PHIST 2019: Protecting Phuket and the Planet

COMPANY NEWS

PHIST 2019: Protecting Phuket and the Planet

Last Updated
10 April 2020
Share

Phuket has been drowning in discarded single-use plastics for years, but the tides may be turning. 

Yesterday, the second-annual Phuket Hotels for Islands Sustaining Tourism Forum (PHIST) convened at Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa. The event was attended by hoteliers representing the islands top hotel chains—coming together to discuss strategies that more promote more sustainable island tourism.

Topics covered certainly included the usual suspects—replacing plastic straws with paper and using glass water bottles on their properties among them. There was also a great deal of spirited discussion.

During a panel on plastic waste entitled ‘Let’s Talk Trash’, QUO CEO David Keen was joined by his daughter Ani Keen, a featured NextGen speaker, along with Guy Heywood, COO of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas.

In their discussion, Guy noted the trickle-up effect of the sustainability efforts of smaller resort chains, mentioning the game-changing news that IHG plans to eliminate single-use plastic amenity bottles from all of their hotel rooms. Once rolled out, he noted that as many as 300 million bottles will be saved from landfills by this one decision.

David is doubly focused on this issue because of its connection to local culture. In his mind, culture is so strongly tied to the environment that it’s impossible to look at climate change issues without seeing their impact on local heritage. Protecting the environment is paramount to preserving culture, the basis of tourism in many destinations.

PHIST (Phuket Hotels for Islands Sustaining Tourism) forum is one of Asia’s largest sustainability conferences with over 1,000 people attending the daylong event at Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort & Spa. Organised by Phuket Hotels Association (PHA), the event also covered green design, marketing sustainability and more, providing a chance for members of Gen Z – like Ani – to address today’s hospitality leaders and discuss issues with long-lasting impact. This year’s forum stepped up to start important conversations in the hospitality and tourism field – and left industry leaders with a lot to think about.

As the event’s promo video said, “Phuket’s brand is the beach. We need to take care of it.”

Interested in what else Phuket’s hotels are doing to go green? The PHA collected reports from 74 member hotels on their green initiatives to create the Great Big Green Hotel Guide. Full of environmental best practices and case studies, the GBGHG showcases the way to sustainability. The guide was put together with the help of QUO and launched at yesterday’s forum. 

Catch a glimpse of the Great Big Green Hotel Guide to see how Southeast Asia’s eco-conscious hotels are tackling hospitality’s biggest environmental issues.

 

Phu Quoc: Vietnam’s Newest Travel Destination Takes Off

COMPANY NEWS

Phu Quoc: Vietnam’s Newest Travel Destination Takes Off

Last Updated
22 October 2019
Share

Lying 62 miles off Vietnam’s southern coast and known for pristine beaches and verdant forests is the island of Phu Quoc.

Now seeing a major increase in attention from both tourists and hospitality investors alike, this increasingly attractive destination, however, still faces obstacles as it looks to develop.

See and download our full report here:

Phu Quoc Sees Rapid Tourism Growth

Talked about as an up-and-coming tourist destination for the past decade, very little development had actually materialised until the last couple of years. After significant government investment in local infrastructure, including a new airport, and a strong promotion campaign, tourist numbers have since exploded, and with them, serious private investment in resort facilities has followed.

“Over the past 24 months, a safari, theme park, hospital and golf course opened and an international standard casino is under planning”, explains Peter Ryder, CEO of Indochina Capital, a leading Vietnam-based real estate developer and advisor. He adds that, “During the early stages of a resort destination’s development, infrastructure growth is critical and the Phu Quoc authorities are demonstrating an ability to progress rapidly.” He explains that these early achievements from the government have instilled confidence in developers and international hotel brands — such as JW Marriot, InterContinental, AccorHotels, Sheraton and Ritz Carlton — to move forward with new projects.

While attracting only 25,000 visitors back in the year 2000, the number of tourists coming to Phu Quoc jumped to over 1.5 million in 2015, with local Vietnamese visitors doubling between 2014 and 2015 to reach 1.35 million. 2016 is expected to be another impressive year for Phu Quoc as Kien Giang Province, where Phu Quoc is located, is the major focus of the Vietnamese government’s Visit Vietnam Year 2016 tourism promotion campaign. By 2020, the government hopes on attracting three million visitors per year.

Attracting Foreign Interest

Despite this, foreign tourists currently constitute only a relatively small percentage of overall tourist numbers, with just 164,000 foreign tourists visiting Phu Quoc last year out of a total of 1.5 million. Tourists from Russia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are those currently showing the most interest in travelling to Phu Quoc — although the destination is increasingly welcoming tourists from Europe.

Ryder informs us that the government plans to increase the percentage of international travelers to 40% of total arrivals by 2020, explaining that, “Along with the rapid infrastructure development and expected completion of 5-star resorts, I expect the biggest change will be the increase of foreign travelers, specifically from within Asia as access improves regionally”.

Flights from foreign countries directly to Phu Quoc Airport have been on the increase lately. Swedish airline TUI Nordic says it expects to run weekly flights to Phu Quoc by the end of 2016 and China Southern Airlines started direct flights to Phu Quoc from Guangzhou in January this year. Direct flights by Vietnam Airlines are run from both Singapore and Cambodia.

Recent visa liberalisation for many nationalities has further encouraged arrivals to Vietnam by foreign tourists. In addition to this, as Phu Quoc is considered a special economic zone, the government has allowed visa-free travel to Phu Quoc for up to 30 days for all nationalities.  

Image credit: PhuQuocIslandGuide.com

Economic Growth Boosting Vietnamese Travel

The rise in the number of domestic Vietnamese tourists heading to Phu Quoc can be seen in the context of strong and continued economic growth that has been lifting many Vietnamese into the middle classes and providing them with a greater disposable income to spend on leisure activities such as travel. This aspirational middle class are seeing travel as an important part of their new lifestyle.

While domestic travel is increasing in Vietnam, it is international travel by Vietnamese nationals to neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia — as well as further afield to destinations such as Japan, South Korea, the US and Europe — that is growing at a much more rapid rate. As incomes in Vietnam grow, the first industry to benefit is the local tourism sector, followed along by those in neighbouring countries and then, finally, those further afield. Six million Vietnamese traveled abroad last year, spending roughly US$6 billion. That’s almost double the US$3.5 billion that was spent abroad back in 2012.

Challenges to the Travel Industry

The domestic Vietnamese tourist industry, on the other hand, faces several challenges, including the need to improve service quality, create greater variety in travel activities and ensure improved value for money. Places like Japan and South Korea, meanwhile, have drastically relaxed their visa procedures for Vietnamese nationals, and tours to Japan that used to cost around VND40 million back in 2013, now cost between VND20 million (US$891) and VND30 million (US$1,347). Nearly 120,000 Vietnamese tourists visited Japan in 2014, an almost 50% year-on-year increase.

Phu Quoc also faces its own specific challenges. Labour is foremost amongst them. The recent rapid growth means that the local labour supply with adequate skills and experience in travel and tourism is incredibly limited, and hotel and travel operators need to pay a premium to attract skilled personnel to move to Phu Quoc to fill positions. In addition, finding local accommodation for hotel workers is becoming a struggle.

While infrastructure on Phu Quoc has greatly improved of late, especially with the new airport and roads, further development is still needed in terms of electricity as well as sewage and water treatment. Yet, Ryder remains confident, “Currently, the infrastructure and logistics are insufficient; however, within the next two to three years, with the key infrastructure initiatives either under construction or being planned, the island will be well suited to provide a high level of service to guests.” He adds that, “In terms of areas for improvement, the airport needs to be expanded to handle more international flights” however, “The government recognises this need and has plans to commence construction of a new terminal in 2016.”

Managing Future Growth in Phu Quoc

A final major challenge for Phu Quoc as a destination is one that has been faced by a number of other tourist destinations in the past — how will it manage its image as it grows and changes?

Earlier tourists came to Phu Quoc mainly due to it being perceived as a new and “off the beaten track” destination — attracted by its natural beauty and lack of development. As Phu Quoc grows, however, these existing tourists could be put off by the continuing development and may venture on to newer, untouched destinations.

Contrasting this, Nguyễn Vĩnh Trân, CEO of MIK Group, a leading Vietnamese real estate advisory with a number of hotel projects in Phu Quoc, including the soon-to-open Movenpick and Crowne Plaza resorts, explains that, “The Vietnamese government has, in fact, been rather proactive in terms of ensuring the preservation of the forest on Phu Quoc, as well as restraining over-development and being strict on wastewater treatment”. He adds that many developers have also learned from their experiences in other locations and are now much more aware of the importance of preserving the natural beauty of the island.

With Phu Quoc currently transitioning into a more mass-market destination, it is important the authorities and private sector take the time right now, before development continues too far, to carefully consider what image Phu Quoc wishes to present to the world and how it can differentiate itself from other mass-market destinations.

Investments in infrastructure are not the only investments that are needed. The local and national tourism authorities, along with the major resort developers and operators, should carefully consider Phu Quoc’s assets and unique selling points, determine which types of tourists are likely to be most interested in visiting Phu Quoc and understand what they are looking for in resort destinations. Having a clear understanding of this will ensure that the development strategy for Phu Quoc continues along a path that will lead to the greatest success.

QUO wishes to express its thanks to Olivier Do Ngoc, Managing Partner, Dynasty Investments, Peter R. Ryder, CEO, Indochina Capital Corporation, Nguyễn Vĩnh Trân, CEO of MIK Group and Marriott International for invaluable support and insights on the development of Phu Quoc.

Video: The Democratisation of Luxury

CLEVER STUFF

Video: The Democratisation of Luxury

Last Updated
10 April 2020
Share

Can you put a price on luxury? Is luxury relative? And is the notion of what constitutes luxury currently being transformed?

These questions formed part of a thought-provoking panel discussion at the Hotel Investment Conference South Asia (HICSA) 2018, which took place at the Grand Hyatt Mumbai on 4 – 5 April.

QUO CEO David Keen moderated the discussion on the ‘Democratisation of Luxury’ with panelists Dr Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director of Bird Group; Rajiv Kaul, President of The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts; Shafi Syed, Senior Vice President of Development at Caesars Entertainment; and Sonica Malhotra, Joint Managing Director of MBD Steigenberger Hotels and Resorts.

The panellists had different ideas about what luxury is and whether luxury has a dollar value, specifically in the context of a rapidly growing Indian hospitality market, but also internationally.

See what they had to say by watching the full panel discussion from HICSA below:

Social Media Presence: If You Build It, They Will Come

OUR CREATIONS

Social Media Presence: If You Build It, They Will Come

Last Updated
10 April 2020
Share

Wink Hotels’ first property hasn’t opened its doors yet, but the brand’s influence is already rippling across Vietnam. 

With QUO’s help, they’re exploring new and intriguing ways to engage with the Indochine 2.0 generation. Together, we’ve demonstrated that you can amass a social-media following before you’ve even finished building your hotel. In short: If you build it, they will come. 

It all started when Vanguard Hotels approached QUO to help create a hotel brand that would pro-actively re-define hospitality in the Indochina region. With a revolutionist mindset, we set about creating a brand that would build bridges between old traditions and modern trends by identifying the unique character of Vietnam and how it is transforming.

Read the brand background: Giving a Wink to Vietnam

Once the brand was built, we were ready to take it further. To accomplish this, we turned to social media to help Wink build a presence that reflects their Indochine 2.0 philosophy. This was not going to be your typical hotel Facebook page. Instead, we planned to turn Wink into an online persona and trendsetter.

Building a Presence on Social Media

The social media presence we helped Wink build foregoes repetitive slogans and artificial renders of hotel bedrooms in favour of engaging with an audience in sync with the Wink Hotels’ mantra – see Indochina with fresh eyes.

QUO developed a social-media strategy and platform-spanning content plan to help Wink promulgate its message. The brand speaks to its target audience through Facebook and Instagram posts about music, art, fashion, style, trends and a little light-hearted philosophy. These also direct readers to the Wink emag, home to longer-form blog posts covering everything from hangover remedies to upcoming art exhibitions.

Status QUO: More ‘Social’, Less ‘Media’

From fashion to food, QUO has helped Wink create a curate a dynamic social-media presence. The brand is already emerging as a go-to source for what’s hot in Vietnam – all experienced through the lens of Indochine 2.0. As that presence grew, Wink prepared to deepen its relationship with its target audience.

Next order of business: a photography contest to engage the local audience and collect some good, old-fashioned user-generated content.

Indochine 2.0 Photography Contest

In a calculated multi-level strategy, QUO helped Wink arrange a photography competition on their platform. We reached out to Wink’s vast audience of followers, asking what Indochine 2.0 means to them. The caveat: the answer had to be presented in photographic form along with the hashtag #winkphotocomp2018.

The enthusiastic response reaffirmed for all that Indochine 2.0 is defining of a cultural phenomenon that resonates in Vietnam. Wink received nearly 300 photo entries from people across the region, with both professionals and amateurs joining in and sharing their photos. Wink’s following almost doubled in the process.

The competition brought fresh eyes to Wink’s social media platforms, but it also gifted the brand with an archive of stunning photos that communicate the Indochine 2.0 aesthetic. What’s more, winners may have future opportunities with Wink, and at the very least gain great exposure in both digital and traditional forms.

QUO, Vanguard Hotels and Justin Mott from Mott Visuals pored over the entries to select a winner. In the end, a young freelance photographer named Hồ Nguyễn took first prize. Her work was exhibited alongside several runners-up at Through the Eyes of Wink, an exhibition hosted at Toong co-working space in Saigon. It gained such a great response, Toong subsequently offered to feature the photos in another one of their spaces to keep up the positive momentum. Following the first exhibition, Vietcetera produced a piece interviewing four photographers from the competition and showcased their work. You can watch Vietcetera’s video below.

Turning Virtual Followers into Real-World Guests

Wink is bringing something new to the region, and we are proud to be a part of the revolution. Soon the brand’s virtual followers will be seen striding into Wink’s lobbies and sinking into comfy sofas against sleek glass walls. Digital check-in. Stellar local art. Strong coffee culture. What began online will be fully realised in vibrant, physical spaces hosted by the hotel. Don’t forget to like and follow Wink on all their platforms (linked above)!

Editor’s note: The featured image at the top of this article was taken by Instagram user @dongqtrung, a finalist in the Wink Hotels photography contest. 

Follow QUO
on Instagram

Opinion: We need to take the ‘hotels’ out of hospitality

CLEVER STUFF

Opinion: We need to take the ‘hotels’ out of hospitality

Last Updated
10 April 2020
Share

The most successful brands today don’t play by the rules – they have the “guts” to change.

That was one of the key messages from our CEO David Keen in his THINC INNOVATE talk at The Anantara Siam, Bangkok – four years after he bemoaned hospitality’s lack of innovation at HICAP in 2014.

While we’ve seen more innovation in hospitality in the last four years than in the preceding 25, he said, today there are still very few examples of really visionary brands. Breakthroughs in vision, thinking and tech have augmented the way we buy things, watch things and even socialise, but the lion’s share of hotels were reluctant to get out of their comfort zones. A hotel stay in 2018 is fundamentally the same as it was 25 years ago.

Watch the speech here:

He drew parallels to the British Royal family, who last weekend signalled a readiness to embrace change, to move into the future. If even the lauded House of Windsor can change, Keen asked, what does that mean for the hospitality industry? “Has hospitality had its ‘Meghan’ moment, or are we still waiting?”

‘Lifestyle’ had held some promise. It had driven evolution in the hospitality sector, delegates heard, and as a result there are now hundreds of boutique brands offering ‘moments’, ‘experiences’ and ‘authenticity’. The lifestyle space is overcrowded with ‘cool’, design-savvy brands seeking to lure millennial travellers with ‘unique’ concepts. But they’re all starting to sound the same.

Meanwhile, Keen remarked, players outside the hospitality sector have gained ground. By blurring the lines between industries and economies, they’ve changed the way we think about and utilise space. The tech revolution has enabled the success of disruptors such as AirBnB, Amazon, Apple and Netflix, and created demand for collaborative workspaces. Visionaries like these are now hotels’ biggest threat.

“Tomorrow’s leaders will be those who look beyond (far beyond) the four walls of hotels to any kind of space,” Keen said. “It’s up to them to consider space for its economic value and reconstruct the perception of the four walls of their hotel.” He cited different opportunities both inside and outside of hotels where space can be utilised in a more economic way.

Keen added that some major players had already started on this journey, pointing to AccorHotels and Marriott. But there was still a long way to go. “How can hotels embrace change?” he asked.

  • Change your attitude
  • Drive your vision
  • Reimagine your organisation
  • Tech yourself up

To this final point, he suggested that hotels needed to stop focussing on the minutiae and, like the disruptors of the world, embrace technology as the backbone of everything they do. “It’s not about a website, it’s about creating an entire digital ecosystem to project your brand,” he said. “Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of the box!”

It’s time, he concluded, for hotels to start stretching their horizons, and thinking not just about the needs of customers today or tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow.

David Keen’s THINC Talk: The State of the ‘Brand Revolution’ took place at THINC INNOVATE, held at Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel. Contact bek.vanvliet@quo-global.com for a full transcript and video of the talk.

Nation Branding in Maldives and Sri Lanka

CLEVER STUFF

Nation Branding in Maldives and Sri Lanka

Last Updated
10 April 2020
Share

The hospitality sector is defining external perceptions of South Asian countries in the absence of adequate government funding for proper nation branding, according to David Keen.

Speaking in an interview with Sri Lanka’s The Sunday Times, the Bangkok-based branding expert praised private companies in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, in particular, for taking up the slack when it comes to building positive perceptions of their respective countries abroad.

“What is happening in many countries – South Asia and in particular, Sri Lanka and the Maldives – is that there aren’t enough budgets or state financial support in the definition of the nation brand,” he said.

“It has been left to the private sector to do that job and I think particularly in the Maldives the private sector has done a wonderful job.”

That Keen singled out Maldives is not surprising. The nation’s very identity is defined by hospitality and its position as one of the world’s most sought-after and exclusive tourism destinations. It is in this context that hospitality brands have played a significant role in defining how the nation is perceived, often succeeding where government agencies have failed.

QUO CEO David Keen.

“Maldives is an incredible canvas for brands, because under the one island, one resort concept, each island is a fresh canvas. And each island is set apart from the island next door… It’s that distinction – the cumulative impact that all these elements have on each other – that forms that brand,” said Keen.

The situation in neighbouring Sri Lanka is not so different. As Sri Lanka Tourism struggles to get a long-awaited marketing campaign off the ground, innovators within the private sector have picked up the slack with a willingness to express the nation’s personality through innovative brands.

“Nation branding has to be defined by the people, by the infrastructure, by the technology,” said Keen. “It’s the people of the nation that defines its beauty, the culture, and the warmth … that’s the way a destination is defined.”

You can read the full The Sunday Times interview with David Keen here. For more on nation branding, check out this Guardian article from 2017.

QUO CEO to Hospitality Leaders: “Overthrow your org chart”

OUR CREATIONS

QUO CEO to Hospitality Leaders: “Overthrow your org chart”

Last Updated
10 April 2020
Share

In the third article of a four-part series on innovation for Hotels Magazine, CEO David Keen expands upon what GMs need to do to be industry pioneers.

Even if we take the hotel out of hospitality, it remains a people-centred industry. Enlightened leaders share the vision that people drive this business. Even so, there’s a massive difference between being greeted by a baseball-capped, denim-shirted egalitarian millennial and being ushered in by an attendant wearing a three-piece suit and lapel pin.

Read the full article at HOTELS Magazine.

CEO David Keen Talks ‘Brand Sri Lanka’

OUR CREATIONS

CEO David Keen Talks ‘Brand Sri Lanka’

Last Updated
10 April 2020
Share

QUO has been involved in the branding of quite a few ‘household names’ in Sri Lankan hospitality, including Jetwing, Sun Aqua and Galle Face Hotel and CEO David Keen frequently visits the country for business.

On his latest trip, the Daily Financial Times Sri Lanka caught up with him for insights on destination marketing in Sri Lanka, the challenges faced by local operators and areas that need improvement.

Read the full article and David’s recommendations for ‘Brand Sri Lanka’ here.

Recap of Thailand Tourism Forum 2019

QUICK READS

Recap of Thailand Tourism Forum 2019

Last Updated
10 April 2020
Share

Bangkok’s 8th Annual Thailand Tourism Forum on Monday drew its largest crowd yet, with tickets selling out well in advance and the conference room at InterContinental holding an engaged, standing room-only crowd.

They gathered to hear provocative new ideas from thought leaders like Bill Barnett, of C9 Hotelworks; Supaluck Umpujh, of The Mall Group; and our own CEO, David Keen.

The mood was kept light through nine short Q&A presentations – one presenter who was celebrating a birthday even got a pie to the face. We see you, Eric Levy.

The topics covered were wide and vast. From the effects of new rail lines, to catering to new demographics of tourists, to innovations in room keys and more.

QUO CEO David Keen posed hard-hitting questions to Diethelm Travel CEO Stephan Roemer. The focus of their lively chat was the successes and shortcomings of tourism in the country. They explored whether success can be measured by the sheer volume of arriving tourists alone, how to repair an overwhelmed infrastructure in Bangkok, and how travel industry insiders can help enhance the reputation of Thailand.

Among the most interesting exchanges was a discussion about green tourism and the costs and challenges of developing the sector. Eric Ricaurte, CEO of Greenview, sat down with Central Group’s Sustainable Development GM Prae Piromya. They talked over projects that extend green tourism initiatives into the more far-flung provinces, such as a farmer’s market aimed at tourists in Udon Thani, and programs to teach visitors Thai weaving techniques in rural areas.

When all was said and done, the large group adjourned for a spirited networking session where the bubbly, craft beer, and conversation flowed well into the evening.

We’re looking forward to see how these industry players make good on their ideas this time next year. You can bet we’ll be in the audience.

A ‘Phist’ Bump for Island Sustainability

COMPANY NEWS

A ‘Phist’ Bump for Island Sustainability

Last Updated
10 April 2020
Share

The Phuket Hotels Association (PHA) is hosting a brand-new international forum this September.

Entitled ‘Phuket Hotels for Islands Sustaining Tourism’ – or PHIST, for short – the forum is planned in support of the region’s hospitality industry as it grapples with sustainability issues in the quest to secure its future.

The PHIST Forum 2018 will be hosted at JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa on Monday, 24 September. The event is organised jointly by C9 Hotelworks and Greenview – two respected consultants in regional hospitality. The duo plans to bring together key stakeholders in South East Asia’s tourism and hospitality industry to explore solutions to mounting environmental concerns.

The information presented at PHIST forum will hold particular relevance for island hotspots such as Phuket, Koh Samui, Boracay, Bali and Phu Quoc. All sessions are free to attend, with upwards of 500 delegates expected.

Among the speakers at PHIST’s inaugural forum will be Six Senses’ Neil Jacobs, interviewed by QUO CEO David Keen in a talk entitled ‘Building a Green Monster – Hotel101’. The two seasoned experts will discuss the challenges hotel brands face as they struggle to embody the change they hope to see in the environments where they operate.

Several other talks and keynote addresses are also on the agenda. Visit the Phuket Hotels Association website to read more or to register for PHIST online.

logo

PODCASTING
THE FUTURE
OF TRAVEL

Candid conversations with leaders
in hospitality and tourism

LISTEN NOW