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Hotels or Serviced Apartments? For Lanson Place, Hybrid Is the Way to Go

Marc Hediger is the CEO of Lanson Place Hospitality Management, and for those unfamiliar with the company, he is responsible for the overall expansion of Lanson Place, which currently manages  eleven luxury serviced apartments and hybrid hotels in Shanghai, Chengdu, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Hong Kong. The company has become renowned for its personalized luxury living, always striving to stay a step ahead of both rivals and customer trends.

Achieving this takes a particular focus. “The future is about being ahead of customer expectations in regard to the product, how to book the product, how to enjoy the product, and guest experiences of services, surprises, and stories they are told. It’s a tailor-made product, not only in communal spaces, but also the local experiences, as well as the actual comfort, style, and room product,” explained Marc. “Recently some new project have changed from more luxurious to a little smaller, but still with all the amenities that our clientele require.”

Today’s guests have a clear idea what they’re looking for so you have to educate owners and developers to understand that the time of traditional luxury is over. It really can be a waste of space. Now we’re looking for more compact, maintainable, and timeless properties. We do not wait to renovate. You want to move with the times, and if you are ahead you can crystallize out that extra rate premium.”

Right now, Lanson Place is still relatively niche, which Marc sees as an advantage because it allows operations to be turned around very quickly if they have outlived their current business model. One example is Singapore, where most of the two-bedroom unit have been converted to a one-bedroom unit and a studio, thereby increasing the inventory.

The aim over the next couple of years is to expand the current portfolio to reach around 25-30 properties. These will probably be predominantly in Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia. Marc also mentions the benefits of clustering. Currently Lanson Place manages five different properties within Shanghai, catering to slightly differing markets, and this clustering has served the company well to date.

Another company focus is to grow through the hybrid sector, or serviced suites, simply because the business has transformed in that direction in line with customer expectations. “We pride ourselves on serving all our guests in the same personalized VIP way,” said Marc. “There are no executive floors – it’s like an all-suite hotel with executive lounges, a pool, definitely a gym, and maybe one or two meeting rooms.”

We cater for a very selective clientele but I don’t think you can categorize it,” explained Marc. “In the residence products we have more of the senior executives and top management, while the suites have more project and mid-management, but location is a big contributor, as we see in Shanghai with our five properties in different locations. Depending on where you are, you don’t want to be stuck in traffic so it’s a big factor. When you walk into the breakfast lounge and see your guests you know if you’ve got the right mix or not. We don’t take groups, so as to ensure that we create the interesting and right neighbourhood and culture for our residences, rather than just giving the rooms away and leaving profits on the table.”

The philosophy of moving with the times and the trends in customer demand has played a major role in driving the shift towards the Lanson Place hybrid model. The traditional serviced apartments have always been booked through relocation companies, and not so much by customers online, but the Airbnb model has changed this perception. The result is that increasing numbers of customers are looking for apartments for shorter stays instead of hotels. This leads to growing demand for studios and one-bedroom suites, and the need for communal spaces and lounge lobbies with somewhere for guests to sit and work. Combining the gym and laundry has proved effective as people can work out while they do their washing, and for Marc this has also been an opportunity to introduce communal kitchens with space for up to twelve people. That makes it possible for guests to host dinner parties, or even to have chefs come in and provide cooking lessons

Of course, you have long stay guests who don’t appreciate the in and out of short-term visitors and you want to minimize that – the long stayers are always going to be your bread and butter. In Hong Kong we are actually converting to more short stays simply because of the great location and product, but we can’t lose sight of the importance of long stay,” said Marc. “There’s nothing wrong with mixing if you have that communal space to share experiences and stories. Nowadays people don’t just travel for business, they come for a few days, and then extend their stay and bring the family.”

While many hotels in the past had offered apartments, perhaps through a dedicated wing, they tended to use them as an overflow facility rather than a totally different business model. The hybrid allows the best of both worlds, although the proportions of long stay to short stay will vary in different locations.

The final challenge for Lanson Place in a changing environment is that of finding the right staff. “The most important thing is talent,” according to Marc. “Just like the clientele, they know what they want. They are knowledgeable in technology and they want to advance to management roles, so you have to give them the tools and guidance. But compared to the past, all this will have to be fast-tracked, because the younger generation doesn’t have a lot of patience, it’s hard to find people, and we want to do more business so we need our people to perform. You need to make the best out of who you have.”

With a strong track record in staying ahead of the field by anticipating the latest trends and making sure of being in a position to take full advantage, Lanson Place and Marc Hediger are now poised to take the next step in becoming established as a regional hybrid hospitality leader.

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