Hotel group Evergreen aims to tap tourist surge

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A perspective of Ari Hills, one of the mixed-use projects being developed by Evergreen Place Group. The project is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2018, and will consist of office spaces, retail shops, and a hotel.

A perspective of Ari Hills, one of the mixed-use projects being developed by Evergreen Place Group. The project is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2018, and will consist of office spaces, retail shops, and a hotel.

EVERGREEN PLACE CO, a local hotel-chain operator, is developing more hotels and residences in Bangkok to cash in on the growing tourism industry.

Over the past seven years, the company has developed or renovated four hotels and one office building in Bangkok with a total investment of more than Bt400 million. The first property that became a full hotel operation was Evergreen Place in the Ratchathewi area.

The company currently is developing two more mixed-use projects – Ari Hills and Ladprao Hills – at a combined cost of Bt1.8 billion, making the group’s overall investment Bt2.2 billion since 2010.

Managing director Wutthiphon Taworntawat said Ari Hills would be a mixed-use project on Phaholyothin Road and will consist of office spaces, retail shops and 200 hotel rooms.

It will be the group’s highest investment at Bt1.3 billion.

“This project is a joint venture with a local landlord. It is scheduled to be completed within the |first quarter of 2018,” Wutthiphon said.

He added that the second mixed-use project called Ladprao Hills would also consist of office spaces, retail shops, and 200 hotel rooms.

The project, with an investment of Bt500 million, is set to open in the first quarter of 2018. This will be a renovated hotel on a 30-year rental contract.

Serviced apartments at Asoke

Wutthiphon said that after the company turned Evergreen Place into a hotel, it began to develop, a year later, a service apartment called Asoke Residence with 55 rooms on a rented plot of land.

In 2012, it renovated its own existing building used for Leamthong Securities to a modern office and renamed it L Building. The group later moved to develop another of its small hotels, “Alt”, in the Nana area, to serve expatriate guests, as well as tourists.

In December last year, it opened The Residence Thong Lor at a refurbishment cost of Bt250 million.

The 78 room block was done with a 30-year rental deal.

He said company is in talks with investors at some major tourist destinations, including Pattaya, for further developments.

“The group has been expanding into hotels and residences rapidly to serve market demand in different locations.

“The growing tourism sector is a major factor for our investment. Although we are a local chain, our strength is we employ general managers who used to work with five-star hotels and have group housekeeper managers to supervise service operations,” he said.

Aside from the hotel business led by Wutthiphon, other family members are running Times Square, the office building located on Sukhumvit, and L Building in the Ratchathewi area.

Greenview offers tools for efficient, sustainable hotel business

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Eric Ricaurte

Eric Ricaurte

US-BASED tourism research firm Greenview has unveiled sustainability and cost-saving tools to enable Thai hotels to operate more efficiently and help hotel operators expand overseas.

Greenview founder and chief executive officer Eric Ricaurte said Thailand’s hotel industry had grown enormously over the past few years. However, the sector is highly competitive and many home-grown groups are now expanding into the region and across the world.

To help operators enhance their competitiveness, reduce operating costs and strengthen overseas expansion, the company offers two tools for Thailand’s hospitality industry – the Greenview Portal and the Green Lodging Survey.

The Greenview Portal provides an internationally accredited data platform to measure, track and report usage of energy, water, waste, carbon, efficiency projects and community work, helping single hotels or operators/owners of a portfolio of hotels save money through best sustainable practices.

The Green Lodging Survey offers the only trends analysis of its kind worldwide, helping hotels benchmark where they stack up against their peers in implementing the latest practices in sustainable hospitality.

“It goes beyond environmental efficiency to include community engagement and guest communications, providing the hotel industry with an annual measurement yardstick. It is free for hotels to participate in this survey,” Ricaurte said.

Speaking at an American Chamber of Commerce conference yesterday, he said Thailand had a tremendous opportunity to become known as Asia’s, if not the world’s, home of hospitality.

The pure nature, culture and service standards of the country are great assets, but they need to be harnessed and led by a sustainability hospitality strategy that will create leadership – sending a clear message that Thailand cares and takes sustainability and the environment very seriously.

Dusit launches region’s first school for hospitality in Manila

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Dusit Hospitality Management College (DHMC)./Photo courtesy of Dusit International

Dusit Hospitality Management College (DHMC)./Photo courtesy of Dusit International

After a year of planning, Dusit International has unveiled a project to open a hospitality school in the Philippines.

The launch event for the Dusit Hospitality Management College (DHMC) was held in Manila. The school – the first of its kind in the region – is designed to be an innovative concept in hospitality education. It is fully integrated with an upmarket hotel, the dusitD2 The Fort, Manila.

“The launch of the Dusit Hospitality Management College is significant as it affirms Dusit’s commitment to continue developing quality educational programmes to support the growing needs of the industry throughout the region,” said Dusit Group CEO Suphajee Suthumpun. “We are very proud to partner with the ?cole H?teli?re de Lausanne and with the Institut Paul Bocuse on this truly innovative project here in Manila.”

According to the company’s statement, scheduled to open in 2017, the new college brings together some of the most trusted names in international hospitality and culinary education to offer students education and training in accordance to the highest international standards.

Degree programmes will be certified by the world renowned ?cole H?teli?re de Lausanne (EHL) while professional advancement and culinary programmes will be introduced in collaboration with the Institut Paul Bocuse.

Upon completion, the facilities at the DHMC and the dusitD2 The Fort Manila hotel will include world-class hospitality education facilities, including practical kitchens, restaurants, function rooms, recreational facilities including a swimming pool and fitness centre and 125 guest rooms. Students at DHMC will in addition to their studies gain work experience throughout the different areas of the hotel.

The launch was attended by 200 of the industry’s top executives and influencers. It included an address by the secretary of the Department of Tourism of the Philippines, Ramon Jimenez Jr.

Hotels need tech but also human touch

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HOTELS have an urgent need to leverage cutting-edge technology to personalise the customer experience, but always in balance with the traditional human touch, professional-services firm Grant Thornton reported after the “International Hotel Investment Forum” in Berlin last week.

While high-profile disruptor Airbnb expects to break the US$1-billion (Bt35 billion) profit mark this year, firms that fail to act on personalisation enabled through technology risk being cut adrift, and growth could suffer as a result.

Key pressures facing hotels today include the growth of shared-accommodation providers, increasing influence of online travel agents in the booking process and rapidly evolving needs and expectations of guests.

Mastering big data and harnessing its potential to provide the personalisation that guests will expect and demand are fundamental to addressing these challenges.

Despite this, just 10 per cent of tourism companies globally plan to increase research spending this year.

“Technology is a major driver in our hotel industry today. In particular, the Internet of Things and big data help us to accurately understand and predict guests’ behaviour,” Tom Sorensen, partner and hospitality and tourism leader of Grant Thornton in Thailand, said yesterday.

“Too many hoteliers are yet to fully embrace big data. Without analytics technology and sufficiently trained staff to make sense of the noise, they can’t plot how to enrich guest experiences from pre-arrival to post-departure.

“At the same time, the new tools that allow for more targeted services risk diverting attention from the very skill on which the hotel industry was built – human interaction.

“With disruptors threatening the very fabric of the sector, these are crucial months and years ahead for hotel brands. Greater investment in technology and in training staff must be a priority if they are to keep pace.”

Examples of hotel brands already making innovative use of data to personalise the experiences their guests receive include Starwood Hotels, where guests can bypass check-in and unlock their rooms with their smartphones.

And the Bratislava Sheraton uses guests’ social-media “likes” to present tailored gifts upon check-in.

There are seven areas where hotels can deploy technological and human innovations to improve the customer experience. They include understanding that the guest journey begins long before they arrive in reception, and using ad-content algorithms to show customised offers to customers based on searches.

At the hotel, technology can be developed to let customers check in, control their room temperature and even customise the room layout.

And once guests leave, recording individual preferences can ensure a smoother and more enjoyable repeat experience.

“Technology is reshaping the world we live in, and the hotel industry is not – and should not – be immune to that,” Sorensen said.

“But hotel brands must ensure that if they invest in better data-management technology, they can measure its impact on guest satisfaction.

Or, that they are getting the balance right between data harvesting and respecting customer privacy. To do this, hiring new staff or retaining existing employees with the right skills will be critical.

“The most innovative hotels are already responding to these challenges. Those brands that are slowest to react to the demand for greater innovation will increasingly find themselves cut adrift.”

Dusit grows its collaboration with famed Lausanne hotel school

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Dusit International’s Education Division and the famed Swiss hospitality training institution École Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) have agreed to extend its collaboration.

The memorandum of understanding was signed recently, to bring more Dusit hospitality schools with EHL accreditation to the Asean region over the coming years. Since 2012, EHL has certified the International Hospitality and Resort Management programme at Dusit Thani College’s Bangkok and Pattaya campuses.

According to Dusit’s statement, EHL and Dusit will also collaborate in different areas such as vocational education, e-Learning, blended learning pedagogy, faculty development and executive development programmes aimed at grooming future leaders of the Thai hospitality industry.

“This most recent agreement affirms Dusit’s vision to continue to pioneer hospitality education in the region, which began when the Dusit Thani College, Thailand’s first hospitality school, was launched in 1993,” the company said.

Dusit’s Education Division encompasses all levels of training, from vocational diplomas at the recently inaugurated Dusit Thani Hotel School to graduate and postgraduate degrees at Dusit Thani College, to world-class culinary programmes at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit and partnerships with various leading institutions such as the Tsuji Culinary School of Japan.

The Dusit Education Division is currently working on several education projects in Oman, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Indonesia and China with a first-of-its-kind, fully integrated hotel and hotel management school launching soon in the Philippines.

Robot to serve Hilton’s hotel guests

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Connie interacts with hotel guests.

Connie interacts with hotel guests.

Hilton Worldwide and IBM yesterday announced a collaboration to pilot “Connie” – the first Watson-enabled robot concierge in the hospitality industry, tasked to inform guests on local tourist attractions, dining recommendations and hotel features and amenities.

Connie, named for Hilton’s founder Conrad Hilton, marks the first time IBM has developed a Watson-enabled robot for the hospitality market. Connie will work side-by-side with Hilton’s Team Members to assist with visitor requests, personalize the guest experience and empower travelers with more information to help them plan their trips.

Currently stationed near reception at the Hilton McLean in Virginia, Connie is learning to interact with guests and respond to their questions in a friendly and informative manner. Connie uses a combination of Watson APIs, including Dialog, Speech to Text, Text to Speech and Natural Language Classifier, to enable it to greet guests upon arrival and to answer questions about hotel amenities, services and hours of operation. By tapping into WayBlazer’s extensive travel domain knowledge powered by Watson, Connie can also suggest local attractions outside the hotel.

“This project with Hilton and WayBlazer represents an important shift in human-machine interaction, enabled by the embodiment of Watson’s cognitive computing,” said Rob High, IBM fellow and vice president and chief technology officer of IBM Watson. “Watson helps Connie understand and respond naturally to the needs and interests of Hilton’s guests — which is an experience that’s particularly powerful in a hospitality setting, where it can lead to deeper guest engagement.”

The more guests interact with Connie, the more it learns, adapts and improves its recommendations. The hotel will also have access to a log of the questions asked and Connie’s answers, which can enable improvements to guests’ experiences before, during and after their stays.

Connie is powered by Watson, a cognitive computing technology platform that represents a new era in computing where systems understand the world in the way that humans do – through senses, learning and experience.

“We’re focused on reimagining the entire travel experience to make it smarter, easier and more enjoyable for guests,” said Jonathan Wilson, vice president, product innovation and brand services, Hilton Worldwide. “By tapping into innovative partners like IBM Watson, we’re wowing our guests in the most unpredictable ways.”

Connie is the latest example of Hilton’s long history of innovation to enhance guest stays. Hilton was the first hotel company to introduce television to guest rooms in 1947. Recent innovations include digital check-in with Room Selection, which recently surpassed 10 million users; Digital Key; and partnerships with Uber to deliver ‘Local Scene’ and ‘Ride Reminders’ and with Tesla and Current, powered by GE, to rapidly expand the electric vehicle charging programme.