The rapid growth and expansion of the travel and hospitality industry means that hotels can no longer count on their name and reputation to ensure customer loyalty.
With every launch of a new hotel there are more and more quality properties to entice the traveler. Hotels need to spend more attention and money to maintain their customer base by featuring amenities that appeal to these valuable customers and enable them to rise above the competition.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the attention being spent on interior design in some of the world’s top hotels. We’ll touch on some of the most notable trends in interior design with the hotel customer in mind.
Luxurious Spa Bathrooms
The focus on luxury in a high-quality hotel means that in this age of day spas as a necessary amenity for the pampered traveler, the bathroom has become the hotel guest’s own private spa.
While upscale hotels have featured their own lines of bath soaps, shampoos and lotions for years, they’ve taken the concept of the spa up a notch by investing in fixtures and amenities in their guest’s bathrooms that you would expect to see only in the finest day spas.
Oceans of space, waterfall showers, Jacuzzis, heat lamps, over-sized bathtubs and giant luxurious towels are just some of the delights travelers will discover in their bathrooms, along with the obligatory line of custom bath soaps, shampoos and lotions.
The bathroom is becoming one of the first parts of the guest room that a hotel guest explores on their arrival in their room.
The days of the hotel offering simply a restaurant branded under the hotel’s own name are long gone. These days, hotels all over the world sign partnerships with famous chefs and restaurant brands to feature upscale restaurants, cafes and lounges on their properties. The amount of design attention these establishments command is equally impressive.
Walking into a branded restaurant in a hotel is literally like stepping into another world. Having a number of these upscale eateries under one roof, each catering to a different type of cuisine is also very appealing to the hotel guest and boosts a hotel’s own brand name.
The Latest in Technology in Every Room
Particularly when a hotel is trying to appeal to the business traveler, having the latest technology at their guest’s fingertips has become extremely important. It’s vital that the business traveller doesn’t become disconnected from their home office or their clients when they’re travelling.
A hotel room where everything can be controlled from the lighting to the air-conditioning can be controlled from the guest’s own smartphone offers another level of technology that the technology-savvy guest will appreciate.
These days travelers rely on their smartphones for everything from making reservations to keeping track of online boarding passes. A hotel that supports this direction in technology by placing the guest in control of their own environment is just good business sense.
Embracing Local Design Culture
The days of walking into cookie-cutter hotel chains whose interiors were designed in the same style are over. Hotels now embrace the location they’re in and adapt hints and elements of the local design aesthetic and culture into their own interior designs.
This surge in creating notable interiors has led to some of the most stunning hotel lobbies and grounds that have earned their designers awards and recognition for their creativity.
Travelers look forward to checking into a hotel knowing they won’t simply be seeing the same lobby over and over. It’s both refreshing and serves to mark hotels as being separate and unique properties even though they may be under the same brand.
Bringing in Outdoor Elements
Cultural amenities and design features are indicative of trying to blend in with one’s location. But nothing says blending in like featuring indoor waterfalls, a blurring of indoor and outdoor spaces by the use of movable walls, picture windows facing garden hotel garden spaces and the creative use of indoor plants of the region.
These elements also offer hotel guests the sense that they’ve left the work a day world behind and are now in their own garden environment. It eases their travelling hassles and allows them to relax and enjoy what a hotel has to offer while gazing out on a pastoral scene far away from airports, taxi queues and crowded streets.
Is There a Fusion of Western and Asian Design Influences?
‘Modern’ interior design back in the 60s was typified by Scandinavian design influences which became famous throughout the world for their clean lines, use of open space, and minimal flourishes.
At least it was in the ‘western’ world of Europe and the Americas. But didn’t Japanese interior design also feature these same spare touches into their own design aesthetic?
In fact the Japanese had been featuring their own design style for thousands of years before the west became infatuated with the Scandinavian design style and named it the de facto ‘modern’ style.
Sharing Cultures since Marco Polo
Ever since Marco Polo journeyed to Asia and brought the treasures of that continent back to Europe, explorers and traders around the globe have made it a business to share and trade on the best aspects of another country’s culture and traditions.
As the opportunities for being educated abroad have increased exponentially through the years, young interior designers and decorators are embracing the traditions of those ancient traders and studying different design influences from different parts of the globe.
These designers are taking design cues and influences from all over the world and incorporating them into a singular vision that accentuates the globalist era that we’re now living in.
The boundaries of a singular design style are being broken down and designers are exploring what is possible to create their own design aesthetic. They are creating a re-definition of the term ‘modern design’.
Multi-Cultural is Not the Same as Homogenous
Some purists resent these designers for simply doing the inevitable – making use of the different styles they encounter to create one of their own. But they are just following in the footsteps of the explorers before them.
Purists would also see little conflict with having a Persian rug on the floor of a room in a contemporary, western-style home. So it’s obvious that this trend is not actually new. It’s been going on for many years. It’s just that the designers of today have so many more influences to choose from.
What they’re creating can in no way be called homogenous. It isn’t synthesizing these design aspects down into something unrecognisable. Rather, it’s appreciating these design elements for their own uniqueness and juxtaposing them to create new and exciting interior designs which may, perhaps someday, become the new standard for ‘modern design’.
People of today are more open to trying new foods and experiencing other aspects of a culture they’ve rarely seen before. Just as it’s becoming more common to have a Mexican taco for lunch and enjoy a plate of Japanese sushi for dinner, people are beginning to become just as comfortable appreciating different influences in the décor around them.
The designers of today are simply reflecting the changes in the world around them and making a statement that the world is becoming more multi-cultural. This will prove to serve a benefit in our design sense and broaden our horizons to all the beauty that the world offers.
Every restaurant has to go through many different iterations before actually achieving its finished form. The most important element for restaurant success is the food but that is not the sole point of focus.
A restaurant needs to build and maintain relationships with their clientele and regular and loyal customers are the foundation of any great restaurant. In order to achieve this, one of the most important aspects of restaurant conception is building an ambience.
The restaurant interiors play such a huge role in the staging of the food and the general mood. That’s why it is important to consider a few things before making big decisions regarding restaurant interiors. Here are 5 things you must consider:
The Psychological Aspect
The base of any design project is implementing the identity and nature of the restaurant into the interiors. How does a restaurant get its identity? Does it develop the idea first or does that evolve naturally? For the best results, it makes sense to develop this identity early as it allows for better decision-making and service.
The psychological aspect of a restaurant is very easy to brush aside as it seems like an obvious point but the truth remains that, knowing your customer and how you want them to feel is pivotal to success. The identity of the restaurant and the design elements that go into it will affect the psychology of the customer, so choose decisions with that in mind.
Colours and Vibe
Strategic application of colour is one of the most underrated aspects of interior design. The kind of appeal, consistency and thoughtfulness a restaurant can demonstrate to its clientele can be conveyed through the application and choice of colours.
In fact, restaurant colours are one of the first things that need to be decided when putting together the main design of the restaurant. These colours can make the diners feel peaceful or excite them if necessary but basically, this will be another way to influence the dining experience positively. These colours also effect all the remaining factors that are important to restaurant interior design.
One of the most touched-upon aspects of restaurant interior design is the lighting of the establishment. Lighting has such a huge effect on mood because of how it is positioned and what it unveils. There are so many lighting options available today that they can always bring something interesting to your restaurant. For a cozy dining experience, a sparsely light dining room is the key but the bright lights of an all-day café can seem inviting at night. Setting the mood with lighting is always going to be very important.
Furniture that Fits
A nice signature touch for any restaurant is the furniture. There is no longer any excuse to purchase and place boring and cheap furniture on the dining room floor. Options are now available at every price point and besides, it makes more sense to budget well for sturdy and beautiful furniture. Customers are drawn to comfortable seating that looks elegant and beautiful, which means if you choose wisely, an investment in restaurant furniture can pay for itself.
Flooring that Matches Up
This is an underrated part of the restaurant interior design in Bangkok and around the world. The floor is not what everyone looks at but it is definitely a part of the overall design. One cannot simply forget about it because if you don’t find a flooring option that matches your overall design then it can throw the balance off. Flooring doesn’t have to be a boring concept either, choosing the materials and colours that works for your restaurant can make a difference to customer perception.
Consult with Soho Hospitality for your restaurant interior design in Bangkok or globally. We have expertise in developing designs for all kinds of restaurants and we would love to work with you to make your dream restaurant a reality.
Running a successful restaurant in the long-term is based on numerous factors. The success of a restaurant is a direct product of its reputation in creating incredible food and a memorable dining experience. However, factors such as the ambience, mood and customer service all play a big part in determining how well a restaurant does.
To create a consistent, replicable and desirable dining experience, it is important to make an identity for your restaurant. Customers will experience a wholly constructed experience starting with the food but leading all the way down to the décor, lighting and so on. So how does one go about creating an identity? Keep these following steps in mind and you should have a solid base to build on.
Create a Concept and Identify Your Target Demographic
Restaurants differentiate themselves from each other through the concepts that the restaurant owner creates. What kind of restaurant will it be? An all-day café? A French-style bistro? A dessert café? A fine-dining restaurant? Use your strengths and expertise to guide the way here and choose wisely as all the decisions further down the line are based on these factors.
Upon choosing your restaurant type, make it your own by infusing your vision into it. Conceptually, there is an infinite number of possibilities here to make your own restaurant but once again, look at what is successful in your marketplace and combine things that work best for you.
Finally, see how your concepts and ideas match up with the demographics of your area. You need to identify your target market as soon as possible as you want to create an experience that draws them in. Find out who they are, what they like and what they expect from a restaurant. Early market research is the key to good decision-making.
Expression through Design
A great deal of emphasis needs to be placed on design elements when it comes to defining a restaurant’s identity. The colours you choose for the interiors, the nature of the lighting and the general mood of the restaurant are all part of your identity. Look closely at your concept here, it should be distilled perfectly so that you have an exact idea of what you want to represent.
The design elements are also a huge part of the restaurant’s visual imaging, the logo, the restaurant sign, menus and social media promotions are all part of this strategy. Start laying the foundation for your design pillars around your main concept and fill in the rest of the strategy as an extension of these key decisions.
Restaurant concept development takes time, so take your time in choosing the elements that fit well. It is a good idea to get your hands on physical design elements. Cutlery samples, table tops, menus and logos are necessary to get a real and practical idea of what you want to do.
Get some opinions on your strategy from people that have experience in the industry. Different viewpoints and perspectives will help you look at things you that might have missed. In the end, getting your restaurant to embody every aspect of your created or perceived identity is very important. Starting with the food and moving out all the way to the design of the table top, look to develop every aspect.
This is always an ongoing process so even if your restaurant is open and serving customers, get feedback when possible and try to implement it often. Keep a strong handle on your identity and you will find that it serve you very well in the long haul. Not too sure about certain aspects of restaurant concept development? Do you feel like you need an expert opinion? Contact us at Soho Hospitality and receive all expertise in restaurant development from interior design to concept development, we always provide our best advice.
First impressions are extremely important and when it comes to hospitality, this is even more important. Hotels need comprehensive strategies and a host of offerings to stand out among their competitors but for visitors to a hotel, the first thing they interact with is the hotel lobby.
Many people consider the hotel lobby “the face of the hotel” and there is good reason for that. People walk into the lobby and they start to imagine what kind of a place the hotel is. This might seem like a burden but if you have invested in a great lobby then, you will enjoy the benefits. A nice inviting lobby is a great way to draw in various guests, in fact, a lobby can actually become part of a hotel’s reputation and a local landmark, if managed properly. Here are a few things you can look at to make your lobby more inviting.
Mood and Tone
When it comes to planning a lobby or a concept of a lobby, everything really starts from the mood and tone. Which mood and tone should you select? Do these choices depend on trends? You can answer these questions by looking at what your hotel plans are already going to be. The hotel strategy, positioning and the brand you are looking to build will dictate what kind of lobby you are looking at.
Naturally, you have to take other things into consideration such as the space you have for the lobby, the location you are in and cultural factors but these things affect the mood and tone as much as the mood and tone affects them.
Market research among your target audience really helps define this mood and tone. You can confirm your assumptions or make changes if the research suggests otherwise. Ultimately, you need to set up your lobby to be open and inviting, exclusive and regal or a professional-looking lobby that corporate customers might prefer.
Creating an Atmosphere
A hotel lobby is an active and lively place and that is one crucial aspect of a lobby. Customers that are walking into lobbies that are empty and dead will not want to stop for too long. Sure, the mood in the lobby can be appropriate and the customer might appreciate this but the truth is, this is not enough.
Music in the lobby is an important factor in creating this atmosphere. You can choose easy-listening instrumental music, internationally-inflected world music or chilled out hip-hop beats for a younger crowd. Music provides an energy that fades into the background and needs to conform to the mood you have chosen to pursue.
The colours and lighting of the lobby definitely help add to the atmosphere of the lobby. It is important that the colours and lighting don’t clash. Open lobbies can try to add more daylight through glass facades while other lobbies can look to mimic a more intimate space, with low lighting and very relaxed music.
Make sure your lobby has a great mix of important atmospheric factors that will make a good impression on visitors. Do you need assistance with coming up with concepts and interiors for your lobby? Get in touch with us at Soho Hospitality to learn how we can help you with hotel interior design in Bangkok or anywhere else in the world.
In this issue of Hospitality Matters, I delve into the topic of online reviews that I believe have disrupted the consumer journey in the F&B space and impacted us restaurateurs and business-owners just as much, if not more than it has the average consumer. We often see the world “ooh” and “aah” over customer review sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp and other websites making a living out of user-generated content, however no one talks about its implications on us business owners, representing our side of this mega-movement of ‘sharing customer experience’. I figured someone’s got to shed light on our side of the situation and well today, I am.
TripAdvisor attracts an approximately 340 million unique visitors every month giving review sites like it the potential to make or break a business. It is a great platform that finally gives consumers a voice of their own. Instead of a one-way marketing model, platforms such as TripAdvisor has given consumers a chance to share their experiences and feedback to allow other consumers like them to make more informed choices and hear from their peers instead of being subject to one way advertising by businesses. It has also allowed for businesses to generate more revenue through TripAdvisor’s reach in the F&B space with diners, especially tourists able to be exposed to our restaurants and make reservations well in advance giving businesses like ours greater reach and more business. On the other hand, sites like TripAdvisor have also impacted businesses like ours unfavourably. Let’s explore how :
There’s no opting out
Review sites can be tricky for businesses because there is no option to opt-out. Businesses can be listed on these sites without your knowledge (or permission) and there’s nothing you can do to stop that from happening. Since businesses are already listed on this site, most businesses have reported to have felt pressure to purchase a ‘pro’ account or invest in some sort of advertising to have a more favourable placement on the site or to simply be able to respond to reviews about their businesses on the platform. This “pay to play” model can be very frustrating for businesses who have no choice but to cough up the dollars.
As great as it is that there are spaces on the internet where real consumers are able to share real experiences (positive or negative), we would be lying to ourselves if we said we believed that all this content was genuine. TripAdvisor and other sites have come under fire multiple times for being unable to combat fake-reviews and astroturfing (The act of creating a small organization and making it appear to represent something popular for the purpose of promoting a particular entity). Apparently each review on TripAdvisor passes through about 50 automated filters before being assessed by a content-analysis team and yet, The Shed was voted number one restaurant in London…and it didn’t even exist.
For those of you who don’t know, In 2017 , a freelance writer named Oobah Butler listed his restaurant called ‘The Shed at Dulwich’ on TripAdvisor. He bought a burner phone, created a website, created a menu and added photographs of delicious and artsy looking dishes that were made out of bleach tablets and shaving creams and listed it on TripAdvisor. An iconic photo shows an egg on a plate that’s being balanced on the sole of his foot that was cropped out of the frame. He listed the restaurant as an appointment only restaurant and had a couple of his friends write reviews on TripAdvisor (including some vaguely negative ones to enhance its credibility) and Voila! The Shed ascended to No 1 ranking on TripAdvisor in all of London all thanks to fake reviews!…A restaurant that didn’t even exist. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the 21st century.
Obviously their financial valuations are based on the number of monthly active users so regardless of what they say TripAdvisor is definitely more biased towards it’s reviewers rather than the restaurants. The Communications Decency Act in the United States protects sites like TripAdvisor from being held liable for third party posts as they are considered ‘neutral third party hosts’ but are they really? TripAdvisor is often unwilling to remove questionable reviews from its site even when flagged by restaurants. Neither does it agree to delete older reviews (what happens when the management at a business changes? Or if the business has been around for over 10 years and things have changed?). TripAdvisor has also come under fire for screening owner’s responses more vigorously than member comments. Often times when businesses dispute certain reviews, TripAdvisor shows bias towards the reviewer by asking the reviewer to reconfirm their experience instead of removing the review or exploring other ways to settle the dispute. What are the chances that the reviewer is going to change his mind about his experience at the restaurant once he’s already written a one-sided biased review? What happens if a restaurant or hotel has a legitimate case to dispute the review?
Apart from being biased, there is a huge mountain of inconsistency on how disputes are handled by TripAdvisor. Some reviews that are highly questionable are allowed to stay despite businesses refuting the absurd claims multiple times. We once had a guest who was not allowed to enter Above Eleven because of our strict dress-code policy that is made clear on our website, social-media and even sent to the diner along with our reservation confirmation. Even without entering our premises, the diner gave us a 1 star on TripAdvisor. We lost out on the ratings simply because the diner was unaware of the dress-code and did not even give us a chance to service them when they entered the restaurant. Through no fault of our own, we received a negative rating on TripAdvisor and there’s absolutely nothing we could do about it.
This is very frustrating for restaurants and hotels because the Standard Operating Procedure for TripAdvisor is at the discretion of the customer service representative who is looking at the particular dispute and each agent does not approach each review consistently. This creates an unfair advantage to the reviewer.
Having said that, as a consumer, I think TripAdvisor is a great platform that does have benefits for consumers, restaurants and other businesses alike. However, TripAdvisor needs to up it’s game and facilitate a platform that is unbiased and fair to both the reviewer and the business in order to create a truly open platform where businesses and consumers are able to close the communication gap and strive to deliver and savour excellent experiences – as they should.
There is an old Sanskrit saying that I once heard but never quite understood until my recent trip to India. It is then I realised that this quote is the foundation on which Indian Hospitality stands – ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ :The guest is equivalent to God. An idea not just found in old dusty scriptures but a principle that governs every Indian household and extends to the Indian Hospitality industry.
When I was a child, I could never understand what the fuss was all about when we had guests over in the house. My mom would prepare the most special of meals, lay out our nicest plate-ware while dad would give our guests his most undivided attention as my family would bend-over backwards to ensure that our guests had the most amazing time at our house. So much special treatment for people we barely knew? What did we get out of making them feel so welcome and pampered? I never quite understood it until I walked into the newly renovated Oberoi hotel in Delhi and was greeted with the same warmth and hospitality that I saw my family and many families like ours extend to guests.
During my stay, each staff member went the extra mile to ensure that me and other guests like me were comfortable and well. Each smile, each greeting, each service radiated sincerity. An experience that is quite rare to see in the hospitality industry in this day and age. In a time where we consumers are bombarded with fake news and overwhelmed with hard-selling content that is targeted towards them, brands that are genuine and sincere serve as a breath of fresh air in this plastic and materialistic world. Consumers want what is real, they want to be understood, they want the brands that they place their faith in to share their values and to create the one thing that is most lacking in today’s world – a real connection.
In a world where travel is frequent and inexpensive, consumers like me are not only looking for comfortable beds and outstanding facilities at the hotels. Think about it, if all we needed was a place to sleep at night , why would the hospitality industry even be around? This is because Hospitality extends beyond four walls, comfortable beds and state-of-the-art facilities. It is no longer just about rooms and restaurants. The industry are investing heavily on the return on experience (ROE) and ensuring their guests emotionally connect with their products within that experience. And the human impact is at the center of this shift. It is the feeling that these people in the hospitality industry share with us. It is in the smile that touches us when we’re greeted in the morning, it is the warmth that is served to us in the glass of beer at the end of a long, tiring day, it is the special note in the room that tells us that service is just a call away.
I truly believe that the Indian labour force provides some of the best hospitality standards worldwide. Only because to them, it is not a business – not an industry. To them, it is culture. Indian hotel chains are growing and are synonymous to high-standards that could match any international chain because the sense of hospitality is imbibed in the Indian culture itself. The success of the Indian Hospitality industry is credited to one thing and one thing alone – people. India breeds a wealth of hospitality talent with the abundance of hospitality schools all over the country. ITC Hotels, one of the most respected hospitality companies in india, has an ITC Hospitality Management Institute where it develops young, motivated leaders with hospitality skills, rooted in their ITC ethos and values, into competent world class hoteliers. The institute is known for fostering exceptional hospitality talent who are then incubated into their hotels following the completion of training.
Indian hospitality is spreading its wings to other parts of the world and I believe that there is great hope for the global hospitality industry to be touched by the art of Indian Hospitality through India’s most precious resources – its people. The Indian staff is well suited towards hospitality as they are well-educated, trained to the highest standards, proficient in English and can bring interpersonal skills in countries all around the world. Unlike in Thailand, where hospitality jobs are not seen as desirable anymore, in India it is deemed a very respectable industry to be a part of with great growth potential.
All of this is good news for the Indian Government who are investing heavily to turn India into a leading global travel destination. India is expected to move up five spots to be ranked among the top five business travel markets globally by 2030, as business travel spending in the country is expected to treble until 2030 from US$ 30 billion in 2015. International hotel chains will likely increase their expansion and investment plans in India, and are expected to account for 50 per cent share in the Indian hospitality industry by 2022, from the current 44 per cent.
India is destined to become a tourism attraction for people all over-the world. Combined with the abundance of an exceptional hospitality labour force, they are definitely a country to watch out for. I can only hope that the rest of the world is able to take a page out of the book on the art (and heart) of Indian Hospitality.
In this issue of Hospitality Matters, I wanted to talk about an issue that has been gnawing at me for a long time, an issue that needs to be addressed not only in the hospitality industry but one that concerns me, you and each and every one of us.
The harsh truth of today is that we are in the midst of the biggest environmental crisis of our time. I don’t remember another time where our environment has been at as much risk as it is today. Global climate change continues to have observable effects on our environment. Glaciers are sinking, rivers are drying up, sea-levels are rising, heat-waves are occurring more frequently, while volcanoes continue to threaten livelihoods among other devastating natural disasters that have rocked the world in the recent years.
All as a result of human action or perhaps should I say...inaction. Did you know that 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have occurred between 2001 and 2016? With 2016 being the warmest year recorded in history?! Warning bells have been ringing for almost a decade now but we human-beings seem to be hell-bent on turning a deaf ear and accelerating our own destruction.
Let me ask you a question, we all know that the environment is being aggressively damaged by us everyday – so how many of us actually put in a conscious effort to reduce if not reverse this damage? How many of us carpool or take the public transport to work as we actively count our carbon emissions? How many of us take our own reusable bags to the grocery store and avoid heaps of plastic bags that stores so generously dish out to us? How many of us turn off the sink while we’re brushing our teeth? Or consciously make an effort to limit our food wastage? I could point out a hundred little things on the top of my head that we could do in our everyday lives that would make a huge impact on environmental protection – that we just don’t bother to do.
Being apathetic to the situation is not going to make it go away and regardless of what certain world-leaders may say – this problem is real. It is here and it is getting worse. The damages done to the environment are irreversible but we do have a chance to stop it from getting worse. Governments all over the world are not doing enough but we, we as consumers, corporations and individuals have the power to make a difference.
We do not have to look far to see the effects of our negligence. Thailand is one of the biggest polluters in the world! A study in 2014 estimated that around 1.26 million tons of toxins are found in rivers and seas every year in Thailand. Can you imagine what that number is today? Last year, The Nation reported that the efficiency of wastewater treatment processes in the residential sector were only 18% effective while only 52% of wastewater is treated as a result of weak law-enforcement and poor-monitoring systems.
The Thai government is hell bent upon increasing the number of tourists into the country but this is at the expense of huge environmental degradation especially at the beautiful beaches and islands of the country. Just take a quick visit to Maya Bay in Koh Phi Phi which is part of the protected National Parks of Thailand and you will see the devastation. Anchors of long tail boats and ferries have destroyed the beautiful corals that once covered the entire reef. Swimming on the shores of the beach you will find more plastic bags and litter floating than ocean life. And it’s not like we are lacking in resources or funding. The National Parks of Thailand charges up to 400THB to foreigners as an entrance fee to any island in the so called protection area. Recent research estimates the National Parks receive up to 20 million Baht per month from entrance fees to Maya Bay alone, not including other islands.
Although our economy is more prosperous than ever, it is destroying our ecology and that needs to change. I certainly have not lost hope in our humanity and believe that all is not lost. There is some light at the end of this dark tunnel as some organisations are taking it upon themselves to do their part in environmental protection. Take for instance Lykke.blue – a Swiss fintech company developing a global marketplace utilizing the blockchain, which launched TREE – a digital token that allows companies to offset their carbon footprint by investing in natural capital. Each TREE represents a living mangrove tree (mangrove trees are five times more efficient in carbon sequestration than rainforest trees) planted on 1 sqm in Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park in Myanmar managed by Worldview International Foundation – a world leader in mangrove restoration. The more good you do, the more natural value you will earn.
For an example closer to home, I personally laud Starboard, a Bangkok based watersport board manufacturer, for its commitment to offset their carbon footprint by investing in mangrove trees. Starboard have their own pioneer forest of over 200,000 trees to maintain their zero carbon footprint. Additionally, Starboard is engaged in a Plastic Offset Program to combat plastic pollution by taxing themselves on their own plastic use, thereby creating a fund for ‘plastic offsets’. The program mitigates their CO2 footprint and incentivises the proper disposal of trash so that it can be recycled. Starboard have set a precedent to redefine industry through their ingenuity and taught us that environmental protection is just one good thought and one positive step away.
Following suit, F&B outlets and the hospitality industry will benefit immensely from investing in sustainability in a big way. We need to as an industry assess the social, economic and environmental impact of our businesses. In addition to achieving zero carbon footprint, the industry can focus on waste management, reducing energy and water usage, elimination of plastic use, and greater usage of local, organic and pesticide free produce. In the near future, I’m excited to announce that Soho Hospitality will take the lead on this with the launch of The Greenhouse Project, a sustainability initiative that hopes to redefine the F&B industry making our restaurants and hotels eco-friendly, sustainable and of course – absolutely delicious!
Experience has proven that zero carbon footprint companies with renewable policies are the winners in the competition to attract environmentally conscious consumers who seek products and services with a similar value set addressing some of mankind’s ultimate environmental and social challenges.
Till then, remember that even the littlest changes to your daily life can help the environment in a big way. Let us all do our bit to save mother Earth – because she’s all we’ve got. You can start by taking your own reusable bags to the supermarket and also refusing a plastic bag the next time you walk into a 7/11!
“The miracle is this – the more we share,the more we have”
It is as though Leonard Nimoy, well-known for his iconic role in Star Trek and much lauded author, said these words as if predicting the definition of the Shared Economy. In 2015, the term ‘shared economy’ made it into the Oxford dictionary, officially validating it as a phenomenon that is here to stay. Picking up from where we left off in the last issue of ‘Hospitality Matters: The consumer revolution led by mass affluent’, we venture a look into the concept of the Shared Economy.
So what exactly is shared economy? In the last century, owning goods and services was a mark of wealth. The more things you owned, the more services you could buy and therefore the wealthier you were. As time progressed, manufacturing became cheaper and as a result, more people were able to afford more things apart from basic necessities. Today, even those who live below the poverty line own plenty of things, completely throwing off the notion that ownership signifies wealth. So what happens when ownership no longer equates to wealth? Consumers begin to seek access to goods and services as opposed to ownership for many of the following reasons.
Firstly, the shared economy allows the mass affluents to be what they are – affluent as a mass. By sharing goods and services, mass affluents have catered to themselves by reducing costs of almost all common goods and services because the investment is divided among their peers. Participating in the shared economy makes it possible for people to earn extra income on the side by sharing goods and services that they have invested in while dividing financial investment of goods and services overall. Women today no longer dream of wearing designer labeled dresses, shoes and jewelry to parties, they now have direct accessibility to rent them out for short periods. People no longer have to make large investments in cars, hotels and and other luxuries as they can simply just share them for a fee through spaces such as Uber, Airbnb, and other innovative platforms. Are we moving to a culture where we don’t need ownership of clothes, homes, appliances or cars?
In addition, as more and more of the young generation aspire to be environmentally responsible, they have begun to implicitly place their faith in the shared economy. It is an obvious observation that there are many ecological benefits of sharing. Simply put, if demands of new goods go down, carbon footprints also decline. Staying in homes available on platforms such as Airbnb reduces the demand for hotels, tool sharing reduces the demand for the purchase of new tools, car-pooling reduces the demand for vehicle purchases and in turn resolves the concerns of carbon-emissions and overcrowding and not to mention, allows for an efficient use of resources while minimising waste.
Finally, the faith in the shared economy is often backed by the generation’s commitment to social transformation. Many young people today are highly critical of capitalism and are strong believers of ideological notions of equality, diversity, communication, and most importantly – the foundation of trust to reclaim humanity and human relationships. Many of you may wonder, what shared economy has to do with humanity and relationships? – More than you think. The key to the shared economy is putting your trust in complete strangers. It is this intangible trust built on digital platforms that has become a brand in itself. It represents a new economy and a new world. Sharing, collaboration, partnership and faith are all words that can be associated with the shared economy while reputation and trust are the world’s newly emerging currencies. In this day and age where the world continues to struggle with racism, inequality and prejudice, the value that the shared economy instills in its participants is extremely cherished. Users are sharing their goods and services with people regardless of race, gender identities, backgrounds, religious beliefs and other prejudices making way for a, harmonious society.
The shared economy is not here only to serve as a tool to re-instil the values of humanity, it also means business. The shared economy has emerged as a key driver of economic growth in Asia and around the world. According to PwC, the world’s top shared economic sectors could potentially generate around $335 billion(USD) in revenue by 2025 with Asia in the forefront of this growth. Market intelligence firm, Nielsen found that 78 percent of people in the Asia Pacific region are more willing to share resources. In 2012, the South Korean government declared Seoul as the “Sharing City” of the future, making it perhaps the most progressive Asian nation in the shared economy space. With increasing evidence that the shared concept is gaining traction in other parts of the Asia, seeing as how changes in income levels in Asia have created a class of consumers with higher incomes many of whom are focused on reaping personal experiences, are forecasted to be those who will drive the shared economy in full acceleration in the coming years.
The hospitality industry is not excluded from the sharing phenomenon. With an increasing number of people able to travel, credit to the affordable access of shared goods and services, the hospitality industry will be presented with incredible opportunities to jump onto the shared economy bandwagon and carve its’ own special place on it. Many hospitality service providers are apprehensive about the impact of shared economy, concerned with the popularity of services like Airbnb and the threat it poses to the hotel and restaurant industries. However, like we do at Soho Hospitality, I like to find the silver lining in every cloud. In this case particularly, I see more opportunities than threats.
For years, hoteliers and restaurateurs have traditionally relied upon marketing tools, services and price-points to remain competitive. Today, however, the competitive edge goes far beyond the best room rates and pretentious fine-dining establishments. Today belongs to those who effectively understand the mindset of new-age consumers. Cheaper price tags on rooms and restaurants are no longer the only things driving guests to make their choices. Instead, it is the overall experience and value for money that is the drawing point. Consumers today are looking for original and unique experiences during their travels therefore this is a change in mindset that the hospitality industry needs to embrace to remain relevant and leading.
Soho Hospitality is not just in the business of restaurants – we are in the business of storytelling. Whether it be the unique blend of Peruvian/Japanese cuisine on the park themed rooftop of Above Eleven or the modern-twist of Indian cuisine and cocktails served in the stunning interiors of Charcoal Tandoor Grill & Mixology, the customer journey and experience is a critical success factor of our establishments. Furthermore, we are continuously exploring ways in which we can contribute and foster the philosophy of the shared economy, both as a company and community of employees. Sharing means less wasting, greater efficiency and better utilization of resources. Finally, it benefits the environment, one of the greatest concerns of our time.
Mass Affluents have birthed contemporary ideas and philosophies that are altering our economy and our world as we know it through phenomenons that are both better for the individual and better for the world as a whole. Tech Street Journal’s blogger, Lauren Baxter perfectly articulates – “Connection is at the heart of humanity, and it is a humanness that we had lost somewhere along the way. The collaborative economy is reigniting this flame and by placing value in personal relationships rather than empty transactions, kindergarten teachers across the world can continue to sing out in glorified unison, sharing is caring”. It is important to remember that this is merely another step in the larger consumer revolution, who knows what lies ahead … the revolution is far from over.
Once upon a time, we lived in a world where our sense of style, self-worth and purchasing habits were all a reflection of one’s stature and class. A time where luxury products and services were catered to the upper class with most of the emphasis on the price-tag and the status symbol that came with it. The wealthy only wanted what others could not have, and it was a way for them to distinguish themselves from the masses. In this age of flair, flaunt and frills, exclusivity was king.This era led to the exponential growth of five-star hotels and luxury consumer brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Mont Blanc and more across Asia.The affluent ruled the consumer world and brands only catered to them. The middle class lived with mediocrity, often being neglected, sandwiched between the affluent and the underprivileged.
With the progression of trends, social mindset and philosophies, consumer trends and habits have shifted phenomenally over the last five to ten years. Consumer power has now been transferred from the wealthy and lavish into the hands of the upper middle and middle class. Greater wealth distribution, globalisation, the internet and contemporary social philosophies have given rise to a new age of consumers – The Mass Affluents or the Henry’s (High Earners, Not Yet Rich) of our time. As individuals, the Mass Affluents may not hold enormous purchasing power, but together, they rule the world. The Mass Affluents are leading a new trend, a new market and a new world.
So who are the Mass Affluents or the Henry’s of our world? Mass Affluents are consumers that occupy the upper echelon of the middle-class demographic.They are smart, savvy, cosmopolitan consumers who are young, fun, and adventurous. Mass Affluent consumers today have three main desires – they want uniqueness, they want quality and they want affordability. With the purchasing power they hold as a mass, they have compelled brands to narrow down all their efforts to appeasing this new and influential segment of consumer society. The Mass Affluents are demanding a change, and new age brands are scrambling to meet their demands, transforming the entire concept of consumer-brand relationships. This new explosion of ideas has given birth to the notion of ‘affordable luxury’ ; comfort and leisure that is reachable for everyone.
Many may wonder, what is the influence of the Mass Affluents? The Global Restaurant Investment Forum 2016 has reported that by 2030, Asia will account for 66% of the global-middle class population and 59% of the middle-class consumption. There is no doubt that the Mass Affluents hold the financial weight of the Asian world and their power and influence is only going to continue to grow. Because of globalization and the internet,Mass Affluents now have greater exposure and awareness of global trends and cultures. This availability of information has increased their sophistication and expectation of brands tremendously. They are not going to settle for less, adding a huge amount of competitive pressure on brands to win these consumers over and the brands are responding.
We see evidence of this phenomena in brands such as Zara, Mango, Forever 21, HnM, Air Asia and many more which are growing exponentially because of their promise to bring style, comfort and value for money to the masses. The world today demands the transformation of exclusivity to accessibility and this has reconstructed the entire consumer based industry whether it is clothing, accessories, travel or hospitality. Existing brands are revamping their targeting to include the Mass Affluents while new brands are gaining popularity only because they have managed to put the Mass Affluents in the forefront of their brand promise.
The significance of the Mass Affluent demographic is quickly unfolding. Their new ideas and philosophies are encouraging brands to come up with new concepts that are both better for the individual and better for the world. An example of this is the latest trend of the shared economy where we can see new-age consumption behaviours transferring from the ownership of goods and services to the sharing of goods/services in order to increase affordability, productivity and resourcefulness. The revolution is far from over.
At Soho Hospitality, mass affluents are the core demographic of our business. We closely study this group of consumers by monitoring and following their consumer behavior. We are interested in everything they do – what music they are listening to, what clothes they are wearing, what they are buying, where they are eating and drinking, what products and services they are engaging with! By tapping into this demographic, we believe we can continue to create unique and innovative concepts to meet the needs of our evolving, unpredictable consumers! These young people are keeping the world on its toes and doing what they do best : Leading Revolutions.
In the next segment of ‘ The Consumer Revolution’ we venture a look into how the influence of the Mass Affluent demographic has given rise to another quickly escalating unique phenomenon of the ‘Shared Economy’. Stay Tuned!