Vienna House CEO on the need to redefine luxury

Projected image of Vienna House in Vietnam.

Vietnam seems to be the flavour of the season with hospitality groups. With luxury resorts to European groups, all want to make the most of this lucrative land at this moment. Austria’s independent hotel chain Vienna House recently announced plans to expand in south-east Asia, with the opening of a new five-star Vietnam hotel. Set for a 2021 debut, the beachside hotel Vienna House Vung Tau, will offer 775 stylish rooms, suites, penthouses and villas.

“We are proud to be taking the first step into the Asian market”

Rupert Simoner, CEO Vienna House, said: “Vietnam’s tourism has been gaining in importance in recent years. We are proud to be taking the first step into the Asian market. Vienna House Vung Tau is a milestone within our Asia expansion strategy. Further projects in Thailand and Indonesia will be announced soon”.

Austria’s largest hotel group Vienna House owns and manages hotels with a focus on business travel and city breaks in Europe and a soon-to-materialise footprint in Southeast Asia. With sub-brands like Vienna HouseVienna House Easy and Vienna House R.evo, the company currently owns and operates close to 40 hotels in Europe.

Rupert Simoner, CEO Vienna House

In its own words, Vienna House “is all about endless exploration, European design and modern hospitality”. Betting itself on bespoke hospitality, it says it has its pulse on time. And that sounds about right with their keen interest in the SEA region.

Quite intrigued by his move and opinion, I decided to unfurl Vienna House’s Asia expansion plans and the changing landscape of hospitality in an exclusive interview with CEO Rupert Simoner.

TD: What does the hospitality sector look like these days?

RS: The hospitality sector has changed tremendously. Today we are facing many new concepts with many new interesting players as well as new business portfolios. The pure hotel business is only one part.

What do you like and dislike about it?

“I like creativity and new markets”

I like creativity and new markets. What I don’t like is a come and go attitude. Nowadays everything is trendy as long as it carries the label ‘start up’. I also don’t like shallowness at times.

What are the key hospitality trends to watch out for in your opinion?

“I strongly believe that we face a re-definition of luxury”

Society is constantly evolving and this can be seen in the way we live and travel. I find it interesting to see new urban living concepts combined with working and local leisure cultures. The new nomad looks for co-living hotels where spaces are not set forever, rather, they are a kind of fluidity of spaces. I strongly believe that we face a re-definition of luxury. Time, unique location, personal experiences and authenticity are the new core pillars of luxury.

Other trends to keep your eye on are smart hotels, good mainstream designs and the use of AI. AI is already beginning to break into the travel industry and I only expect it’s an impact to become more profound, changing our behaviour significantly.

I am a big believer that sustainability must become, and will become, a critical decision-making tool in the very near future for both travellers and destinations alike.

So what should hoteliers do differently in this dynamic landscape?

“Always look at things from the guest’s perspective”

A good hotelier should always know what his strengths are and play to them. It’s also incredibly important to keep the customer at the centre of all ideas and endeavours. Keep things as simple as possible, go back to your roots and always look at things from the guest’s perspective. Hospitality is a people business. Focus on good staff, quality training and hire management with an entrepreneurial understanding.

You seem to like AI in hospitality. But how can one cope with the digital disruption?

“Don’t digitalise for the sake of it”

Don’t digitalise for the sake of it. Of course, we should always strive to use technology that drives the business forward but it should bring a clear benefit to the guests and make life easier. Once again, hospitality is a people’s business so technology should be a complimentary piece to amazing service.

Which are the markets to look out for?

South-East Asia is a rapidly emerging market. Also, European traveller friendly markets such as the Middle East are also trending upwards. I would also watch out for parts of Africa. 

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