Home' Hotel Management : HM AUGUST 2016 Contents James Wells
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LOCALLY PRODUCED SPIRITS
Rare breed whiskies and gins from local distilleries
are becoming de rigueur. Not content to drink mass-
produced, imported spirits, many drinkers are opting
for Tasmanian whiskies and gins distilled with native
ingredients from places like Kangaroo Island in South
Australia or Archie Rose Distillery in Sydney's Rosebery.
You have a major focus on restaurants and not
just hotels. Tell us about your passion for food,
how you have come up with new concepts and
your partnership with Jason Atherton and
plans for that expansion.
The restaurants really started out in the hotels and
prov ed so successful that we decided they should expand
outside of the hotels and that has proven to be key to our
expansion as a group. We are probably equal part F&B
and hotels, which is rather unusual. The concepts can
come from anywhere and I get inspiration from travel and
eating and also from people I meet and the chefs who I
work with. It can literal ly come from anywhere!
One of your key messages has always been
that 'you design a hotel and restaurants for the
neighbourhood and not for guests'. Tell us about
this and the e ort you've had to go to make this
happen around the world.
My take on this is that if the locals love what we are
doing and patronise us then our guests from overseas
will definitely also love what we are doing. So we
definitely start by looking at our neighbourhood and
the local scene and we tr y to do something in keeping
with that and make ourselves as local as possible. I think
our guests from overseas appreciate that. We do not do
touristy hotels. We want to have local content and local
flavour and local custom.
How important are restaurants to hotels and why
do you think many hotel restaurants fail?
It's a key part of our hotels. We make a very special
effort to ensure we have successful F&B that can stand
on their own without the hotels and that also draw the
majority of their clientele from a local crowd. We want
to our restaurants to be successful on their own right
first and foremost and we consciously try to make them
independent of the hotel. I think this is rather unusual
for most hotels; their F&B options are of ten terrible.
In my opinion it 's because often the hotel is control ling
things too tightly and trying to make the restaurant
or bar conform to the needs of the hotel and not local
guests. It really should be the other way round.
Where do you see yourself and the business in
No idea but I hope still to be passionate and to find
the work rewarding and exciting. The journey so far
has been really rewarding and fun and I really want
to continue doing this for the foreseeable future so 10
years will fly by hopefull y.
What advice do you have for rising stars in the
hotel industry that might want to emulate what
you have achieved?
Start small and do things that express who you are as an
individual and that make you different from ever yone
else. There are many gaps in this industry and I think
the innovation and disr uption cyc le has only just started
so I am excited to see what the next innovators bring to
the industr y. n
HM flew to Singapore with British Airways, which flies daily
from Sydney. For bookings, visi www.ba.com
Few hoteliers in history hav e been able to achieve what Singapore-based founder
and CEO of Unlisted Collection, L oh Lik Peng, has been able to: combine food
and beverage and hotels meticulously well.
In fact, the only person that comes close to Loh's vision is the godfather of
boutique hotels, Ian Schrager, whose design influences have shaped the world's rapidl y-
rising industry segment.
Loh's seven high quality and quirky boutique hotels set within heritage listed
buildings are standouts in Singapore, Shanghai, Sydney and London, as are his 20
restaurants, many of which are Michelin-starred. Then there is his par tnership with
the hottest chef on the planet, Jason Atherton, which is the envy of many hotel
owners across Asia-Pacific.
HM sat down with Loh in Singapore to chat about his radical, cutting edge
lifesty le concepts that culminate into what he says are "an unforgettable experience
for our guests".
Peng, how do you see the hotel industry in Asia-Pacific generally at present?
I think the bright spots are in Japan, Singapore and Australia, where rates and
occupancy are holding up relativel y well. The rest of the Asia Pacific region is really
not doing very well at all. Singapore will also continue to soften up this year and next
and that leaves possibly Australia as the best performer for this year and next. Japan
with its weak Yen has also been doing ver y well from an influx of Chinese visitors,
but that may change now that the Yen has appreciated dramatically with Brexit. We
probably won't see a sustained recover y in the region until China picks up and also the
key Western markets in Europe and the US. Given the repercussions of Brexit, that
may take a few more years.
Your only Australian hotel (so far) the Old Clare in Sydney continues
to be the toast of the city. Have you been happy with how the hotel and
restaurants are performing at present and the rave reviews they are getting?
Definitely. I would say the business there is performing about as well as I could have
expected. We are trading well and it 's a really encouraging start. To say this is a big relief
is a huge understatement.
Would you look at other opportunities in the Australian market, be it in
Sydney, Melbourne or other wise?
We are definitely on the lookout for further oppor tunities and I think any of the ke y
gateway cities to Australia would be attractive for us if the r ight property came along.
We prefer old heritage buildings and we like to be slightly off the beaten track and we
like difficult buildings. That's quite a difficult list of things to fulfil.
Where else would you like to expand globally, given the opportunit y?
I think Tokyo would be my number one choice if given the right opportunities. For such
an exciting city the y, there are surprisingly f e w hotels that are really innovative or exciting
With 20 top restaurants and seven hip boutique hotels across the planet, few have been
able to emulate what Unlisted Collection's LOH LIK PENG has been able to on food
and beverage or lodging levels. His venues are on-trend and in-demand and this visionary
doesn't follow the trend, he sets it. He's the hotelier the world is quickly learning a lot from.
Exclusive interview by James Wilkinson in Singapore
The visionary: Loh Lik Peng
Sydney's Old Clare Hotel
hotelmanagement.com. au 31
30 HM T he Busin ess of Accommo dati on
It certainly has been an interesting year watching Marriott's takeover of Starwood take shape on
a global level.
First there was the takeover bid by Marriott, then the unexpected counter by China's
Anbang and that game of back and forth before the stockholders of both Marriott and
Starwood overwhelmingly approved proposals related to the transaction on April 8.
Since then it has been a case of regulatory approvals and right as this edition of HM went
to print in July, Marriott received antitrust clearance from the European Union, followed by
authorisation from competition authorities in Saudi Arabia and Mexico to proceed with its
acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts.
With these authorisations over the line, the only remaining country in which Marriott and
Starwood require pre-merger authorisation from is China.
It will be interesting to see if China is as swift to approve the acquisition as the European
Union's Commissioner for Competition, Margaret Vestager, did. She didn't appear to have any
concerns with the takeover whatsoever at all.
"This is an important merger for the hotel industry and its customers," she said. "Our investigation
confirmed that the hotel sector will remain competitive for customers in Europe following the
merger, so I am pleased that the Commission was able to clear the transaction quickly."
In China, things are a little di erent and let's take Shanghai for example. There are 24
Marriott hotels alongside 21 Starwood properties that will come under one company compared
to 16 under AccorHotels. That is diminishing competition and something no doubt the Chinese
regulatory authorities will be looking at.
While it is expected the merger will clear the last hurdle, it has raised many questions
about the impact it will have on the global hotel industry from a branding and competition
perspective. But only time will tell.
One thing is for sure and that is Marriott are acquiring the services of many of the industry's
finest professionals. I have always found Starwood sta delightful to work with and have been
und the world. When I think of Starwood sta , I think of hundreds of
hat's the great asset Marriott are acquiring in this transaction.
arwood go, but the company is in great hands with Marriott under the
of President and CEO Arne Sorenson and I wish him all the best in
this latest issue of HM and as always, I look forward to your feedback.
magazine and hotelmanagement.com.au
4 HM The Business of Accommodation
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