DATUK LAI VOON HON

A new roof awaits as The RuMa greets trav­ellers to Kuala Lumpur with its own brand of warm hos­pi­tal­ity, Datuk Lai Voon Hon shares with justin ng

Prestige (Malaysia) - - Con­tents -

A new roof awaits as The RuMa greets trav­ellers to Kuala

Lumpur

Malaysia Truly asia – a tagline that per­fectly en­cap­su­lates our di­ver­sity and one that helps en­tice tourists who ar­rive in droves from all cor­ners of the world. The coun­try as a whole wel­comed 25.9 mil­lion vis­i­tors in 2016. Cap­i­tal city Kuala Lumpur was the 10th most-vis­ited city on Earth in 2017, ac­cord­ing to Euromon­i­tor, with 12.3 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional tourist ar­rivals.

The thirst for wan­der­lust helped fuel cranes that dot the ever-sky­ward Kuala Lumpur sky­line. Four Sea­sons Place Kuala Lumpur has the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing among the tallest ho­tel build­ings in the world. In the past cou­ple of years, the city has seen The St. Regis, Sof­i­tel, El­e­ment by Westin and Ho­tel Stripes op­er­at­ing in the up­per ech­e­lon of the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try. Join­ing their com­pany this year are the W, Banyan Tree, Alila, Hy­att House and Pav­il­ion Ho­tel. Next few years, we will wit­ness and get to ex­pe­ri­ence SO Sof­i­tel, Park Hy­att, Jumeirah, Fair­mont, Kempin­ski and Crowne Plaza.

De­spite 44 per­cent of ho­tels in Kuala Lumpur re­side in the up­scale seg­ment ac­cord­ing to HVS, a hos­pi­tal­ity con­sul­tancy,

Datuk Lai Voon Hon re­mains un­per­turbed. “The num­ber of new ho­tels open­ing in the city also speaks of op­ti­mism in terms in­com­ing tourist ar­rivals and cor­po­rate clien­tele. While The RuMa will of course com­pete for a share of the tourist ar­rivals, The RuMa and Ur­ban Re­sort Con­cepts’ (URC) ap­proach in gen­eral is to look in­ter­nally to fo­cus on the guest ex­pe­ri­ence, mak­ing sure we meet our guests’ high­est ex­pec­ta­tions with The RuMa’s unique cul­ture of Host­man­ship,” Lai says in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Pres­tige-Malaysia.

His brain­child first an­nounced in 2013 is set to open its doors on Jalan Kia Peng. The RuMa Ho­tel and Ser­viced Res­i­dences Kuala Lumpur is a joint-ven­ture project be­tween UK-listed Aseana Prop­er­ties Ltd (ASPL), which owns 70 per­cent of the project, and lo­cally-listed Ireka Corp, which owns the re­main­ing 30 per­cent. Lai is presently Ireka Corp’s group man­ag­ing di­rec­tor. Ireka Corp also has a 23.07 per­cent stake in ASPL.

Lai ex­pe­ri­enced first-hand the unique Host­man­ship by URC in one of its prop­er­ties dur­ing on a trip to Shang­hai. Apart from The RuMa, URC also man­ages The PuXuan, Bei­jing; The PuShang, Xi­a­men; and The PuLi, Shang­hai, which Lai stayed. The fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence etched an un­for­get­table im­pres­sion on Lai, which led him to ap­proach the group when time came for lay­ing the ground­work for The RuMa.

“The team at URC are all about rais­ing the bar, and we wanted to work with them to do this with The RuMa. I feel con­fi­dent that The RuMa is go­ing to set an­other benchmark in Malaysia,” Lai en­thuses.

The RuMa upon open­ing will be the only ho­tel in the city to be a mem­ber of the Lead­ing Ho­tels of the World (LHW). LHW is a col­lec­tive of more than 375 ho­tels in 75 coun­tries, whose mem­ber­ship is sub­ject to the dis­cre­tion of its com­mit­tee. Es­tab­lished in 1928 by sev­eral in­flu­en­tial and for­ward-think­ing Euro­pean hote­liers, LHW started with 38 ini­tial mem­bers. To­day, in­spec­tion re­ports, based on hun­dreds of sep­a­rate, strin­gent cri­te­ria, are filed with its ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee whose mem­bers then vote for ac­cep­tance or re­jec­tion of a ho­tel to be a part of LHW. Hence qual­ity and ser­vice are ad­hered to the high­est of stan­dards.

URC’s Host­man­ship con­cept ex­tends be­yond con­ven­tional lux­ury as it em­pha­sises on craft­ing per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences unique to each in­di­vid­ual trav­eller. For that, as Lai puts it, we will “weave lo­cal de­sign in­flu­ences with the con­tem­po­rary in or­der to craft a cul­tural re­vival of Malaysian her­itage in the heart of the city – a be­spoke ho­tel that draws in­spi­ra­tion from the lo­cale.”

At The RuMa, you will find in­ter­est­ing ev­i­dence of seam­less works

of lo­cal crafts­men and renowned artists, each telling a story of the city’s cul­ture

and ori­gins

“At The RuMa, you will find in­ter­est­ing ev­i­dence of seam­less works of lo­cal crafts­men and renowned artists, each telling a story of the city’s cul­ture and ori­gins. For ex­am­ple, from the cen­tral show­piece de­signed by renowned lo­cal de­signer Dato’ Sri Bernard Chan­dran to the Ke­larai hand-wo­ven walls on the sixth floor, The RuMa traces the city’s his­tory un­til pre­sent-day Malaysia – and in­vites guests on a jour­ney of dis­cov­ery,” Lai elab­o­rates.

The RuMa is tar­get­ing a mix of leisure and cor­po­rate trav­ellers from around the world. “This seg­ment could po­ten­tially range from hol­i­day­mak­ers and high-pro­file celebri­ties, to new­ly­weds who are on their hon­ey­moons, or busi­ness ex­pa­tri­ates who are tem­po­rar­ily based in Malaysia,” Lai says.

The ho­tel is sited within a 40-storey de­vel­op­ment that in­cludes res­i­dences from lev­els 19 to 37, to­talling 200 units, while ho­tel rooms and suites span lev­els seven and 18. The en­tire project is es­ti­mated to have a gross de­vel­op­ment value of RM635 mil­lion.

Hous­ing 253 guest rooms and suites, the ho­tel’s in­te­ri­ors will ex­em­plify URC’s hall­mark de­sign prin­ci­ples in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Shang­hai-based de­sign firm MQ Stu­dio. The in­te­ri­ors in­te­grate lux­u­ri­ous and un­der­stated metaphor­i­cal ap­proaches amidst a mod­ern set­ting with touches of cul­tural in­flu­ences, as pre­viewed by Lai.

All rooms and suites will come with flex­i­ble 24-hour check-in check-out, com­pli­men­tary break­fast any­where in the ho­tel, in­clud­ing in­room din­ing and a com­pli­men­tary stocked mini­bar with daily re­plen­ish­ments. On top of that, the ho­tel is also home to Atas, a mod­ern Malaysian restau­rant that es­corts din­ers on a culi­nary voy­age of the Malay Penin­sula, with a sea­sonal menu that high­lights the unique flavours of the fresh­est, lo­cally-pro­duced and

The lo­ca­tion of the ho­tel, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Tri­an­gle, is sec­ond to none and ide­ally suited for an ur­ban re­sort

heir­loom in­gre­di­ents. True to be­ing an “ur­ban re­sort”, guests can also elect to pam­per them­selves at the ho­tel’s UR Spa that strikes a bal­ance be­tween treat­ments born of mod­ern sci­ence and an­cient heal­ing. There are a 24-hour sta­teof-the-art gym, Seven lobby bar and lounge, Ve­ran­dah al­fresco din­ing, Li­brari li­brary lounge, San­tai pool bar and lounge, a meet­ing space and bar­ber ser­vices by Tru­e­fitt & Hill.

Although tourism is thriv­ing, there is rea­son to be wary. The coun­try missed out on the 30 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional ar­rivals tar­get set for 2017 and the oc­cu­pancy rate for ho­tels in the city hov­ered around 66 per­cent in 2017, ac­cord­ing to Howard HTL and C9 Hotel­works, be­tween 2007 and 2016, how­ever an­nual de­mand for lux­ury ho­tels has out­paced sup­ply in Kuala Lumpur. That bodes well for hos­pi­tal­ity play­ers, in­clud­ing The RuMa.

“Malaysia has been see­ing a steady flow of tourists, at least 25 mil­lion per year since 2012. Last year, Malaysia recorded a to­tal of 25.9 mil­lion tourist ar­rivals that have con­trib­uted RM82.2 bil­lion to the coun­try’s rev­enue. We are also ranked third in terms of the most-vis­ited coun­try in Asia Pa­cific, just after China and Thai­land. We are con­fi­dent th­ese num­bers will con­tinue to im­prove, and of The RuMa’s abil­ity to at­tract the right au­di­ence as well,” Lai says. “The lo­ca­tion of the ho­tel, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Tri­an­gle, is sec­ond to none and ide­ally suited for an ur­ban re­sort.”

Look­ing ahead to the fu­ture, Lai is con­fi­dent. He feels the lofty tar­gets of achiev­ing 36 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional ar­rivals and RM168 bil­lion in tourism re­ceipts by 2020 set by the gov­ern­ment are achiev­able. The ring­git be­ing un­der­val­ued will en­cour­age for­eign tourists to spend more.

“Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics, ASEAN, the short­haul mar­ket dom­i­nates with a 75.1 per­cent share of to­tal 19.47 mil­lion tourist ar­rivals to Malaysia, medium haul (19.1 per­cent) and long haul (5.9 per­cent). In this re­gard, the strate­gic plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion of poli­cies from the gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try stake­hold­ers that can boost the tourism in­dus­try is im­por­tant, par­tic­u­larly to tar­get tourists from the medium- and long-haul mar­ket seg­ment,” Lai says.

Speak­ing on the dis­rup­tion brought upon by Airbnb, he is of the opin­ion that it bears a larger im­pact on bud­get ho­tels than lux­ury ho­tels. “We ex­pect the out­look for oc­cu­pancy rates for the lux­u­ri­ous 5-star ho­tels in key lo­ca­tions such as The RuMa Ho­tel’s to re­main pos­i­tive, while old and poorly-man­aged ho­tels are likely to face pres­sures in terms of oc­cu­pancy rates due to ris­ing com­pe­ti­tion from home­shar­ing fa­cil­i­ties such as Airbnb,” Lai says.

Is he con­cerned about home­own­ers of The RuMa ser­viced apart­ments list­ing their units on Airbnb?

“They are ex­pected to strictly ad­here to the guide­lines im­posed on this mat­ter by the man­age­ment of­fice. We un­der­stand that the gov­ern­ment will be an­nounc­ing new guide­lines on home-shar­ing busi­ness soon where the like­li­hood is that they will pro­hibit daily and very short-term ren­tals.”

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