Comeback of Travel
Our Director of International Sales Chrissie Lincoln lends her insights on the comeback of travel, and how Swire Hotels is evolving with it.
Well, it’s official! The long-awaited rebound in travel is in full swing – at least for most parts of the world.
It was a busy summer, to say the least. The online booking site Expedia is reported to have had one of the best seasons on record, with accommodations in top locations selling out and carriers such as United adding capacity on transatlantic flights. According to Mastercard, bookings on short and medium-haul flights have surpassed pre-pandemic levels. Australian carrier Qantas has even revived a plan for the world’s longest nonstop flights — buying 12 Airbus A350-1000s that can fly from Australia to any city in the world.
The pace of reopening is now gaining momentum across Southeast Asia, too. Flights are steadily returning to 2019 levels in the region’s major economies, with Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia being the most popular destinations this year.
Swire Hotels Rebound
We’re grateful to say that our own rebound at Swire Hotels has likewise been strong. The team at EAST Miami have had an exceptional start to the year with rooms in high demand, with our restaurants and bars overflowing with friendly faces from all over the world. In light of Hong Kong’s announcement of quarantine-free travel, our properties have been gearing up to go full swing. The Upper House is offering a “3-Night Residency” in response to the 0+3 model where travellers cannot enter restaurants or bars for 3 days upon arrival, and EAST Hong Kong has created several packages for short and long-term travellers alike.
All in all, the pandemic has changed the way people travel, and hotels need to evolve accordingly as well. During these challenging times, we’ve been busy looking at how we can do more with less and maintain our focus on keeping guests happy.
Shifting Booking Patterns
However much travel has normalised since 2019, uncertainty for travellers remains. To address this, we’re continuing to offer flexible cancellation policies that were introduced during the pandemic. Studies show that people want to travel, and we’re seeing the bookings, but people still know that unexpected circumstances could arise and they want the peace of mind that comes with flexible booking policies.
Traditional booking patterns are shifting, so it’s been important to relook at our sales methods and ask if they are what potential guests or clients are looking for. Since the pandemic started, travellers have become more opportunistic and unpredictable, booking last-minute trips, and extending their stays to take advantage of the work-from-anywhere trend, for example. That being said, our teams have remained flexible across ever-changing booking platforms to capture these new behaviours and focus on traveller intent.
As part of this multichannel approach, is our e-shop launch at The Upper House, and our WeChat mini-programme in China. By focusing on these, we’re continuing to invest in direct digital experiences, so we can meet our guests wherever they wish to shop! All our properties are also offering unique online packages from wellness retreats to innovative family and pet experiences.
As creativity continues to drive what we do, partnering with likeminded brands has also been central. We’ve collaborated on interesting experiences for our guests often with Taikoo Hui and Taikoo Li shopping centres next door, like a Dior pop-up store at The Temple House. We’ve also worked with the London-based luxury department store Harrods, opening “The Residence”, an invitation-only culture, events, and personal shopping space in China.
Further, more news from this year came through The House Collective joining The Set Collection at the beginning of 2022, as the first partner to sit alongside its prominent founding member hotels. This exciting collaboration will broaden our network beyond Asia. The Set Collection comprises some of the world’s best independent hotels and resorts, with its founding members being Hotel Cafe Royal in London, Conservatorium in Amsterdam, Lutetia in Paris and Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem. It’s a partnership we’re very excited about as this new era of travel dawns.
Wellness is on the rise, so in response we’ve developed speciality offerings that allow our guests to balance body and mind. At The Middle House, we have a new wellness programme titled “Joyful Living” that builds on nutrition, mental health and smart technology to empower health and wellbeing. At The Upper House, we have curated a Wellness Residency programme with partners like FAMILY FORM who offers dynamic and immersive workouts, as well as Shamanic Energy Healing which melds ancient spiritual wisdom with an understanding of the contemporary pressures of fast-paced life. Both these programmes have gained us accolades from World Spa Awards: 2022’s Best Wellness Retreat in China and Hong Kong, respectively.
As travel resumes, it’s also clear that modern-day globetrotters – and younger generations in particular – are looking to go greener. Eco-consciousness is high on guests’ priority list, and it’s on ours too. This past year, we’ve ramped up our sustainability efforts with Small Actions Big Changes – a series of initiatives around energy conservation, water conservation and waste management. It’s a campaign designed for real impact and aimed at putting words into action, with measurable KPIs that we’ve developed for each of these three areas.
We are also embracing the shift towards remote working. Despite the starts and stops of lockdowns and ever-changing travel restrictions, remote working seems to be here to stay. Fortunately, we have long-stay residences at many of our properties; increasingly popular is Domain - our café, lounge and co-working space offering healthy juices, fresh coffee and a hip place to meet, relax and work. It continues to be important to figure out how to attract guests who want to blend business and leisure.
It’s been an eventful, and indisputably difficult, few years for the travel and hospitality world. Flexibility and imagination are proving to be the necessary ingredients to see us through, making us more adaptive and pushing our creativity to new heights. At Swire Hotels, we’re excited to take these lessons learned and continue to evolve as global travel finally takes off again.