Marcel Holman, vice president for operations for China, Indonesia, Japan and Oceania for the Pan Pacific Group, talks about sustainability, expansion and the changing expectations of business travellers.
With recent expansion of both its hotel inventory and its brands, Pan Pacific Group has re-emerged as a hospitality powerhouse in Southeast Asia, and one that has placed sustainability as a core pillar of its new properties across the region.
You have 35 years of experience in the hospitality industry – how are guest expectations evolving and what do hotels and their managers need to do to meet these changing needs?
Today, guests seek more than mere accommodations; they yearn for enriched and value-added experiences. Take, for instance, Pan Pacific Hotels and Resorts, which introduced the therapeutic Happy Sleepers program, a curated offering of sleep-enhancing amenities and activities. In the realm of wellness, Parkroyal Collection Hotels & Resorts recently unveiled a suite of Eco-Wellness guest experiences, aiming to inspire conscious living and holistic well-being. Parkroyal Hotels & Resorts also commits to creating genuine connections by infusing local heritage into properties, culinary offerings, and activities. For example, at Hotel Groove Shinjuku, A Parkroyal Hotel, a vibrant blend of art and music pays homage to Shinjuku’s spirited Kabukicho district.
Furthermore, sustainability has emerged as a vital priority, with a survey by Booking.com finding that 80% of global travellers prioritise sustainable travel. A notable 71% aspire to travel more sustainably, while 78% aim to stay at eco-conscious properties annually. Embracing this ethos, all of our properties in Singapore hold ISO14001 certification, a recognised international standard in leading environmental management systems. Moreover, our two Parkroyal Collection Hotels & Resorts in Singapore boast their own Urban Farms, forming the core of a farm-to-table, farm-to-bar, and farm-to-spa concept that enhances our commitment to sustainable practices.
In addition to sustainability, what are the other factors that drive business travellers to book one brand or one hotel over another?
In my view, the key factor influencing business travellers when choosing a particular hotel brand to stay in is the opportunity to enjoy thoughtful and memorable experiences. Pan Pacific Hotels Group has acknowledged this demand and is dedicated to crafting meaningful memories for travellers by investing in new properties and offerings that cater to their ever-changing needs.
Our three distinct brands are characterised by their unique experiences and amenities, providing guests with tailored experiences that cater to a diverse range of traveller needs. For instance, Pan Pacific Hotels and Resorts offers a special Sleep program aimed at improving and enhancing sleep hygiene, while Parkroyal Collection Hotels and Resorts focuses on eco-wellness concepts to promote personal well-being. Additionally, Parkroyal Hotels and Resorts boasts vibrant social spaces that foster meaningful connections among guests. By staying attuned to the evolving preferences of travellers, we aim to provide the best possible service and create exceptional experiences for all our guests.
Sustainability seems to be an aspect that’s at the core of the new positioning, as is seen with the new Pan Pacific Orchard, of which you are general manager. In a city of five-star hotels, what stands the new property apart and what roadmap does it set for the brand as a whole?
Sustainability is indeed at the core of our group’s positioning, and Pan Pacific Orchard truly embodies our commitment to this ethos. The property’s drive towards sustainability can be seen as soon as guests walk through the doors.
A new addition to the iconic Singapore district, Orchard Road, this 23-storey hotel (above and below) boasts an intricate and imaginative design by WOHA Architects. The hotel offers 347 rooms and suites that are meticulously crafted for comfort and luxury, complete with cosy 400-thread count cotton bedding and opulent bath amenities by the renowned French house Diptyque. To encourage sustainable practices among guests, the hotel provides in-room filtered water dispensers. Additionally, reusable bottles made from ocean-bound materials are available in the rooms, further promoting eco-conscious choices.
Personally, what I think makes Pan Pacific Orchard the new landmark for Singapore’s famed Orchard Road is its iconic nature-centric design. As guests step into our hotel, they are immediately greeted by a myriad of terraced greenery, which occupies over 200% of the hotel’s land area. Our connection to the natural world is also architecturally celebrated with four high-volume terraced environments: Forest, Beach, Garden and Cloud. Dramatic 120-metre green columns tower through the terraces, creating a spectacle of thriving flora. We have also incorporated a variety of lush green spaces throughout the hotel, which not only helps to offset the building’s carbon footprint but also provides a uniquely aesthetic and tranquil experience for our guests.
Pan Pacific Hotels Group has an expanding portfolio, with over 50 properties situated in more than 30 cities. The group is dedicated to reducing its ecological impact and embracing responsible environmental measures. Leading the charge in sustainable hospitality, the group has established Green Committees at its hotels, comprising representatives from various departments such as facilities, operations, procurement, IT, and finance, to drive and enhance their sustainability initiatives.
How has the new Pan Pacific Orchard been received in its first few months?
We’ve been delighted by the positive response received since the opening. Since its launch in June 2023, Pan Pacific Orchard has received a plethora of media attention, amidst steadily growing demand and rising booking numbers.
Overall, the hotel has made a positive start, and we’re confident that this will continue. However, we’re not resting on our laurels; as always, we continuously seek out guest feedback to make improvements and ensure we’re offering the best experience possible.
How would you describe the differences between the new Pan Pacific Orchard and the recently reopened Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay, and what does each offer to business travellers in the city?
While each hotel in the group has its own unique attributes that set them apart, both Pan Pacific Orchard and the Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay are excellent choices for business travellers due to their prime locations, comprehensive service offerings, and modern amenities. Pan Pacific Orchard was meticulously designed for both comfort and luxury and is one of Singapore’s only luxury hotels designed with the environment in mind, brimming with 14,000 sqm of foliage and water features, a high-ceiling open-air lobby and energy-saving features like rainwater collection, solar panel technology and a bio-digester system, marking the green rejuvenation in Orchard Road.
Meanwhile, Parkroyal Collection hotels are statements of iconic design with a sense of responsibility and care towards the environment and self. It goes beyond bricks and mortar to refresh body and soul. For instance, Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay completed its transformation into Singapore’s first ‘Garden-in-a-Hotel’ in 2020 and the hotel’s efforts to conserve the environment can be seen all over the premises. It is home to over 2,400 plants, trees, shrubs, and more than 60 varieties of flora with a high suitability to indoor conditions.
The F&B department also contributes to sustainability with its own urban farm that forms the backbone of its farm-to-table concept which serves business travellers who are looking for an iconic hideaway that rejuvenates them with green designs and experiences that fit into their eco-friendly, conscious and wellness-driven lifestyles.
Pan Pacific seems to be enjoying a renaissance of sorts; what’s driving the group’s new vitality and what can we expect from it in the coming years in Asia?
The way I see it, this renaissance is not so much a resurgence as it is a product of our commitment to delivering high-quality experiences to our guests. Pan Pacific Hotels Group has recently been active in terms of expanding and developing our brand repertoire. We have made our mark in key cities like Singapore, Tokyo, London, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Melbourne and Sydney, where our properties have enjoyed high occupancies and travellers are growing even more familiar with our brands. For instance, we recently launched the Bellustar Tokyo, a Pan Pacific Hotel (below), as well as Hotel Groove Shinjuku – a key milestone for us as we expand into Japan. Pan Pacific Hotels and Resorts also made its mark in Europe with the opening of Pan Pacific London, which has achieved the Forbes Five Star rating every year since it opened in 2021.
Our development pipeline is extensive and dynamic, chartering our expansion across more prime locations where we see the strong potential for meaningful growth. In the next year, Pan Pacific Hotels and Resorts will launch its new vision of luxury in Indonesia with Pan Pacific Jakarta, opening in the first half of 2024 in the prestigious integrated complex, Thamrin Nine. In the pipeline, we can also expect further expansion in key Asian markets and more innovations that seek to enhance the guest experience.
How important is sustainability to guests staying at the luxury end of the hospitality spectrum?
Sustainability remains a significant concern for guests staying at luxury hotels, but with the increasing cost of living, it might not be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. As the Pan Pacific Hotels Group, we recognise the importance of inspiring and assisting consumers in travelling more sustainably. It is now more crucial than ever to make sustainable options easily visible and worthwhile.
With our extensive portfolio comprising over 50 properties in more than 30 cities, we are deeply committed to reducing our ecological impact and embracing responsible environmental practices. Taking the lead in sustainable hospitality, we introduced Parkroyal Collection in 2020, dedicated to developing sustainable hotels for the future. While we implement environmentally friendly initiatives across all three brands; for instance, Pan Pacific Orchard installed bio-digesters that are able to filter food waste and convert it into water for self-cleaning and Parkroyal on Beach Road embarked on a journey to switch out plastic for more sustainable materials. Parkroyal Collection stands out as the brand where we specifically showcase efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and resource consumption with hotels designed around five Sustainable Development Goals: Biophilic Design, Green Design, Reduce, Recycle, and Food & Beverage.
For example, Parkroyal Collection Pickering (above and below) exemplifies how they utilise over 50 diverse types of herbs and vegetables sourced from their Urban Farms. This fresh produce serves as garnishes, aromatics, and key ingredients in the property’s various establishments. Additionally, the property takes a sustainable approach by incorporating 262 solar panels that generate an impressive 65,004 kwh per year.
You oversee a vast territory in Asia – what are the biggest challenges to developing brand recognition and loyalty in such a competitive space?
The hospitality sector, particularly in the Asia Pacific, is incredibly competitive and dynamic, and building both brand recognition and loyalty requires a multifaceted approach. One of the biggest challenges is the sheer diversity of the region. Each country has its own unique culture, traditions, and customer expectations. What works in Singapore might not work in Japan or Indonesia. Hence, we must ensure our brands are adaptable and able to meet local expectations while still maintaining our core brand values and standards.
This brings me to another major challenge: developing brand recognition and loyalty. Asia’s hospitality sector is incredibly competitive, with numerous well-established local and international brands. To stand out, we aim to deliver consistent, high-quality experiences across all our properties, which helps to build our reputation and drive customer loyalty. This involves continually training our staff, investing in our properties, and staying ahead of hospitality trends.
While these challenges are significant, they also represent opportunities. By meeting them head-on, we can differentiate our brand, build loyalty, and ensure that our growth is sustainable and beneficial for all stakeholders. All these challenges require a flexible approach, where we constantly learn, adapt, and innovate. It’s a fascinating space to work in, and I believe that as we continue to listen to our customers and our teams on the ground, we’ll be able to continuously build a brand that resonates and stands out in this competitive market.
Your mandate also covers Indonesia, an economy that’s presently booming. What can we expect from the Group there in the coming years?
The Indonesian economy is indeed booming, and we view this as an exciting opportunity for Pan Pacific Hotels Group. Over the next few years, you can expect to see a significant expansion of our presence there. Pan Pacific Hotels Group is proud to announce that we are reintroducing our brands to Indonesia, starting with three upcoming properties: Pan Pacific Jakarta, Parkroyal Serviced Suites Jakarta (below), and Parkroyal Jakarta. We were drawn back to this market due to Jakarta’s significant role as a bustling gateway city and tourism hub. Factors such as the substantial population size, burgeoning business and corporate travel demand, and potential for leisure tourism, along with finding the right partners and locations within the city, made this decision an obvious choice for us.
Each of our properties will offer a unique experience that reflects Indonesia’s rich culture and hospitality. For instance, Parkroyal Serviced Suites Jakarta is designed to provide a comfortable, contemporary living experience that will feel like a second home to the modern traveller. Meanwhile, Pan Pacific Jakarta will offer refined luxury coupled with sincere hospitality, all enhanced by a distinct Indonesian charm. Parkroyal Jakarta aims to immerse our guests in an authentic local experience, putting them right in the heart of the best that the city has to offer.
This expansion into Indonesia is part of our broader growth strategy in key markets across the globe. While we’re excited about our upcoming openings in China, Cambodia, and Vietnam, Indonesia truly plays a pivotal role in our expansion plans for the Asia Pacific region.
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