What does 2021 hold for Best Western Asia and how do they benefit from cloud-based systems and contactless technology
Matt Emptage, Guestline’s Country Manager based in Bangkok gets the lowdown from Rodney Simpson, Senior Regional Director of Operations, Best Western Asia
As the biggest PMS supplier to BW Asia hotels, we hear from Rodney Simpson on his thoughts on next year's new openings, contactless technology, room rates and the efficiency of cloud based systems.
ME - Looking to the future, what can we expect for 2021?
RS – Looking at budgets, we won’t see an international tourist revival until late March - Q1 will run quite flat as it is today, with only domestic and Government market travel. Corporate is more or less non-existent. Hotels with meeting space are doing quite well as Governments are giving grants to the relevant departments to use hotels for meetings. Admittedly we’ve lost a few dollars off our ADR and lost money per head with the banqueting business, but we are still getting some volume which is encouraging!
In Q2 we’ve a built in a little more progress with some markets and airlines coming in, and then a bit more buoyancy in Q3 and Q4 but still conservative.
Where are you expecting it to pick up first, what’s the forecast for new openings?
We have a property in Pattaya that we’re hoping to open late next year and we’re confident that will do well in the current market due to the upturn in domestic tourism and the fact we’re a strong mid-scale brand with a good pricing point.
We have a BW Plus Nexen opening in North Pattaya this month and then we have 2 more BW hotels opening in beach-side locations - Best Western Premier Bayphere and Best Western Premier Collection Bluphere in Pattaya. We’re expecting good things from these properties - the beach side ones will do well on the weekends with the Thai domestic market and the Nexun one will also hold its own in the market (especially at the weekends) with its prime location.
We’re just not sure where those international visitors are going to come from. Some of our neighbouring countries have now opened up their airports to receive arrivals from certain countries without any restrictions and that gives me hope for the same thing to happen here [in Thailand] which will inevitably drive international visitors.
Does this effect the average room rates you’re going to offer, are you going to lower them?
If you look at the current market, and see what some of the outstanding deals that the high end 5-star properties are offering, it makes it very difficult for the mid-scale hotels to compete. It’s taking some of our occupancy away as these hotels are now attracting guests that wouldn’t normally be able to afford to stay at an opulent 5-star hotel with their family. We’re now offering reduced market prices to compete and it will take us 2-3 years to go back to our original pricing levels.
Are any of your brands looking at contactless tech to help reduce costs and guest contact?
Absolutely, we’re running it like that over in America, however we have the challenge in SE Asia that we have to manage passports and credit cards due to fraud so from a legality perspective it’s difficult for us to run entirely contactless kiosks.
We’re really keen on keyless room entry though and have that technology in place, as that helps us minimise and mitigate those touchpoints with the guests - the guests can download the app and get into their room via their phone.
What are the main benefits of cloud-based systems for hoteliers?
There are less breakdowns and less shutdowns when you’re operating a cloud system. With on-property systems, there are always hardware issues, they break down a lot and need constant updating – plus they require so much space.
Cloud systems are self-sufficient and from an operating perspective, there are less interruptions and the tech works for you as opposed to old-school hard drives.
Hoteliers don’t think of the overheads of on-premise solutions – the space that’s required, costs of cooling those servers, on-site IT, backing them up etc – it means the overall cost of ownership is invariably far higher. Cloud systems make more financial sense and we never get any complaints with them, that’s why most of our hotels operate this way. And there’s the autonomy and training that you’ve given our corporate IT team to mitigate problems themselves on-site without having to reach out to you which is also very useful.
To summarise, why would a hotelier consider switching systems and why should they consider Guestline?
Firstly, I would suggest the local team - specifically Matt [Matt Emptage, Guestline’s Country Manager based in Bangkok] who is the face of Guestline in SE Asia – he’s experienced, he knows the product well and he’d be able to offer the services a hotel needed to achieve a harmonious relationship moving into the future.
Secondary, the product is cost efficient and the service is local here in SE Asia. We talk and communicate with the team often; they work hard to support our installs and we’ve built a great relationship with them.