What openings does Banyan Tree/Angsana have planned for the next two years?
We currently have more than 30 resorts and hotels around the world and six new hotels will open in 2012. Our continued growth, at a time when the economy is forcing many travel businesses to slow development, demonstrates our commitment to customer experience. It also supports our ongoing vision to build the brand into an international hotel company that offers an unsurpassed lifestyle experience to all markets and all mindsets. We must not however, rest on our laurels and there is much work to be done to support the new hotel launches and also to maintain interest in our existing hotel portfolio.
Our launch plans for 2012 include three hotels in China, Shanghai, Tengchong and Tianjin along with two new hotels in Vietnam and one in Kerala. For 2013, there are a further ten hotels opening, nine in China and one in Morocco.
In Europe, we are particular excited about the Vietnam Lang Co project due to launch in October this year. It will be the first Banyan Tree to launch in Vietnam with 59 villas alongside the Angsana hotel offering 193 suites in a stunning area 60 minutes from Da Nang International Airport. The hotels will sit on the beach at Lang Co Bay and be surrounded by a backdrop of paddy fields, local villages, rugged hills and forested land. It is close to three world heritage sites showcasing a new undiscovered destination surrounded by pristine nature and protected Vietnamese heritage and culture. There is also direct access from the UK to the destination from Emirates, Vietnam Airlines and Qatar.
Looking forward, which destinations will the brands look to build/open in the future?
Banyan Tree is responding quickly to the surge in holidaymakers from China looking to explore the world and this is a huge developmental area with eight existing hotels and 13 to open in the next couple of years. However, we will continue efforts to expand internationally and new hotels are planned for Oman, Greece, Morocco, Mexico and India.
You recently toured the UK with agent roadshows, how has the market shifted in the last year?
When I joined Banyan Tree in June last year, I was welcomed by a knowledgeable sales team who have been tirelessly working to nurture relationships with tour operators and travel agents. The majority of our bookings come through the trade and a strong relationship with travel agents is instrumental to the success of the company. Our relationship has not shifted but it has strengthened and my role in the last nine months has been to ensure that we listen to our partners and respond.
Our recent roadshow was a great success. The London sales team and several Banyan Tree and Angsana hotels visited all of our top trade partners across the country culminating in a gala event at the Corinthia hotel. It gave me an excellent opportunity to speak to the trade in detail about what they require to improve business and we will move forward with renewed vigour in future months.
Agents are bombarded with information on a daily basis and many are not incentivised or rewarded for their support. Banyan Tree launched an agent XTC programme four years ago (eXtraordinary Travel Consultants) with one aim – to recognise top performing agents and to thank them for their loyalty. Agents who make a certain number of bookings for Banyan Tree receive points and these points contribute towards prizes from discounted room rates, dining and spa treatments. We have had an overwhelming response to this loyalty programme and we now have 554 members in the UK which is 16% of the total membership.
Have there been any recent changes to Banyan Tree or Angsana’s product offering?
The appeal for Banyan Tree and Angsana hotels is that each property is individual and unique offering an experience that gives guests a genuine sense of place. The architecture, service, interiors, spa and cuisine all have accents of Asian influences but this is expertly fused with the local culture.
Banyan Tree pioneered the exclusive private villa with pool concept and it has continued to maintain this trademark with the launch of the spectacular Double Pool Villa at Banyan Tree Phuket a few years ago. All of the villa design since has strived to leave guests awe-inspired and rejuvenated – cliff top villas on stilts with infinity plunge pools at Banyan Tree Samui and Bedouin-inspired tented villas in the desert at Banyan Tree Al Wadi, UAE to name just two.
The recent launch of the new flagship Angsana hotel in Phuket, Angsana Laguna Phuket is a resort I am particularly proud of. Previously the Sheraton Grande Laguna hotel, Angsana spent USSD30 million completely renovating the property and it opened to great acclaim in December 2011. It offers several different room categories to appeal to all guests from Loft suites overlooking the lagoon for couples and spacious Laguna rooms for families and the facilities have surpassed expectations with an incredible Tree house kids club offering everything from kids spa treatments to Thai dancing and cooking classes. Soon to launch is XANA beach club which will offer a relaxed poolside retreat during the day with day beds and sheltered cabanas turning into a buzzing, funky club in the evening with spectacular cocktails and dancers.