Expanding Preferred focuses on Asia’s fast-growing markets

David Spooner, Preferred’s executive vice president for Asia Pacific
David Spooner, Preferred’s executive vice president for Asia Pacific

Preferred Hotels & Resorts is targeting several key Asia Pacific markets, including Vietnam and Indonesia, as it bids to expand its portfolio and capitalise on the Asian travel boom.

Speaking to Travel Daily Asia, David Spooner, Preferred’s executive vice president for Asia Pacific, revealed several areas of focus for the company, both in terms of geographical area and the experiences it offers to travellers.

“We are very excited about Vietnam, which is a target country for us. It’s a great place for leisure and obviously a major business opportunity. We’re [also] having discussions with several lovely hotels in Laos and Cambodia,” Spooner stated.

He added that Preferred recently signed two properties in Vietnam, including Sherwood Suites in Ho Chi Minh City and another as-yet-unnamed hotel which is expected to be formally announced in the coming months.

“The other major one for us is Indonesia; we’ve just started working with the Aryaduta hotel in Jakarta and we’ll build on the relationship from there,” he added.

This regional focus is largely being driven by what Spooner called “the huge rise in new feeder markets… from Asia Pacific, specifically China.”

“The traditional markets of Europe, the US and Japan are still strong, but what we’re seeing is an increasing need to develop in emerging markets,” Spooner told Travel Daily. “We’ve seen very positive trends; in China… [we have] increased to four offices, in addition to our regional headquarters in Hong Kong. We’re also working with Ctrip as our connectivity partner in China; which is extremely important.

Wanda Reign Shanghai
Wanda Reign Shanghai

“In India and Middle East, we’ve also enhanced our sales presence and significantly increased the number of hotels we work with,” he added.

Elsewhere in Asia Pacific, Preferred has started representing the Coco Prive resort in the Maldives, two new Shilla Stay hotels in South Korea, and GHM’s first hotel in India – The Chedi in Mumbai. In Japan, the company is working with Tokyu Hotels, the country’s largest domestic chain, and an agreement has been struck with an “up-and-coming brand” in mainland China, which is expected to be announced soon.

Spooner also revealed that he is in continued discussions with two of China’s biggest hotel groups, one of them being Wanda Hotels & Resorts.

“We’ve had a lot of interest with the Wanda Reign on the Bund in Shanghai since we added it to our collection last year. We are now in the process of extending and deepening our partnership with Wanda Hotels,” he commented.

And while Preferred works with a diverse collection of hotel groups, Spooner says they are united by a desire to offer their guests something different from the major chains.

“With each individual hotel or group we work with, it is very clear that they don’t want to be a cookie-cutter brand; they want to retain their own sense of identity and autonomy over their branding. The definition of luxury has changed; people now consider curating travel experiences as a form of luxury. That’s why we have our five collections of more than 650 hotels that offer a myriad of experiences for travellers who embrace the independent approach,” said Spooner. “Hotels in Asia have evolved. There are many hotels of great quality, but what we try to do is create a memorable experience that reflects the authenticity of the destination.”

Preferred is in talks about working with other Wanda hotels
Preferred is in talks with Wanda about working with the company’s other hotels

The other “key priority” for Preferred and its members, according to Spooner, is the iPrefer loyalty programme, which now features a simpler two-tier structure and also reflects an experiential focus.

“We don’t believe that loyalty is only about having a points-based recognition system; it’s about having good customer relationships. What we’re keen to do is [provide our customers with]… information about the experiences in our hotels,” he said.

“We wanted to provide our participating hotels with a way to enhance the on-property iPrefer member experience to extend customer lifetime value and overall engagement. When we launched the iPrefer mobile app in April of this year, it’s had a fabulous take-up. We made sure that the app provides the ability not only to check rates and book rooms, but also to offer our members the means to communicate with the hotel when they are in-house, whether to find local experiences, or sought assistance to make restaurant or spa reservations while on the go. People want to be inspired when they travel; and they want a hotel that not only reflects the destination, but also recognises their loyalty and provides truly personalised service,” Spooner added.

Membership of the iPrefer loyalty programme has increased 57% year-on-year, but the fastest-growing markets are in Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

In 2016, Preferred welcomed 82 new properties and expanded its footprint in 27 countries across the globe.

“Our objective for 2017-18 is to bring on a wider portfolio in Asia Pacific, as it is the fastest-growing region in the world,” Spooner concluded.

Asia Pacific hotels added to Preferred’s portfolio so far in 2017:

Aryaduta Jakarta, Indonesia
Coco Prive, Maldives
Shilla Stay Haeundae, South Korea
Shilla Stay Seocho, South Korea
The Chedi Mumbai, India
Fortune Select JP Cosmos Hotel Bengaluru, India
Sherwood Suites, Vietnam

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