Anantara Bangkok Riverside GM Nikolaus on How to attract regional customers and keep them want to return even before they leave!
It took a long way from my place to the riverside hotel near Central Pier on Chao Phraya river, where I can take a shuttle boat to Anantara Resort, but it was really worth the time. I enjoyed the cool wind on the short path, few hundred meters to the opposite side of the pier. I felt very welcomed when Nikolaus came to the boat quay to greeting me. His elegant style and hospitality could make everybody feel warmly welcomed. Let’s see if we can learn something from his thought.
You’ve said that guests from EU/US 40% Asia 40%, 10% Thai family. So usually who are they and what do they like from the hotel?
Although we have a mixed clientele base from many other countries, the guests mentioned here from these countries contribute to the larger number on the whole. As a resort, located by the riverside in Bangkok, we cater to a wide range of guests from leisure travelers, to those who are here for business. A big segment of our guests are regulars and repeat guests who return year after year to spend quite a substantial amount of time with us, and we believe the reason we have a high percentage of returning guests is that they appreciate our genuine Thai hospitality and the personalised service that they have come accustomed to. We strive to understand the needs of every guest, and we go that extra mile to make every stay more pleasurable than the last.
Nothing is too much for us to offer, to ensure that every guest; even those who have come for the very first time, want to return even before they leave!
They can order rooms in 7 different languages. What are these languages and what is the role of localization
We offer 7 language options for room bookings, and they are English, Thai, German, Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Arabic. Localizing our website and social media are important areas of our initial communications with our guests; where this allows us to effectively understand the needs of our guests.
As a traveler, being able to see your native language is always a welcoming sign; giving the assurance there will still be the comfort thought of ‘home, away from home’.
Europeans and Americans are always familiar guests for most of five star hotels. But Asian guests are strongly growing, especially guests from China, so how can you attract and serve them? What did you bring here from the time you’ve managed Hilton Qingdao in China?
The Asian market is growing tremendously with a greater spending power. Asian travelers have learned to appreciate the good things in life, making us a good source of being able to provide to all travelers and keeping our luxury standards enabled to all. Gone are the days when we had to ‘cater’ specifically to a certain group; as these days it all comes down to not only affordability but also exceeding expectations. We have come up with innovative strategies to entice the Asian market by incorporating expectations with affordability and difference.
One area where we as a truly 5 star hospitality company apply great attention and detail too is to understand our guest, anticipate needs and develop service directives to exceed expectations. All our guests, no matter what nationality, age or profession expect to be recognized, valued and feel that the service we provide comes from the heart – that all of us truly care and at no time differentiate on who, what or from where.
You emphasized about one of the special things from Anantara: the guest can get to know about Thailand culture. How is this? I’ve learned that the resort has more than 1000 different elephant statues at every corner, is it to represent Thai culture?
Anantara is a fascinating epitome of all that is Thai, we breathe and live ‘Thainess’ in our service standards and in our many indigenous experiences that are shared with our guests. However it is very important to us that these details are offered without compromising on the modernity that comes with time and trend.
The more than 1000 elephants? They present who we are in being a Thai Resort, beautifully presenting the root essence of the Thai culture, tradition and heritage; as one can always relate an elephant to Thailand.
Here I must add that not only do we have these elephants on display around the resort, there is the strength of how we believe in the importance of elephant conservation…we make our mark by holding the annual Elephant Polo Tournament to raise funds for the betterment of elephants and their mahouts; in fact we recently hosted the 13th Elephant Polo event for the very first time in Bangkok back in August.
There is a research showing Thais are spending double the budget they spent last year. And this might be come an important source as they’re already here and easy to access. So what is your strategy to promote in Thai market?
We have never lost sight on the importance of being relevant and valued locally, as Thai nationals are obviously our main market especially for our exceptional restaurant offerings here in Bangkok but of greatest importance when looking at our brand development internationally.
Thai nationals have great spending power and are very venerable to being in the society where status plays a significant role.
Our style of approach is genuinely Thai, having the niche as a Thai-enthused resort in every sense of the word….but does this make it easier for us, definitely not as we need to always work towards understanding the Thai market and their requirements both in service and in our products.
We reach out in various channels, working closely with the media houses and being engaged with many events, celebrities and CSR events.
Guests always expect everything perfect in a luxury 5-star resort. Anantara has more than 400 rooms, so how do you manage tons of details perfectly from room amenities to staffs’ manner?
This is all to do with precision team work and good communication amongst the team. Every detail is communicated and followed through; and this involves effective staff training in every detail and always thinking and working one (sometimes two) steps ahead to ensure that all areas are covered and operations run smoothly. Past reviews and comments are taken seriously and immediate solutions are looked into. We do not “rest on our laurels” and just do not meet expectations anymore, we now strive to exceed expectations.
The guests now are very much into digital things, how about Anantara way to serve them? We are lucky in the sense that not only are we a Thai-inspired resort, we are also very much keeping up with the latest when it comes to offering convenience and adaptability for our guests. We have recently embarked on an application that would ‘with a touch of a button’ on our phones, take us on a journey of discoveries and into the world of Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa. At an age when everything seems to be fast moving, we offer our guests the option to either move with the times with this application but still very much keeping in touch with our service standards by personally downloading the apps for our guests; or choosing to be at ease and allow us to handle the ‘digital’ parts of the experience!
You mentioned that social media is one of the most effective ways to promote the brand to potential and returning guests. So what is Anantara approach? How is it compared with other digital marketing channels and offline channels?
Social media is indeed one of the most effective ways to promote our brand not only to potential and returning guests, but it also creates the much needed awareness amongst those who use social media as a marketing tool; be it in buying or selling. Social media reaches the masses and is very much a ‘through the line’ advertising mode. Our approach is to get as many guests as possible to share their experiences on social media and there is nothing like reading what someone has to say about a product.
Social Media also allows us to show appreciation in the positive reviews; as well as explain or improve ourselves in the negative.
MINOR group owns all the hotels, doesn’t like from more than 90% of other brand name hotels, which are managed by hotel management groups. What is it like and how does it play an important role in the way Anantaray operates everything?
We are a brand that focuses on delivering excellent service at the same time promoting the local quintessence that mould us into the brand we are today. Every single aspect of the Anantara Brand is detailed into the values of great discoveries, indigenous experiences, grounded stability and profound expertise; qualities that differentiate us from the rest of the other hotel groups, as when a guest experiences the Anantara, he or she takes home a fair share of the locality in cultural and heritage; and an unforgettable ‘story’ to share back home.
And what is the most challenging thing for you next 12 months?
The word “Challenging” is not used at MINOR – the next 12 months are full of opportunities, we all are very excited in developing strategies to tackle the tasks on hand. I am personally looking forward to a great transformation for myself as a leader of one of the world’s fastest growing brands, as well as for my team and the Anantara. Most recently we have undertaken major enhancement projects within many areas of our resort, so the last quarter of 2014 sees us introducing our newly refurbished rooms and main dining venues. We are also very excited about introducing the first purpose build AVANI hotel, currently being completed and which would, when opened add another 249 rooms to our immediate location. AVANI will have the second biggest ballroom in Bangkok, and the only spectacular open-top roof bar, swimming pool and restaurant along the riverside. With plans to complete this development by September 2015, we are working towards getting our strategies in place to attract not only the leisure and business markets, but only synergize our efforts into the MICE market aggressively for both our brands.
Last but not least, you mentioned that Mr Heineke, the founder of MINOR group, always inspires you. Can you tell more about this topic
Note: Mr William Heineke is the most successful foreign entrepreneur in Thailand. He is a billionaire and MINOR group owner…
Mr. Heinecke is a living legend who I believe, not only inspires me, but many others who look up to him. I admire him for many of his great achievements but the one thing that got me to really look at him in a different light is
when I first had the opportunity in meeting with him – there are those whom are born leaders, simply because of their aura, what the individual represents and the ability to communicate a vision, have others buy in, without using many words.
During my 20+ years of working in this industry I have never felt as connected and valued by the leadership team as I do at current – a situation that translates throughout our organization.