Small Luxury Hotels of the World Increases Expansion into Asia Pacific

santhiya resort and spa koh phangan thailand

A panoramic view from a bedroom at a new SLH property, the five-star Santhiya Resort & Spa on Koh Phangan, Thailand

In a survey earlier this year, Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) club members chose their top five favorite city-center hotels and resorts. Asia made a strong showing, with Lanson Place, Hong Kong, heading the city-center list; while lebua at State Tower, Bangkok, came in fourth. In the category of top resort, Sentosa Resort & Spa, Singapore, came in first; Twinpalms, Phuket, Thailand, second; and The Racha, Muang, Thailand, scored the number-five spot.

As part of its expansion strategy in the Asia Pacific region, SLH recently appointed two senior-level executives. Anita Chan takes on the role of vice president, regional development, Asia Pacific. Chan is based in Hong Kong, and is responsible for growing the brand in that region. The company also appointed Alison Roberts-Brown as area director, Asia Pacific, who along with Chan, will handle development and hotel relations.

paul kerr

Paul Kerr, CEO of Small Luxury Hotels of the World

SLH has been in the news lately, especially concerning its expansion in the Asia Pacific region. Travel Agent spoke with Paul Kerr, CEO of SLH, about Asia and the luxury market in general.

TA: What are SLH’s expansion plans and strategy in Asia and the South Pacific?

Kerr: The Asia Pacific region has tremendous growth potential, and it is a key area of focus for our brand. In fact, of the 74 new hotels that SLH accepted into the brand in 2008, more than one-fifth of them were located in the Asia Pacific region.

TA: What are the current hot destinations in Asia and the South Pacific for SLH?

Kerr: Hot destinations for us are Mongolia, Koh Phangan in Thailand and Shanghai. Consistent top hotel markets for us in Asia and the South Pacific are Singapore, Thailand and the Maldives.

TA: Have you noticed any emerging trends in terms of the types of rooms and suites clients are booking? What types of hotels are they gravitating toward?

Kerr: Guests of Small Luxury Hotels of the World are affluent and well traveled and in the majority of cases, money is not an issue. Some of our hotels are all-suite hotels, and these are just as popular as those with a mix of guest rooms and suites. Some of our hotels are even converting some of their rooms to suites due to heightened demand.

TA: Given the current economic turndown and cutting of routes by airlines, what challenges do you see in the near future for long-haul travel to Asia?

Kerr: [The types of guests who] stay at SLH properties are affluent, and so far, there have not been signs that reservations are falling off. A number of affluent travelers fly via private jet these days, which makes the cutting of routes by commercial airlines [irrelevant] to them. For those who do not charter planes, the cutting of flights actually works to the hotel’s benefit. Our guests aren’t budget-conscious, so less frequent flights means longer hotel stays, which results in an increase of revenue.

TA: Experts are saying that the luxury market is immune to a recession. Is this accurate? Have you noticed any slowdown or changes in bookings at the highest level of the market?

Kerr: Despite the ongoing talk of a global recession, SLH continues to perform well. Reservations revenue through the SLH booking channels has seen a 13 percent year-on-year increase in the first six months of 2008.