Since Standard International announced its major investor 'Sansiri' , all eyes are on what the next move will be for this untraditional hotel brand that is known to surprise.Hotelintel.co had the opportunity of speaking with Dr. James Mabey (Ph.D), Managing Director of Standard International for Asia & Middle East, along with Milad Badri, VP of Operations, where we discussed the group's latest moves in the region.
Stepping Outside of the US
The Standard made its first footprint outside of the US with the opening of The Standard London on the 13rd of Sep, 2019 which is to be shortly followed by another property in The Maldives. The group will also has several properties in Thailand in the works including properties in Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Samui and Hua Hin. Going further south, there are also development projects in Indonesia and Australia.
"We are working on some interesting projects as well in Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo although those are not 100% confirmed yet. Globally we expect to have 25 hotels open over the next five years. Approximately two thirds of those will be in Asia" said James Mabey.
When asked why the Maldives was chosen as one of their first international properties, he explained:
"The Maldives is a great place to showcase The Standard. First, although it has long been known as a haven for honeymooners, but it is also a Meca for surfing and diving. It is just itching for an exciting new brand to bring a creative and social element into the mix. Our incredible success with our Miami property is a great blueprint in many ways for what the unique and engaging property the Standard Maldives is becoming. Second, it is a 4+ hour flight from the middle east and 4+ from Bangkok and much of East Asia so it’s right in the middle of two heavy areas of focus for us. Building on the huge success of our new London property, our key feeder markets into London are similar to the Maldives and we are already seeing a large cross over in guest interest and bookings."
The Standard Maldives being on a remote island could be a challenge for Standard International Hotels as it is the first hotel to be opened in such a secluded resort atmosphere but that doesn't stop the resort in its soft opening from rocking a high score from TripAdvisor - With the great support from VP of Operations Milad Badri and the team at their Asian HQ in Bangkok.
"The prime challenge is obviously being located on a fairly small and remote island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. So, by default you'll have to deal with the logistical challenges that comes with that geographical circumstance. Still we've tackled this effectively by setting up our base in Bangkok (The Standard Asia HQ) as our regional hub, allowing us to deliver with the flexibility and speed we need." says Badri.
He continues - "The other challenge for us as a brand, and this is the challenge we are truly excited about, is to enter a new market and establish a unique positioning in a destination that is largely sought for honeymoons and retreats. That doesn't mean we won't be catering to the market demands, though our brand and our culture really puts us in a position to do it differently.".
While the competition for hotel management contracts across Asia remains fierce, James has a markedly positive view toward this market.
"Asia still has the biggest opportunities in the world. Both in terms of the number of hotels under development and in terms of overall economic growth. There is a very real demand for 'new and different.' 60% of millennial travelers are in Asia; we are the preferred choice for a lot of these young people." he added.
Milad continued to explain some of the things that made Standard Hotels unique and what they offer to both guests and to the industry as a whole:
"Standard International is no doubt an innovative brand and I think the prime example of that would be the success of One Night – a recommendations-based app for last minute boutique hotel bookings. This was simply born out of understanding the behavior and needs of the core audience. It was initially developed as a solution to fulfil the needs of The Standard guests. Now, the venture has taken on a life of its own and is projected to cover over 300 hotels across multiple international markets."
"Despite the remarkable tech-propelled innovations, I believe the true value The Standard brings to the industry is the open mindedness of our people, the creative culture and how we celebrate the notion of convergence, bringing together local and contemporary cultures; under multiple creative disciplines - art, film, music, design and food. That's where all the good ideas come from." said Milad.
Another selling point that has really been getting hotel owners' attention is that on the whole, Standard Hotels offer a better rate of ROI when compared to other brands.
"We are personal, bespoke, and offer a better ROI. Our track record of optimizing investment through focusing on the social instead of the superficial is one of the keys to our success. We drive an amazing amount of direct business because of our profile in the industry and we do that without the ridged restrictions of the big guys. Let's face it, no one wants to be one of thousands. Our owners are unique and special for us and need to be treated that way, like a partner, not just another number on a quarterly report." added James
Since The Standard is anything but standard, we asked if Asian audiences could really handle all the 'Fun'?
"Fun is universal. It's simple, no matter where you go, people want to have fun. So, I don't worry much about that part - we've got the 'fun' part down to a tee. Rather it's about always remaining culturally relevant without imposing values or views. We find that the best way is to immerse ourselves in the destination and the culture, connect with people, listen to the music, taste the food, and celebrate all of it. That's how we create our programming and curate the diverse experiences for any location we take on. Whether it's LA, Miami, NY, London or Maldives – none of our hotel experience will ever be the same – because they were all uniquely developed for and by their location." Milad elaborated.
Finally, when asked why The Standard logo had to be upside-down?
"Because we turn traditional hospitality on its head ...The Standard is anything but standard" said James.