IHG aims to become lifestyle choice for Asian travellers

TD Guest Writer

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Leanne Harwood
Leanne Harwood

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is planning to launch a series of new lifestyle hotels – including new brands – across Asia, as it seeks to target the new wave of affluent middle class travellers in the region.

Speaking to Travel Daily, Leanne Harwood, IHG’s vice president of operations for Southeast Asia & Korea, revealed that high-end lifestyle brands including Even Hotels, Hotel Indigo and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants will expand across Asia in the coming months and years – both in urban and resort destinations – driven by millennial travel trends.

“[Southeast Asia] is a key area of growth – a huge emerging market in our own backyard,” Harwood told us. “There is a youthful trend in the region, a shift towards lifestyle hotels. There really are exciting times ahead.”

This expansion strategy has already started, with the arrival of the Hotel Indigo brand in key cities such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok and Singapore, and the recent announcement of Asia Pacific’s first Even Hotel in Auckland. Asia is also home to the first-ever Hotel Indigo in a resort location, which opened recently in Bali’s upmarket Seminyak area.

And according to Harwood, the development of these lifestyle brands will follow a similar pattern, with market-entry openings in key gateway cities followed further down the line by other destinations, including resorts.

Kimpton has a strong F&B focus, as demonstrated by the library–themed Vol. 39 bar at Kimpton Gray Hotel, Chicago
Kimpton has a strong F&B focus, as demonstrated by the library-themed Vol. 39 bar at Kimpton Gray Hotel, Chicago

“We make sure we get it right in key cities, and then look towards further roll-out,” she said. “First and foremost we’re looking at first-tier cities.”

IHG’s three lifestyle brands all have a different twist, allowing them to cater for specific market niches. For example, Even Hotels targets health-conscious travellers, while Hotel Indigo is a boutique brand that focuses on neighbourhood experiences. Kimpton, which was acquired by IHG in 2015, has a strong F&B focus, and Harwood told Travel Daily that this concept would be a good fit for the Asian market.

“Kimpton hotels have standalone restaurants with off-street entrances, attracting walk-in traffic as well as hotel guests. Whereas Hotel Indigo is all about the neighbourhood, with restaurants that specialise in local street food, Kimpton’s restaurant could offer a different type of cuisine,” she revealed.

Guests at Kimpton hotels can also expect a more personalised level of service than at usual chain hotels. The hotel staff will be hired not by a single HR manager, but by a “panel of peers” who will focus on the candidate’s personality as well as their ability. This, Harwood believes, will create a team that is “empowered to give a ridiculously personalised service”.

IHG has not yet confirmed the locations of its first Kimpton hotels in Asia Pacific, or the date of their expected entry into the region. Harwood says “it’s all about finding the right partner,” and they appear to have found one in Australia’s Pro-Invest Group, which will develop the Even Hotel in Auckland. Scheduled to open in 2020, this 200-room hotel will be the first Even Hotel operating outside North America.

Hotel Indigo Bali Seminyak Beach became the brand’s first property in a resort location
Hotel Indigo Bali Seminyak Beach became the brand’s first property in a resort location

Hotel Indigo is already relatively well-established in the region, having expanded to 10 locations since its debut in 2010. And following the launch of Hotel Indigo Bali Seminyak Beach as the brand’s first property in a resort locale, IHG also recently signed an agreement for a second Indigo resort in Asia, located on the Indonesian island of Bintan.

Ahead of Kimpton’s arrival in Asia, the brand recently achieved two other firsts, with Kimpton De Witt in Amsterdam marking the brand’s first foray outside North America and Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa in the Cayman Islands becoming its inaugural resort property.

By focusing on niche lifestyle concepts that cater for modern market segments, IHG is bucking the industry trend of creating broad boutique hotel “collections” and relying on the collective strength of its own brands. With the rising appetite among Asia’s millennial travellers for food, wellness and local experiences, IHG appears well-placed to become a lifestyle choice for the region’s emerging classes in the years ahead.

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