HotelsWhat's shaping the future of hospitality at IHG? Vice President, South, East Asia & Korea Serena Lim tells more.

IHG injects fun and vitality into new lifestyle hotel brands

Kimpton Shinjuku Tokyo was added to IHG's APAC portfolio in 2020.
Kimpton Shinjuku Tokyo was added to IHG's APAC portfolio in 2020.

IHG Hotels and Resorts is mounting an aggressive expansion strategy in Asia Pacific, with new lifestyle brands introduced and signings announced on a regular basis in the past year.

Travel Weekly Asia speaks to IHG Vice President, South, East Asia & Korea, Serena Lim for the group's latest developments.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Serena Lim, Vice President, Development, South East Asia and Korea, IHG Hotels & Resorts.
Serena Lim, Vice President, Development, South East Asia and Korea, IHG Hotels & Resorts.

How have the past 18 months been for IHG in Asia Pacific? What notable developments were there?

We’ve come through the past 18 months in a strong position which demonstrates the resilience of our business and the ability to benefit from the return of travel. The situation is still really challenging in places especially in Southeast Asia and Korea and is highly correlated to vaccine rollouts and government restrictions. But where people can travel, they are travelling and the US and China are great examples of that.

We’re continuing to grow the business having opened 132 hotels during 1H 2021, which takes us to nearly 6,000 hotels open around the world. And we signed more than 200 hotels globally, which is more than one a day.

InterContinental Sorrento Mornington Peninsula.
InterContinental Sorrento Mornington Peninsula.

We’ve opened some truly stunning hotels across the region in the last year including bringing new brands to new markets. Staybridge Suites Bangkok Thonglor made its debut in Southeast Asia and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants expanded in Asia Pacific with the opening of Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok and Kimpton Shinjuku Tokyo.

2020 was certainly a year for Crowne Plaza in Australia and beyond as we opened or converted six hotels – four in Australia, and two in the Pacific, and in the next six months we will be expanding the brand further with openings in Japan and Vietnam. Crowne Plaza Phu Quoc Starbay will be a fantastic example of the brand in a resort destination.

What’s new is the launch of Vignette Collection as part our global Luxury & Lifestyle Collection brand, and we expect to attract more than 100 Vignette Collections hotels in 10 years. Among the first hotels in the collection globally is with long-term partner Asset World Corporation in Pattaya’s Aquatique district, and Hotel X in the centre of Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, Australia.

What new opportunities do you see arising from the pandemic?

The strong demand drivers including population growth, urbanisation, significant investment in transport infrastructure, that we saw before the pandemic started haven’t gone away. So, we believe there’s opportunity for all our brand across our markets in the region with a strong opportunity to grow in second and tertiary markets in markets such as Vietnam and Thailand. That trend started some years ago in Australia and China and we are seeing that across Southeast Asia now.

Crowne Plaza Phu Quoc Starbay will be added as a resort location for IHG.
Crowne Plaza Phu Quoc Starbay will be added as a resort location for IHG.

We have also seen drive to destinations becoming popular, demand for new projects near to cities, and leisure destinations becoming more active. We’re keen to expand in domestic-led destinations as well as destinations with international appeal, leveraging our strength in-country, and enabling our local teams to run the business locally.

Looking ahead, what are IHG's expansion plans in the region? Which brands and markets will be prioritised?

At the beginning of 2022 we’ve bringing a new brand to Singapore, voco Hotels, which will be situated on Orchard Road. The 423-room hotel will rebrand from Hilton Singapore and will expand our portfolio to 12 hotels across seven brands.

As our newest premium brand, voco is also growing with openings in Vietnam — voco Ma Belle Danang in Vietnam — and Australia — voco Melbourne Central voco Brisbane City Centre and voco Auckland City Centre.

Other stunning hotels that will be opening shortly in resort locations include Kimpton Kitalay Samui, Kimpton Naranta Bali, Regent Phu Quoc and InterContinental Sorrento Mornington Peninsula.

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