BY RODERICK EIME IN BANGKOK
It mightn’t be so hard to become the top motel in Mootwingee or the first choice B&B in Clybucca, but to rise to the dizzying heights of number one-rated hotel on Tripadvisor in one of the world’s most competitive accommodation markets really does take something special.
That’s exactly what the all-suite, boutique Hansar Hotel in Bangkok did – and within six months of opening.
Fast becoming (if not already) the defining benchmark for hotel popularity, TripAdvisor.com lists 629 hotels in Bangkok ranging from $7 to around $500 per night. Bear in mind too, that star ratings and ARR have little bearing on your ranking as you can stay at the number three ranked hotel for just $45. So, it’s the whole package that travellers rate and whether they have good value despite the price.
In an exclusive interview with HM, Hansar Hotel Manager Jeerasak Loturit was asked what he thought the Hansar provided that won them this coveted accolade.
“Hansar Bangkok is a boutique hotel offering the 5-star market a powerful alternative in a great location which attracts the visitor to Bangkok,” he said. “The reason Hansar has been able to retain a good rate is a differentiated product with great appeal to the modern traveller combined with a strong team of passionate professional hotelkeepers.”
A fairly safe answer, so I took the hotel tour with Hansar Hotel Assistant Manager, Surat ‘Ploy’ Somboonthana, to see for myself.
Far from a “cookie-cutter” approach to design, each of the 94 suites has its own character. Some have little kitchenettes and concealed laundry facilities, some have balconies, while others have an interior green wall with sunlight-fed plants behind a glass screen. Views and layouts vary and the two split-level ‘Loft’ duplex suites are divine.
Naturally there is a spa and treatment rooms, gym and pool while business and ‘club’ facilities are exceptional and retain the same intimate feel.
Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) is clearly playing a critical role in the launch phase.
“We are getting around 50% of bookings from SLH members,” Somboonthana told HM, and with such competitive pricing, it’s little wonder the luxury-loving set are impressed.
With a soft opening in December 2010, it must have been a nervous time for Hansar with the recent well-publicised challenges in Bangkok and a widely acknowledged oversupply of rooms.
“Bangkok in general has experienced strong growth from regional markets as a great Asian City to visit,” Loturit said. “As supply rapidly grows, so marketing efforts have intensified across all market segments with strong growth coming out of Asian and Middle East countries in addition to traditional European markets.
“Our segment has held steady while there has been rate pressure on 3-star (about 25% of total inventory) and 4-star (about 50%) categories but growth is there for differentiated products.”
5-star properties make up the remaining 25% of total Bangkok hotel inventory. Colliers Thailand* supports this optimism, reporting that occupancy was climbing towards 70% in the upper and luxury segments after bottoming out to 30% this time last year.
And where is the growth coming from and what draws them to Hansar?
“Growth markets seem to be in niche segment across Asian markets not purely India or China but more from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan,” Loturit said. “A lot of ‘design’ and ‘eco-attuned’ travellers will select Hansar over other 5-star products. The size is also appealing in that it is not ‘chain’ and ‘big’ yet safe, and at the same time exciting yet private.”
While Bangkok is not ‘out of the woods’ yet, the signs of recovery are there and Hansar is perfectly poised to gather the lion’s share of returning visitors in the luxury segment.
*Colliers International – Bangkok Hotel Market Report Q1 2011