Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Hotels

Ennismore’s Mondrian Singapore to Open by June 2023

11 months ago

Mondrian Singapore Duxton, a 302-room luxury hotel, has seen its opening delayed by a couple of months. The Straits Times has a fun profile by Louisa Lim of all the frenzy behind-the-scenes in how the joint venture by hotel group Accor and lifestyle brand builder Ennismore aims to get the five-star hotel just right.

An interview with Robert Hauck, the hotel’s general manager, explains how the brand — founded in 1996 by Ian Schrager and featured in the TV series Entourage and songs by rapper 50 Cent — needed to be customized for the local market, such as by obtaining art from Singaporean artists like illustrator Andre Wee.

To make the property a local hit, the manager has hired celebrated talents to lead the house restaurants Christina’s and Canyon Club. These include the 39-year-old Jacquelyn Yvonne Chan, a former Olympian for Malaysia, and the 59-year-old Lim Tow Seng, a tattoed ex-convict whose life has been documented on TV. A fun detail:

“Mr Hauck had vowed to track down “Ah Seng” after spotting him on German television. It took him three months to locate the 59-year-old at his workplace, a bak kut teh shop, and offer him a job.”
He reminisces about the moment: “Ah Seng was very shy and very reluctant. I asked why and he said, ‘I’m afraid… You know, I’m afraid people will look down on me.'”
Today, Ah Seng is the manager for Bistro 126, the hotel’s staff restaurant, and a walking poster child for Mondrian Singapore. “He practically ignited the whole campaign for us,” says Mr Hauck.

Louisa Lim, for The Straits Times

The article echos themes about how lifestyle and luxury hotels need to emphasize locally-relevant and distinctive offerings and create experiences to talk about that were discussed in this video by Ennismore Founder Sharan Pasricha at Skift Global Forum 2022.

Subscribers can read the Straits Times article on Mondrian Singapore Duxton here.

Business Travel

Agoda Adds Fintech Partners Ahead of Asia’s Full-Scale Reopening

1 year ago

Travel platform Agoda has been pushing ahead with a series of new fintech partnerships, with its eye on Asia’s corporate travel recovery.

Agoda, which is part of Bookings Holdings, recently started working with Singapore’s global payment platform Sunrate, and is also now collaborating with Australia’s Airwallex to target business travelers in Hong Kong.

The deal with Sunrate will see it integrate its own online travel solution into Agoda. Sunrate helps online travel agencies support single and multiple corporate card payments for flights and accommodation, and lets users set spend limits and define usage.

Airwallex, which uses technology to help reduce the fees charged for processing overseas transactions, is partnering with Agoda to make travel planning easier for corporate customers in Hong Kong. Airwallex Hong Kong customers get discounts and cashback on accommodation bookings using their Airwallex Borderless Cards.

The company said 84 percent of its Hong Kong business clients plan to take a business trip in the next 6 months.

The partnerships come as China and Hong Kong gradually lift their travel restrictions. A day after China announced changes to its controversial zero-Covid policy, Hong Kong said inbound arrivals would only need to undergo daily rapid antigen tests for five days, instead of seven days.

“It is great to see businesses in Hong Kong recover from the pandemic, and to see so many that are eager to travel again,” said Giuliana Riitano, Asia Pacific market director of Agoda. “For many, their next business trip may be the first time they have traveled in a very long time.”

Online Travel

Trip.com Jumps on Buy Now Pay Later Bandwagon

1 year ago

China’s Trip.com has struck two new partnerships, covering the UK and Asia Pacific, to give customers the opportunity to delay or spread out payments for their purchases.

In Asia Trip.com has joined forces with Atome, while in the UK it will use Klarna.

Trip.com bookers in the UK will see Klarna as an additional payment option when they arrive at check-out, where they’ll be able to choose one of three payment options: pay the full amount immediately, pay the full amount within 30 days, or pay in three installments over 60 days.

Trip.com’s Atome partnership will first only be available in Singapore, before other Asia Pacific regions in 2023.

In the face of a squeezed household budgets, buy now pay later schemes are becoming more popular. They tend to be common when buying bigger ticket items, like a vacation, but even food delivery platforms are looking to split payments for customers.

Klarna claims its short-term, interest and fee and fee free credit products deliver positive outcomes for consumers, with extremely low default rates of “well below 1 percent”.

“Klarna assesses a consumer’s ability to repay on each purchase, taking a real time view of someone’s financial circumstances which means using Klarna is never guaranteed,” it said.The company restricts the use of its services if consumers miss a payment to prevent debt building up.

Trip.com offers 1.2 million hotels and flights from 480 airlines.

Ground Transport

Southeast Asian Destinations Steer Tourists Towards Road Trip Holidays

1 year ago

In a bid to encourage tourists to explore the region by road, the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have come up with a driving tourism manual.

The guidebook contains information on driving in Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam and also includes a list of suggested tour routes.

Available for free download, the guidebook is an initiative under the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025, with Thailand’s Department of Tourism as its main coordinator.

The ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025, sought to implement the agreement on the recognition of domestic driving licenses issued by ASEAN members states to promote drive/overland tourism across the region.

The information in the manual has been collated to help make the self-drive journey a seamless one among destinations in the region, based on connectivity, openness and mutual sharing of tourism experiences.

Designed to help driving tourists create their own itineraries, the guidebook contains information to help tourists traveling to Southeast Asia by land, including visa and entry requirements, vehicle permits, cross-border procedures, required documents, speed limits as well as emergency contact numbers.

A map also indicates the countries that drive on the left side of the road and those that drive on the right side.

To encourage tourists to explore lesser-known destinations, the guidebook also recommends self-drive routes for each country covering major highlights and second-tier destinations, and cross-border routes combining different countries.

The self-drive tourism manual is meant for travellers coming from within Southeast Asia as well as for international tourists coming from other continents, Yuthasak Supasorn, the governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand said in a press statement on Monday.

“International travelers could, for example, combine a visit to Thailand with visits to Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, or Malaysia to be enjoyed at their own pace, along their own routes while exploring the many diverse cultures, attractions, and landscapes of this fascinating region,” Supasorn said.

Hotels

Singapore Sovereign Wealth Fund to Buy Majority Stake in Resort Group Valued at $2.2 Billion

1 year ago

The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation has acquired a majority stake in Sani/Ikos Group, a luxury beach resort group in the Mediterranean, for an undisclosed amount.

The transaction that is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2022, subject to regulatory approval, values the Mediterranean-based luxury resort operator at $2.27 billion.

U.S.-based Oaktree Capital Management, Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Moonstone Investments, French private equity fund Florac and UK-based Hermes Global Private Equity, will be selling their stakes to the Singapore sovereign wealth fund as part of this transaction.

Andreas Andreadis and Mathieu Guillemin will continue to manage the luxury beach resort group as CEOs and co-managing partners, while Stavros Andreadis, who was earlier the managing director of the hotel group, will become honorary chairman, according to a Sani/Ikos statement.

 The three came on board first when Greece-based Sani Resort and Ikos Resorts merged in January 2016.

Speaking about as the hotel group’s efforts to strengthen its brand and expand presence in Europe, Lee Kok Sun, chief investment officer of real estate of the soverign welath fund, said, “We believe this investment will generate resilient returns and is testament to our confidence in the Greek and wider European tourism sector over the long term.”

Sani/Ikos Group develops, owns and operates 10 resorts in Halkidiki, Corfu and Kos islands in Greece, and in Marbella and Estepona in the Iberian Peninsula.

Mergers and Acquisitions

MGM in Talks With Genting for Potential Purchase of Resorts World Sentosa

2 years ago

Casino-resort Genting Singapore is in talks with bidders for the purchase of Resorts World Sentosa and US-based MGM Resorts International is one of the top contenders, according to Bloomberg reports.

While MGM’s recent talks with Malaysia’s Lim family, that owns 53 percent stake in Genting Singapore, failed to yield an agreement, the Singapore-based casino operator is said to be in early-stage discussions with other potential buyers, as per Bloomberg.

As Covid outbreaks have led to a full closure of casinos in Macau — the Las Vegas of Asia, Singapore’s eased entry restrictions make it more open to international tourists.

A prospective buyer of Genting would also have to worry less about competition as Genting and Sands have an agreement with the Singapore government that limits the amount of gaming properties to the two entities, leaving Marina Bay Sands as its only competitor.

The Singapore Tourism Board had also reached an agreement in 2019 with Las Vegas Sands and Genting Singapore allowing them to significantly expand their respective integrated resorts.

Looking to decrease its dependence on Macau, where all casinos are closed and Japan very cautiously reopening to international tourists, MGM may be keen to explore other Asian destinations for its casino business.

Last year, speaking at the Skift Hospitality and Marketing Summit, William Hornbuckle, CEO and president of MGM Resorts International, had spoken about plans to expand in Asia.

Genting Singapore operates Resorts World Sentosa, an integrated resort on the Sentosa island, off the southern coast of Singapore. The key attractions at Resorts World Sentosa include a casino, the Universal Studios Singapore theme park, the Adventure Cove Waterpark, as well as the Singapore Oceanarium, which is the world’s second largest oceanarium. 

Mergers and Acquisitions

Singapore’s Ascott to Acquire Serviced Apartment Company Oakwood

2 years ago

Singapore-based Ascott is buying global serviced apartment provider Oakwood Worldwide from Mapletree Investments, increasing its global portfolio by 81 properties and about 15,000 units.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition is set to be completed in the third quarter of 2022, after which 8,500 Oakwood operational units are expected to immediately contribute to Ascott’s recurring fee income streams.

Ascott parent company CapitaLand Investment expects the acquisition to take the serviced apartment operator’s global presence to more than 150,000 units in about 900 properties across more than 200 cities in 39 countries.

With Oakwood coming onboard, Ascott is confident of achieving its target of 160,000 units globally ahead of 2023.

Following the acquisition, the new markets that would be added to the Ascott portfolio include Cheongju in South Korea; Zhangjiakou and Qingdao in China; Dhaka in Bangladesh as well as Washington D.C.

Mapletree acquired Oakwood in February 2017.

Other Ascott takeovers include Quest Apartment Hotels in 2017. In the same year, Ascott invested in Synergy Global Housing, a corporate housing provider in the U.S. In 2018, Ascott acquired Indonesian hotel operator Tauzia Hotel Management to enter the mid-scale business hotel segment.

Business Travel

Singapore Sees Business Travel on the Rise Once Again

2 years ago

In April, Singapore reopened its borders to vaccinated travelers. Since then, corporate travel agency CWT said that Singapore has seen the highest peaks of business travel since early 2020, according to The Straits Times.


“Mr. Akshay Kapoor, head of sales for Asia-Pacific at CWT, said outbound bookings from Singapore are up fivefold compared with the beginning of this year, while inbound bookings are up by nearly threefold.”

–Straits Times

Read the Article on the Straits Times