Creating an “our“ experience

Hutchison Whampoa began investing in Hong Kong property developments more than 30 years ago. Since then, the company has matured into a major player in the industry today. And it was just under three years ago that Hutchison formed a joint venture with Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd to create The Harbour Plaza Hotels & Resorts. In the area of hotel investment, the group has room to grow. Although still in its infancy, Hutchison would have opened a total of seven city hotels and resorts in Hong Kong, mainland China and the Bahamas by the end of this year. Two more new city hotel projects for Hong Kong and mainland China are underway for completion next year. In this crawl-to-run race to compete against other major city and resort hotel brands in the business, who has time for details? Apparently, the thinkers behind the "Our" brand of hotels do. The new 1,350-room Bahamas resort, a US$400 million project due to open in December this year, is the first "Our" property for the hotel group. Named "Our Lucaya", the new resort stretches along the beaches of Grand Bahama Island, a well-known eco-tourism destination. What does "Our" mean? To Eric Waldburger, chief executive officer of Harbour Plaza Hotels & Resorts, "It's a whole new approach to hotels. It's all about interaction, vibrancy, connecting, sharing and getting totally involved. "You as a guest can share in our experience. If you want, you can go with the chef and cook with him. We are not asking people to get involved; we are creating the environment where people naturally want to get involved." According to Waldburger, the "Our" concept is about working with a culture that is already there and blending into it. To take it one step further, the idea is to immerse the hotel into the culture so that it sits comfortably with the locals and visitors alike. "We have no assistant manager or GRO (Guest Relations Officer)," Waldburger says. "We have what we call the "Experience Manager". "If a guest issues a complaint, they can call on one person, the experience manager, who will run for you and find the person who can fix the problem. We also hire people who have extra-curricular talents. "We see this as a positive way for our staff to use that added talent to entertain the guests. If housekeeping wants to sing while making up the beds, then great. We also provide intense training programmes which are of the looking after people type, not technical training." But will this philosophy work in Asia? Waldburger seems to think it will. "The "our" brand property could work anywhere, even in Asia where people are more reserved. "If you create that feeling and you're inundated, regardless of whether you are an introvert or extrovert, you will be so comfortable that you will want to come out of your shell. "We won't create an annoying atmosphere; we will create one that will flow into your daily routine. In each place we go, we will have to find the culture of the brand and find the right people to fit into it. Our Lucaya is the test." The hotel group is not divulging where the next "Our…" property will be developed and when, but says it is "very meticulous in assessing each opportunity."

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