Lang­ham builds on ex­cel­lence

Great Ea­gle unit Lang­ham Hos­pi­tal­ity Group is go­ing all out to woo new-age trav­el­ers, re­veals CEO Robert War­man. Luo Weiteng gets the story.

China Daily (Canada) - - HONG KONG -

Ad­mit­tedly, we can­not take it for granted any more that tourists will come to Hong Kong as we did in the good old days.”

As tourists world­wide show an in­creas­ing ap­petite for bet­ter travel op­tions and as mar­ket trends move to­ward re­defin­ing the lux­ury ho­tel sec­tor, Lang­ham Hos­pi­tal­ity Group has set its sights on get­ting the word out about its im­pec­ca­ble pedi­gree, with a his­tory of ex­cel­lence and Bri­tish her­itage go­ing back more than 150 years.

The fast-grow­ing com­pany is Hong Kong-based, but its flag­ship ho­tel in Lon­don, “The Lang­ham” dates back to 1865.

The first Lang­ham Ho­tel, lo­cated in the West End, “as­ton­ished Vic­to­rian Lon­don with the scope of its lux­ury, tech­nol­ogy and grandeur” and was crowned as Europe’s first “Grand Ho­tel,” ac­cord­ing to the com­pany web­site.

Great Ea­gle, a prop­erty devel­op­ment com­pany chaired by bil­lion­aire Lo Ka-shui and listed on the Hong Kong Stock Ex­change, ac­quired the Lon­don prop­erty in 1996.

Hong Kong-based Great Ea­gle’s ex­ten­sive in­ter­na­tional ho­tel port­fo­lio cur­rently in­cludes 20 lux­ury prop­er­ties with more than 8,000 rooms un­der three es­tab­lished brands: Lang­ham Ho­tels and Re­sorts, Cordis Ho­tels and Re­sorts and Eaton Ho­tels.

In 2005, it set up the Lang­ham Hos­pi­tal­ity Group to man­age its ho­tel port­fo­lio and which now boasts three ad­dresses in Hong Kong — Lang­ham in Tsim Sha Tsui, the for­mer Lang­ham Place re­born as Cordis in Mong Kok, and Eaton in Jor­dan.

Robert War­man, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Lang­ham Hos­pi­tal­ity Group, said the com­pany is bullish on Chi­nese main­land busi­ness, which he be­lieves is one of the few “self-sus­tained” mar­kets glob­ally, set to match the US as a key tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity mar­ket.

Even as the out­bound tourist wave spreads to dozens of for­eign des­ti­na­tions, the boom­ing do­mes­tic travel in the world’s sec­ond-largest econ­omy is also go­ing to be ex­tremely im­por­tant, noted War­man.

He be­lieves more ef­fort there­fore should be put into get­ting the word around the na­tion about the Lang­ham group, in­form­ing more peo­ple that they are a com­pany with great ho­tels that are big on cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion. Today, Lang­ham Hos­pi­tal­ity Group has more than 30 projects cur­rently ei­ther con­firmed or in a de­vel­oped stage of ne­go­ti­a­tion in mar­kets rang­ing from Asia, Europe and North Amer­ica to the Mid­dle East.

This year the group will con­tinue to bulk up its pres­ence on the Chi­nese main­land, with the open­ing of a new ho­tel in Haikou, on the op­po­site side of Hainan Is­land from the re­sort area of Sanya, with more than half a dozen oth­ers in the works coun­try­wide.

War­man is up­beat also about busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties from cor­po­rate travel.

Though leisure travel cur­rently dom­i­nates the na­tional tourism sec­tor, as more and more com­pa­nies “go out” to do busi­ness around the world, there is cer­tainly go­ing to be a grow­ing ap­petite for ex­ec­u­tive travel, he ob­served.

The Chi­nese main­land saw out­bound travel rise by 7.8 per­cent in 2015 com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year, and is pro­jected by mar­ket in­tel­li­gence firm Euromon­i­tor In­ter­na­tional to jump a fur­ther 6.2 per­cent in 2016 to to­tal over 72.5 mil­lion trips.

Some 80 per­cent of main­land com­pa­nies forecast a 8.6-per­cent rise in travel and en­ter­tain­ment spend­ing in 2016, which would see the coun­try lead cor­po­rate travel growth in Asia, ac­cord­ing to a study by re­search firm East & Part­ners Asia.

In con­trast, Hong Kong ap­pears to have waved good­bye to the boom in tourist ar­rivals.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board fore­casts a 1.8-per­cent drop in over­all vis­i­tor ar­rivals to the city in 2016, fol­low­ing a 2.5-per­cent de­cline last year.

Per-capita tourist spend­ing is ex­pected to slide 4 per­cent to HK$6,948 this year, send­ing to­tal tourism rev­enue 1.6 per­cent lower to HK$328.4 bil­lion.

Ac­cord­ing to a MasterCard sur­vey, Hong Kong fell from fourth in 2014 to sev­enth last year among the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, af­ter wel­com­ing just 8.3 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional visi­tors.

Al­though War­man has full faith in the prospects of the city’s now-flag­ging tourism sec­tor, he be­lieves the com­ing few years will still be rather chal­leng­ing amid con­cerns about a stronger Hong Kong dol­lar and tum­bling tourist num­bers.

“Ad­mit­tedly, we can­not take it for granted any more that tourists will come to Hong Kong as we did in the good old days,” noted War­man.

“With the value of main­land visi­tors be­ing re­al­ized by more and more tourist des­ti­na­tions, it re­ally takes tremen­dous work for Hong Kong to fig­ure out how to bet­ter ap­peal to main­land and in­ter­na­tional trav­el­ers.”

As main­land visi­tors spark a new travel boom in neigh­bor­ing coun­tries like Thai­land and Viet­nam, War­man said the com­pany would ex­pand its foot­print in these mar­kets in a bid to fol­low prof­its by go­ing where the main­land tourists go.

Today’s savvy trav­eler has clear and in­di­vid­ual ideas about what they seek from new des­ti­na­tions and travel pack­ages, and War­man be­lieves the lux­ury ho­tel busi­ness there­fore has to adapt it­self to draw these in­creas­ingly dis­cern­ing guests.

Of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try are mil­len­nial trav­el­ers, the pro­jected dom­i­nant con­sumer group in the next few years, who tend to seek ex­pe­ri­en­tial prod­ucts and brands that re­flect their per­sonal val­ues.

Many hos­pi­tal­ity giants are jump­ing into the race to reach these trav­el­ers as they are pro­jected to be the dom­i­nant con­sumer group by 2017.

The lux­ury ho­tel busi­ness today, War­man pointed out, is trans­form­ing from a phase of “ag­gres­sive hos­pi­tal­ity” — when ho­tel staff bom­barded guests with a bat­tery of “What can I do for you” — to cul­ti­vat­ing a sense of hos­pi­tal­ity in a more bal­anced way.

“Trav­el­ers nowa­days are in­creas­ingly familiar with lux­ury since lux­ury ho­tels can be found in al­most ev­ery cor­ner of ev­ery ma­jor city. Peo­ple are ac­tu­ally grow­ing up with them,” noted War­man.

These so­phis­ti­cated guests come to lux­ury ho­tels ap­par­ently for the best of de­sign, ser­vices and ex­pe­ri­ences, but also in the ex­pec­ta­tion of hav­ing a com­fort­able and friendly stay.

“That re­quires us to strike a bal­ance be­tween tra­di­tional el­e­gance and com­fort as well as friend­li­ness,” added War­man.

For the Lang­ham group, it re­ally makes sense to have sev­eral dis­tinct of­fer­ings un­der one mas­ter brand.

The Lang­ham rep­re­sents its tra­di­tional side and Cordis, pre­vi­ously known as Lang­ham Place, stands as its for­ward­look­ing mod­ern take on lux­ury.

War­man is bet­ting big on ex­pand­ing the com­pany’s fledg­ling up­scale brand Cordis, in re­sponse to the grow­ing life­style busi­ness in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try.

He said the Lang­ham name is still in the process of build­ing up a level of brand recog­ni­tion akin to its global com­peti­tors who run sev­eral more prop­er­ties world­wide — in­clud­ing well-known hos­pi­tal­ity chains such as the Four Sea­sons Ho­tels and Re­sorts, Man­darin Ori­en­tal Ho­tel Group and Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional.

But this also gives the com­pany an edge in terms of the pre­ferred style of de­sign for lux­ury ho­tels — which is cur­rently switch­ing from a “harsh” style to “softer” tones with guests fo­cus­ing more on a com­fort­able en­vi­ron­ment and “sense of place”.

But be­ing smaller may ac­tu­ally have its ad­van­tages.

Un­like other big­ger hos­pi­tal­ity brands, Lang­ham does not need to ren­o­vate old ho­tels to move with the times and im­ple­ment the trend of a softer de­sign style, War­man pointed out.

More­over, the group prides it­self on its abil­ity to cre­ate a com­fort­able en­vi­ron­ment that en­gages the senses right away.

Con­tact the writer at


Robert War­man, CEO, Lang­ham Hos­pi­tal­ity Group Robert War­man, CEO at Lang­ham Hos­pi­tal­ity Group, be­lieves that, with the value of main­land visi­tors be­ing re­al­ized by more and more tourist des­ti­na­tions, it re­ally takes tremen­dous work for Hong Kong to fi­fig­ure out how to bet­ter ap­peal to main­land and in­ter­na­tional trav­el­ers.

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