Sophie Chen
Nov 1, 2013

Digital and localisation are key to success in hospitality: Outrigger

SINGAPORE - With a recently opened beach resort in Phuket, Outrigger Enterprises Group is planning big in Asia Pacific. Sean Dee, the brand's global CMO, talks about how the lodging and hospitality company focuses on being a local expert and using digital tools to drive its expansion.

Sean Dee:
Sean Dee: "The future for us is in Asia Pacific"

“Half of our properties are in Hawaii, but the future for us is in Asia Pacific,” Dee told Campaign Asia-Pacific during an interview at ITB Asia 2013 in Singapore last week.

Outrigger has 46 properties globally including Australia, Thailand and Indonesia in Asia Pacific. It's planning to open hotels in China and Vietnam in the next two years.

A newcomer in the region, the company is purely leisure focused, catering to long-stay guests, particularly young families and couples.

“A lot of our strategies are built around these two key segments, as we see more of them travelling in this region,” Dee said. “This objective of our vision is to bring entertainment, nightlife, hospitality and tourism together. It’s a good opportunity for a hotel brand to take the lead on this type of ambition.”

One of the company’s points of emphasis is being a local expert and blending entertainment, sports and live events to create a more compelling proposition for its guests. Examples include offering guests tickets to a concert, getting them to the front of a red-carpet line for a hot club, or booking a table for them at a popular restaurant.

“Many of our long-stay guests don’t want to stay in the hotel the entire time,” Dee said. “They want to be entertained. So we are bringing a lot of elements together to provide a mix of happenings on the property and in the local market.” 

The company is looking for partners in Asia Pacific to bring local music and sports to its properties. “We are looking to establish long-term strategic relationships with key entertainment partners such as Lushington Singapore and AEG China to name a few, as well as global sports promoters like XTERRA,” he added.

Also, as part of the local service culture that the company is trying to build, its handling of food and beverage service, as well as spa service, will be hyper local. For example, the premise of a restaurant in its resort in Thailand is to celebrate fresh ingredients grown around the property and offered by the local market.

To better engage with guests, Outrigger is striving to deliver its hotel experience through technology tools in the next two or three years.

Currently, about 30 per cent of Outrigger’s global online bookings are made via mobile, and the company is expecting that to double within the next five years.

“This level will be even higher in Asia Pacific, as consumers here are ‘super users’ of technology and mobile applications,” Dee said. “We have done the basics, such as the website and the online booking platform, but the game changer for us is what happens once guests are on our properties, and using mobile to engage them during their stay.”

Outrigger is doubling its digital marketing budget in Asia Pacific next year and growing by nearly 75 per cent globally in 2014. “Digital marketing will represent more than 50 per cent of the company’s entire marketing budget in 2014,” he said.

With the power of mobile technology, Outrigger is able to update guests on what’s happening on the day, turning their mobile phones into automatic digital concierges.

In addition, all of its properties have subscribed to a programme called “Revinate”, which is a social-media network that enables guests to comment on Outrigger’s properties around the world and sends real-time feedback to the company.

“We are going to effectively eliminate our traditional advertising globally and really push towards digital, mobile and social media,” Dee said. “If we execute this well, we will engage guests and their friends, families through social media and online reviews, in order to attract potential travellers to stay with us.”

He also stressed the importance of innovation and creativity for a hospitality brand. “Innovation comes from creativity, which inspires guests and creates stories and news,” he said. “Creativity in products and our service delivery is more important than in advertising.”

For example, at the new Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort, a baby elephant lives at the hotel and will play with guests every day. Also, the first club lounge at the resort allows guests to enjoy separate private check in, enhanced guest room features, and private food and beverage service throughout the day.

The hotel website is not only translated into different languages, but also has blogs with stories written by local experts to provide insights and tips about its destinations. A variation of this blog will be launched in Asia Pacific next year, said Dee.

“We are well-known in Hawaii, but still new in Asia Pacific,” he said. “We need to be innovative and focused on mobile technologies. More ideas and concepts are already under development. We think they will work extremely well in the markets in this region.”

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