How is the Raffles brand positioned within the Accor portfolio?
Raffles Hotels & Resorts is one of Accor’s most preeminent luxury brands; the brand has a long and storied history dating back to 1887 when the first Raffles hotel opened its doors in Singapore. The legendary Raffles brand continues to set the standard for classic luxury hospitality with a carefully curated list of distinguished addresses in leading markets around the world.
Which are the competitive advantages of Raffles when it comes to developers opting for the best long term affiliation?
The impeccable heritage and extraordinary brand reputation of Raffles have been earned for over 130 years; these are not qualities that can be quickly or easily achieved. Our annual brand study conducted by BDRC demonstrates that Raffles commands one of the highest brand premiums in the ultra-luxury segment, delivering great value to our owners.
This is also true in the residential market, where we have set new market records with every new property. The luxury residential market is still in the nascent stage of very high growth, with over 70% of our pipeline featuring Raffles Residences.
With each new Raffles property, our in-house brand team works with our owners to craft a tailor-made vision for the hotel that is timeless and meaningful to its destination, creating a place of rarified beauty, befitting our legendary service and spirit of generosity and excellence.
Tell us more about the comp set of Raffles Hotels & Resorts globally.
At this level of hospitality, hotels are quite singular, differentiated and incomparable. Raffles has very few competitors, though we are among good company in the ultra-luxury segment.
Raffles has recently opened in the Maldives. To what extent do you envisage more resort versus urban properties under the Raffles brand?
While Raffles is experiencing a renaissance in terms of growth, it continues to be a relatively small and exclusive portfolio, with iconic properties in the most desirable spots of the world’s most fascinating cities and sought after resort locales. We maintain a balanced mix of resorts and urban properties in our pipeline, along with many historic treasures that we’ve brought back to life through careful and thoughtful restoration activity. The Raffles Europejski Warsaw is a fine example, which we opened in June 2018, restoring one of the most beloved hotels of 19th Century Europe, following eight years of meticulous restoration work.
One of the world’s finest luxury hotels, Raffles Singapore reopened this year after an impressive transformation which has intactly maintained its DNA. Tell us more about the relationship and the role which the owner of the property also plays and what has been Accor / Raffles approach?
Raffles Singapore is indeed one of the most beloved, grand, and historic hotels of the world, a national treasure among Singaporeans who deeply value its historical significance and unique heritage. The hotel was built as a dream to create a place where travelers from all around the world, luminaries, literati and locals would come together, exchange ideas and feel inspired. The lofty vision of the original owner has been upheld to this day, and the recent restoration efforts have breathed new life into that original idea.
This was only made possible due to the commitment of the current owner, Katara Hospitality, and the dedication of our own staff. Katara has invested millions in protecting and enhancing Raffles Singapore, returning this unique property to its rightful place as a true icon of Singapore. The relationship between Katara and Accor has been long lasting, trusting and exceptional.
What is the profile of the Raffles guest? To what extent do you cater to leisure versus corporate?
The Raffles guest is what we would call the well-traveled connoisseur. Raffles locations appeal to discerning, knowledgeable, pioneering spirits with an appreciation for the everyday extraordinary. Guests choose Raffles not merely for the compelling mix of culture, beauty and gentility that surrounds them, but for the extraordinary way they feel when in residence with Raffles.
Our guests are fairly equally distributed across the generations, and we are visited by a good balance of leisure and corporate guests, typically in line with the profile of the destination. While our traditional markets have been USA, Europe, Australia and Japan, we have in the past eight years seen tremendous growth from the Middle East and China. We recently opened Raffles Shenzhen, located in a vibrant metropolis directly across the bay from Hong Kong, which is receiving tremendous acclaim for its unsurpassed levels of service and dining experience for our Chinese guests.
Many luxury hotel brands, especially those owned by large groups, are being challenged by the digital / social media strategic approach. Luxury is about desirability, consistent high individualised service, WOW factor / surprise and ultimate privacy. What is your take?
Raffles delivers emotional luxury supported by legendary service. Luxury is more than what is seen, it’s about how we make guests feel. At Raffles, we like to call it service like a gentle breeze – perfectly attentive, perfectly discreet, making guests feel perfectly understood.
At the brand level, we take pride in remaining always at the top of TrustYou’s guest satisfaction index – which covers social reviews from hundreds of websites comparing around 500,000 hotels. While no two stays are the same, we have had many guests who share the sentiment that they arrive as guests, leave as friends and return as family. This is has not only remained true in Singapore for over 130 years, but has been successfully brought to life in each Raffles destination around the world.
An increasing number of HNWI travellers book their luxury hotel or resort stays on line on third party e-tailers, therefore, some of these guests arrive at top luxury hotels without the vital information on their profile so that the hotel can prepare in advance to meet all their preferences. What do you think is the best approach to ebb this challenge?
Raffles guests return to us through a variety of booking means, either liaising with us directly, or as members of ALL (Accor Live Limitless), our loyalty program, or through their own trusted travel advisors.
As part of Accor, we are also fortunate to leverage technology which allows us to learn more about guests who have stayed at other Accor brands and hotels, so we may be better prepared in anticipating their needs when they visit. But the cornerstone of our luxury service must be our Raffles Butlers, who are so well-trained in the art of observation and anticipation, that throughout our guests’ stays, we have myriad opportunities to get to know them better, create personally meaningful service, and develop a rapport that lasts even beyond the stay.
To what extent nowadays do travellers expect top luxury hotels to conduct renovations faster than in the past?
Our affluent guests expect a Raffles property to always be at its best, and to be both relevant and timeless. As such, we are engaged in continuous upgrades, maintenance and innovations on the overall experience. When a complete restoration is required, as was the case with Raffles Europejski Warsaw and the recent update to Raffles Singapore, we do not rush; we take our time to ensure the details and quality are on point and in line with our exceptionally high standards.
Which are the upcoming openings we should be expecting in the near future? Are there any markets or destinations you are particularly eyeing for expansion?
Raffles is undergoing a kind of renaissance right now – we are experiencing an unprecedented period of growth, looking to double our operating portfolio in the next three years from 14 to 28 properties. I am particularly excited about our upcoming opening in London, which is a transformation and careful restoration of a beloved British institution; and in Boston, where we have a new build in the historical heart of this iconic American city. Next year Raffles Bali will come to market, which is an exquisite resort dedicated to wellbeing, and Raffles Udaipur, a magnificent palace hotel on a pristine lake in India.
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