Navigating the hospitality helix in Southeast Asia - Insights

Navigating the hospitality helix in Southeast Asia

helixHotels are no longer places where you just rest your head. They are activity hubs where Wi-Fi, coffee and conversation flow fast and free. Guests seek convivial co-working, networking and not-working experiences that flex to their schedule. They also need somewhere to let off steam and have fun when the work is done.

In an increasingly crowded hospitality landscape, the survivors will be those who do things slightly better, slightly differently, and most importantly, those who offer real value to their guests.

Value does not mean cheap. It means that your customers feel totally satisfied with the total experience for the price they have paid. Our job as hoteliers is to find a price point that is fair and deliver accordingly. That requires creativity, dedication and simple hard work. All too often the efforts of the core team inside a hotel – the GM, the F&B Manager are not valued. It is these people that manage every aspect of the property. Being a hotel manager is like being the mayor of a city. You are a planner, a technician and an expert in every aspect of the property. You are also a mentor and sometimes even a counsellor.

The hospitality scene in Asia is an ever changing landscape. Trends, brands, concepts appear and disappear all the time. What matters in the end is service, which is something rapidly diminishing as hotels adopt mass market strategies and sensibilities.

In Thailand hospitality management we have seen an increasing focus on the mass market in recent years resulting in higher numbers of arrivals but much lower buying power. This has impacted heavily on hotels in some of the country’s main resort areas. A great room is not sustainable with poor service. A funky look will fade, a wacky concept will narrow your target market. Building the right experience for your guests requires experience and a deep understanding of their needs and behaviour in order to get the service basics right.

Developing a loyal customer base is another essential for most hospitality businesses, and this has become a major challenge in competitive, price sensitive markets such as those in Southeast Asia.

Online distribution has been taken over by a handful of huge companies that have little understanding of a specific destination or product. Small operators are crippled by high commissions and pressured to lower their room rates in order to guarantee exposure on a handful of dominant travel websites. In this sense, the travel industry has been following the same trajectory as as Banking and Fast Food. In both of those sectors this ‘one approach fits all’ strategy has already failed, in some cases quite dramatically.

Owners need to understand that what makes a hotel or restaurant successful, even in a competitive space, is how their product is perceived and how their services are delivered. That’s why my first advice is to make sure you have the right people around you. Hospitality begins with people. Everything else follows.

About the author

Yann Gouriou

Yann Gouriou is the Founder and Managing Director of Bangkok-based Unicorn Hotels and Resorts. Unicorn Hotels & Resorts focuses on the management of hotels, resorts, restaurants, spas, bars and clubs. The company specialises in start-ups, re-launches and openings with a strong people-oriented approach to all projects. Gouriou is former Group General Manager of AHMS The Collection, and was responsible for Aleenta Phuket Phang-Nga, Aleenta Hua Hin-Pranburi, AKARYN Samui and akyra Chura Samui, as well as pipeline projects in Chiang Mai and Cambodia. Yann has worked in almost every department of top hotels and resorts, including stints as Resident Manager of Cambridge Beaches Resort and Spa in Bermuda, and Food & Beverage Manager of Bangkok-based Lebua Hotel’s Dome complex. Unicorn will also launch and manage the new ZAZZ Hotels in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.

Yann Gouriou is a strong advocate of re-assessing OTA models and has launched his own new hotel and travel service booking engine named, which promises the best available rate every time guests book a room online and donates 20% of the commission to project-oriented charities with a measurable impact selected by its customers.

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