Brand standards for global companies like Marriott, Accor, Hilton, IHG and Shangri-La, while necessary for ensuring brand and service integrity, might be proving to be one of the biggest challenges as these brands expand their footprint in new markets - especially in places like Asia and the Pacific.
Western Brand Standards From the Northern Hemisphere Don't Often Work Elsewhere
In a recent Hotel & Resort expansion summit held in Bangkok, Thailand, Executive Vice President of Nova Asset Management Frederic Garnier, while discussing the challenges of cost-control and design raised the issue of brand-standards can often be one of the greatest challenges when it comes to successfully managing new property developments.
"It might seem like a simple enough thing - an operator hands the brand-standards over to the owner / developer and we just make things to spec according to the brand-standards. The problem is that these brand-standards were often developed for North-American or European markets, using standards that while applicable in those places, just aren't practical or even relevant in other parts of the world." said Frederic.
"One example might be that some brand-standards stipulate that piping must be PEX to ensure that they don't freeze in winter months. When building a property in Phuket, Thailand where the weather is generally over 30°C (86°F) all year, there is no need for PEX pipes and if we just went to spec and installed them, it would mean unnecessarily increasing costs of a property project to a point that might cause the project's budget to blow out to to a point of failure."
Frederic noted that when it comes to brand-standards, everything from design and building materials, to the types and frequency of F&B services all need to be negotiated if big companies like Marriott, IHG, Hilton or similar company are to succeed in this part of the world. The local culture and way of doing things need to be taken into consideration.
"The good news is that newer brands that are popping up in this part of the world are realizing this problem and are becoming very flexible when it comes to implementing brand-standards in new properties. This flexibility allows innovation and they might often discover new things that might be a hit with guests".
Toilet Paper is Undesirable and Dirty
2020 will see the expansion of many international brands in Australia and on the 7th of November, 2019 Hotelintel.co presented a morning brief to hoteliers in Melbourne on the topic of 'Asian Hospitality in a Western Hotel Context', presenting insights gained from researching responses of Asian hotel guests on their impressions and expectations of hospitality.
Hoteliers were shocked to realize that many reviews of Asian guests mentioned that they would look for properties that had a 'water spray cleanser' in the bathroom, or at least a bidet or Japanese style 'washing' seat to ensure that going to the toilet was hygienic. According to many Asian cultures, using toilet paper alone is seen as an unhygienic practice, and after 'doing ones's business', water is essential to ensure cleanliness and comfort.
When it came to the top 10 things that Asian travelers had on their 'wish-lists' for hotels, the number-one requirement was to have international electrical plug sockets in hotel rooms, especially on both sides of the bed. This is no surprise as in countries like China, through apps like WeChat and AliPay, cash has become obsolete and to do any transaction, one's phone needs to be used. That means that keeping devices charged at all times - at an arm's reach is essential.
As the big names in the hospitality business look to take a larger portion of local markets around the world, having a flexible brand-standard policy that adapts locally and ensures agile management of new properties will be an important factor as to whether or not they succeed.