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HOTELS & TOURISM | Contributed Content, Hong Kong
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Joon Aun Ooi

Evolving customer lifestyles to shape Singapore hotel business in 2019

BY JOON AUN OOI

Through 2021, Singapore is expected to experience a 3.4% growth in annual visitors as it extends a positive streak from 2014 and 2017 where the tourism industry saw an overall 15.4% increase in international visitor numbers. To handle the sustained growth in tourism levels, Changi Airport opened its new-look Terminal 4, helping it to accommodate more flights, and when Terminal 5 opens in 2030, the airport will be equipped to handle 150 million passengers annually, almost doubling its current capacity.

Additional factors contributing to this consistent growth are the rise of low-cost air travel and Southeast Asia’s expanding middle class. By 2020, Southeast Asia’s middle-class is expected to reach 400 million and the Economic Development Board of Singapore predicts that this demographic will account for 60% of the region’s population.

Over the past decade, Singapore has responded to its healthy inbound tourism growth by steadily building more hotel rooms. However, since 2015, supply growth has decelerated and this slowdown is expected to continue over the next few years.  

According to Horwath HTL, Singapore’s hotel supply is expected to grow by just 1.2% in 2018 – the lowest level since 2007. This growth rate will rebound slightly to 2.5% in 2019, including a rise in the midscale sector, before falling again in 2020. By the end of 2018, Singapore’s total number of rooms totalled 67,487, which is a 43% increase from 2010 (47,312).

Trends shaping Singapore's hotel landscape in 2019
With consumer lifestyles evolving rapidly, there is a need for the hospitality industry to keep pace with new technologies to elevate the guest experience. From personalisation to seamless service and even the introduction of new tools like artificial intelligence and virtual/augmented reality, the hotel industry is perfectly poised to undertake a digital transformation. Hotels will also need to seek out new ways to improve experiences by providing intuitive services throughout the guest’s entire journey, from pre-booking all the way through to the post-stay follow-up and feedback.

Amidst stiff competition from non-traditional vacation accommodation options, hotel providers need to ensure that all customer touch-points are the best they can be. Re-examining their customer journey experience, especially on mobile platforms, and providing authentic local experiences will continue to be key factors for hoteliers.

When we consider technological and operational upgrades, it is important that hotels address their back and front ends concurrently. Moving forward, scale will continue to matter, as larger hotel groups have greater distribution power and negotiating strength with OTAs.

In a world with a variety of brands and choices for consumers, having a strong loyalty programme is vital to engage with guests, attract repeat visits and drive higher average spend. It is important that guests are recognised for their continued loyalty by offering them with tangible benefits and unexpected perks that encourage them to return to our hotels time and again.

Moreover, with Singapore serving as a major business hub, it hosts numerous groups and events throughout the year. The fundamental demands of the MICE groups are shifting drastically away from the traditional conference settings. Hotels are also recognising the demand for a one-stop-shop solution to provide work, play and relaxation for visitors, and this trend will only continue to grow in the next half-decade. Hotels that can provide differentiated experiences will be well-positioned for the years ahead.

With Singapore set to host 19 million visitors by 2021, there is an increasing need to ensure that the local hotel industry is ready to accommodate this growth and be an attractive “Smart Nation” destination for tourists of this connected generation.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Joon Aun Ooi

Joon Aun Ooi

Joon Aun was appointed President and Managing Director for South East Asia and Pacific Rim for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts in April 2018. He joined Wyndham in 2013 as Vice President, Openings and Operations for Wyndham Hotel Group Greater China where he successfully introduced four new brands to the market and played a pivotal role in growing the combined franchise and management portfolio to over 1,400 hotels.

Before joining the hospitality industry in 2002, Mr Ooi spent more than 7 years at The Boston Consulting Group where he was a Principal. He made his first foray into the hospitality industry as Vice President Strategy at InterContinental Hotels Group before moving to China in 2005 to take on the role of Vice President, Hotel Openings (Greater China). In 2009, he was appointed Vice President Strategy and Hotel Openings (Asia Pacific) at Hilton Worldwide where he oversaw the successful growth of the Hilton portfolio in China.

Joon Aun holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Master of Business Administration from Stanford University.

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