Face to face: Mark Wong, vice president, Asia Pacific at SLH

SLH is currently undergoing a major transformation, with the launch of a new ownership structure. How have the company’s Asian hotel owners responded to these changes?

Face to face - Mark Wong, SLHWe completed the restructure of our company in May 2016. This restructure allows for a £12 million investment into SLH over the next five years by the owners of the management company.

100% of our hotels voted and they now jointly own Small Luxury Hotels of the World Limited with the owners.

We recently held our APAC Regional Meeting in Singapore which was attended representatives from 40% of our APAC hotels.

The hotel representatives were briefed about the changes and upcoming plans, and all of them were excited to be part of this energy.

What will the additional investment in SLH mean for the company moving forward?

The £12 million investment will enable the brand to execute initiatives laid out in our five-year plan announced during our 25th anniversary last year. For one, we have launched our most expensive “Unadvertise” brand campaign with a budget of USD$1 million.

The investment will also enable us to further drive our newly improved quality assurance programme; refresh our loyalty offering and advance our technology and distribution systems. At the end of the day, it’s about delivering the best services possible to our member hotels, guests and the travel trade.

How successful has the “Heroes” travel agent programme been in Asia since it was launched late last year?

The Small Luxury Heroes programme, SLH’s first travel agent recognition programme, has been well-received by the trade since its launch in December 2015. Asia-Pacific TAs currently make up about 20% of the programme, and this is consistent with the proportion that the APAC region is contributing to SLH’s total revenue, which is about 11% to-date.

Reservations by travel agents account for almost two thirds of all SLH bookings and are vital to the success and growth of the business. We are regularly reaching out to more TAs about this programme and encouraging them to sign up for the programme which rewards them according to the amount of bookings generated for SLH.

SLH has added several new Asian members in recent months; are there any specific destinations that you plan to target in future?

This year SLH has already added 26 new hotels around the world including The President by Akaryn in Ventiane, Laos, Mahana Villa in Upper Moutere, New Zealand and The Terrace Club at Busena in Okinawa, Japan. We are also excited about adding our first members in new destinations such as Naman Retreat in Danang, Vietnam, The Edison in Penang, Malaysia as well as soon-to-open Hotel28 Myeongdong in Seoul and 137 Pillars Suites in Bangkok, Thailand.

We are keen to grow our hotel presence in key and unfulfilled destinations that our guests are requesting. For example, although SLH already has fifteen hotel members in China, there is still so much potential to add more members in the country. To drive this development, we have created a new Vice-President role with a dedicated focus on Asia Pacific development.

And which Asian destinations are your most popular with guests?

According to bookings from our SLH Club members (which is 435,000-strong), the most popular APAC destinations are Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Cambodia.

What further developments can we expect to see at SLH in the coming months and years?

Lots of exciting things! We will continue to implement our five-year plan, with our refreshed SLH loyalty programme planned for relaunch in 2016/2017. The new programme will shift the focus from recognition to reward-base, as we will reward not only customer bookings, but also customer behaviour related to engagement with the brand via email, social media, etc.

On the technology front, we launched our Apple and Android mobile application earlier this year, and will be launching our new Chinese website in Q4 2016. We will continue to invest in Asia to raise brand awareness and further entrench SLH’s presence in Asia.

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