his thoughts on how the year could pan out.

What were the highs and lows of the serviced apartment sector in 2016?

Globally, we have witnessed an increase in tourism through the rise of the millennial traveller, and this had a significant impact on the serviced apartment sector in 2016.

Moreover, there is no denying that as a rapidly growing sector, the sharing economy took centre-stage in 2016, with its tremendous growth projections. It caused companies to rethink their entire distribution strategies and hotels are now looking to merge with distribution channels to improve their online distribution.

The entire consumer landscape of instant gratification and technology advancements, as reflected in the growth of brands like Uber and Airbnb, has kept us on our toes. It has pushed us to enhance our guests’ experience, be more efficient in responding to guests’ feedback, and is a good reminder that our customers are at the centre of everything we do.

The serviced apartment sector was also affected by short-term market jitters and uncertainty in 2016, following the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s victory in the US Presidential Election.

What are some hot trends in 2017?

Hospitality players have been leveraging technological innovations to meet the evolving needs of travellers in the digital age, and we expect further integration of technology into the customer travel experience in 2017. We believe that digital transformation on the operations front involves both front-end and back-end developments in order to create a seamless online-to-offline experience for our guests.

Recently, we’ve also observed an increased demand for sustainable accommodation options in the serviced apartment sector.

Do these trends vary globally and regionally? If so, how should the serviced apartment sector cater to them?

Digitalisation is a global trend that cuts across all regions in the serviced apartment sector. To create a seamless online-to-offline experience for our all our guests, we have upgraded front-end and back-end operations across all our properties. We also leverage digital platforms such as TrustYou, Tripadvisor and social media channels to monitor and respond to customer feedback efficiently and effectively.

Ultimately, digitalisation is a good reminder that customers are at the centre of everything we do, and we will continue to explore opportunities to enhance our product offerings and stay ahead of the curve.

We recognise that there may be regional variations in demand for environmentally sustainable offerings and designer collaborations, which is why we have launched various pilots before expanding these options to other regions. Our business decisions are also guided by in-depth market research to assess the viability of our product offerings before their implementation.

Has the push towards protectionist policies in some countries affected the serviced apartment sector in this region?

Global events such as Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US Presidential Election have created uncertainty in the macroeconomic climate. It is still too early to gauge the impact of these events on talent mobility at this point in time, and there is a lack of clarity with regards to corporations’ ability to move talent globally to address the shifts in business dynamics.

However, we remain optimistic about the resilience and growth prospects of the serviced apartment sector in the long run, and our confidence is bolstered by steady occupancies of over 80% on average in Europe.

Ultimately, we always ensure that we enter a market with a long term view, and this has helped to mitigate the impact of near-term market jitters and uncertainty on our expansion strategy.

What should the serviced apartment sector be most wary of in 2017?

In a nut shell, we believe the increasing trends will certainly shape the serviced apartments industry in the year ahead. Undeniably, it is also essential to note that the influence of social media will have a large impact and is a powerful marketing tool in this digital age.

What will employees on international assignments be looking for from their accommodation providers in 2017?

Employees on assignment continue to demand for serviced residences that are centrally located to minimise the amount of time spent commuting to work, and the central location of our existing properties, as well as those in the pipeline, remain a great advantage to business executives.

We also understand that there is a greater emphasis on lifestyle and wellness, be it on work or leisure.

In addition, we have also observed that environmental sustainability is a key concern among business travellers today.

What are some new and specific offerings rolled out by Frasers in 2017 for employees on assignments?

At Frasers Hospitality, we believe in constantly anticipating and exceeding our guests’ evolving expectations through constant innovation.

The recent extension of our service offerings to add the Malmaison and Hotel du Vin lifestyle boutique hotels to our portfolio, widens our offerings to meet the needs of today’s affluent travellers, who seek memorable experiences in their choice of accommodation.

Most recently, Frasers Hospitality has also partnered with Mercedes-Benz to launch an exclusive collaboration; Mercedes-Benz Living @ Fraser apartments.

In this completely new accommodation concept, the urban-inspired and unique terrace suites at Mercedes-Benz Living @ Fraser at Capri by Fraser, Changi City / Singapore features key distinctive design elements of the Mercedes-Benz S class. This includes an acoustical experience of the Burmester Sound System and the ‘Black Magic Wall’, which features an integrated smart TV in each of the suites. A custom-designed chandelier made of Swarovski crystals (also found in the actual headlights of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class coupe) is also highlighted in the room.

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