HotelsNew aparthotel brand promises “to show guests a new and modern way to travel”, says Dorsett Hospitality's Winnie Chiu.

The way of the Dao is the future for Dorsett

Dorsett Hospitality International president Winnie Chiu: “We are looking to add back a guest experience to the serviced apartment concept."
Dorsett Hospitality International president Winnie Chiu: “We are looking to add back a guest experience to the serviced apartment concept."

Like all hotel groups, Dorsett Hospitality International has been challenged by Covid. Yet with swift action to limit the impact of the pandemic, and a strategy to look ahead, not back, the company has expanded its portfolio of brands – including a new Singapore property – and is looking to expand even further in Asia.

Dorsett Hospitality International president Winnie Chiu talks about how the company is reinventing the travel experience for leisure and business travellers in a post-Covid world.

What encouraged you to develop the new aparthotel model – Dao by Dorsett – at a time when hospitality has been severely challenged by Covid?

While we had identified this trend prior to Covid, it really took off during the pandemic and the data we were seeing was very encouraging.

For example, in the US during the latter half of 2020, STR reported a 65.8% occupancy for serviced apartments and aparthotels compared to an average of 48% for the overall hotel industry.

We feel that this trend for aparthotels is here to stay. Now that the world is opening, guests are prioritising the flexibility and add-on services that aparthotels can offer.

With Dao by Dorsett, we are looking to add back a guest experience to the serviced apartment concept and show guests a new and modern way to travel.

There is plenty going on in this space. If I’m a guest at Dao by Dorsett, how will I recognise the property is different to others?

Dao by Dorsett is our new Aparthotel concept with sustainability in mind from the onset.

The Dao brand and name is actually inspired by the Chinese word ‘道’ (which in English literally translates into the word ‘way’) and its links to the Chinese philosophy of Daoism and finding your own path towards living in harmony.

The Dao by Dorsett experience brings a younger, more welcoming feel with wellness, nature and community playing a big part of the brand. We are reinventing what it means to travel for both business and leisure in today’s world post-Covid in a new and more mindful way.

DAO by Dorsett West London
DAO by Dorsett West London

Dao by Dorsett in London and in Singapore will work with local farmers to curate fresh, seasonal produce as welcome hampers for our guests. Our Dao by Dorsett properties in the UK feature solar panels to generate renewable energy. We have also fitted the serviced apartments with low-flush toilets, eco-shower heads, low-energy appliances, bamboo trash cans and more.

And they’re pet friendly, I believe.

A big part of the Dao brand is focused around being able to offer that choice and flexibility for our guests – if our guests want to bring their pet with them for their staycation, or when they’re in the city to visit their family, we should accommodate them.

In terms of your target markets, have you picked up on any post-Covid trends that are influencing peoples’ choice of accommodation?

Dao by Dorsett is targeting both corporate and leisure travel and we foresee that they will increasingly be intertwined as people travel less frequently but for longer periods.

Guests have become more conscious about how they travel, their footprint as well as their own health and wellness. They also want to support small local businesses.

The rise of remote work and learning has given people the freedom to choose when and where they work. Serviced apartments and aparthotels are a great option for those who want a little more space to work out of, while also enjoying a bit of leisure time.

Is Dorsett International overall coming out of Covid with its tail up? What have been some of the hospitality challenges and what unique ways has Dorsett addressed these challenges?

Despite the many challenges we have faced, Dorsett Hospitality International has continued to expand and open new properties with our first Dorsett-branded hotel in Australia, Dorsett Gold Coast, as well as with our other development/owner projects, including the Ritz-Carlton Perth.

As a vertically integrated company where we build, own, and operate most of our own assets, we have a lot more flexibility and agility built into our core DNA. This has really allowed us to tackle the challenges brought on by Covid-19.

We were the first hotel group in Hong Kong to offer packages for self-quarantine before the Designated Quarantine Hotel scheme was introduced, and the first in Singapore and Hong Kong to look after positive Covid-19 patients with low-to-no symptoms.

In total, we’ve looked after more than half a million quarantine guests worldwide. Our hotels in the UK and Europe have also welcomed refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine. We feel that everyone has a shared responsibility to contribute, and our biggest resources are our rooms.

Covid accelerated the need for efficient technology for both hygiene as well as the guest experience. Seeing the long-term value this will create, Dorsett Hospitality International invested early on and introduced AI disinfecting and delivery robots to minimise risks of exposure.

And to clean more efficiently and effectively, we invested in an AI fitness mirror ‘Innomovit’ designed to provide real-time fitness training in small spaces and even partnered with mental health app Clara to offer an extra layer of support to our guests during quarantine.

Once each region was able to recover, we were able to quickly pivot into the staycation business and our hotels in London are now pretty much operating as normal.

I understand expansion is continuing. Where will Dorsett be planting flags in the next couple of years?

It is very exciting. We have quite a few hotels in the development pipeline. For Dorsett Hotels, we have properties in Melbourne and Sydney and Perth already in the pipeline as well as a third Dorsett Hotel in London at Canary Wharf.

For Dao by Dorsett, we will be announcing our first Asian property in mid-May. Similar to our first property, Dao West London, it will operate as an aparthotel model and be in a vibrant and central location.

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