Traveling in Asia last month just prior to the arrival of Chinese New Year, I was again reminded just how dynamic the hospitality industry is in Asia. From the number of hotel brands opening new properties in Kuala Lumpur to the transformation of Singapore as a result of integrated resorts to Hong Kong, new restaurant concepts seem to open daily, and hospitality executives are continually reinventing and reenergizing to stay ahead of the curve. Much of this energy, of course, is driven by major property companies that all seem to have hotel subsidiaries.
Flexibility is the key to the success. Market forces change, but the industry in Asia is adaptable. For example, China is experiencing a rapid slowdown in government entertaining, which has been drastically curtailed by the new government. Concurrently, visitor numbers are down, and hoteliers are realizing that while China remains a massive market, a business mix is essential.
Looking ahead, the South China Morning Post reported in January that Hong Kong could receive 70 million tourists annually within three years and 100 million within a decade, mostly from the mainland. Tourism experts in the region said more hotels should be encouraged, especially in rural areas.
I am not seeing much in jaw-dropping new sales and marketing concepts. The focus seems to be on tried and tested methods. Advertising is a combination of digital and print (yes, they still believe in the power of print in Asia) and, in some cases, regional and European television. Manpower is perhaps the biggest issue — finding qualified staff, training, retention and consistencies of delivery are of utmost necessity.
However, I am energized by the region and its movement toward development or expansion, renovation and restoration, and the motivation to experiment and try new concepts. The professionalism and willingness to serve are apparent, whether it is the doorman at a major hotel in Manila or a check-in agent at the airport. Tourism and hospitality has its act together in this region, and anticipating guests’ needs seems to be second nature. We should all study best practices from Asia. Welcome to the year of the Horse.