HotelsGoing private has helped the hotel group to better ride out the tough operating environment during this pandemic.

Millennium & Copthorne gears up for post-Covid recovery

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Several M&C properties, including Orchard Hotel Singapore (above), have converted areas on property as pay-per-use co-working spaces.
Several M&C properties, including Orchard Hotel Singapore (above), have converted areas on property as pay-per-use co-working spaces.

A year after delisting from the London Stock Exchange, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (M&C) says its privatisation move has afforded it greater agility and cushioned impact of the pandemic.

The London-headquartered hospitality group revealed that its 145 hotels across some 80 locations worldwide have started to show 'green shoots' of improvements in occupancy and gross operating profit from 2H 2020, with the trend expected to gain momentum in 2021.

In Singapore, where M&C operates more than 2,000 hotel rooms, several properties will resume pre-Covid activities such as selling rooms, corporate bookings, events and weddings in the coming months.

In response to the rise of telecommuting trend, Grand Copthorne Waterfront and Orchard Hotel have already reassigned areas on property as pay-per-use co-working spaces, while Studio M and M Hotel are next on the list. Meanwhile, M&C's London hotels have also re-purposed rooms for customers who want the space for work.

Across properties in Southeast Asia, Taipei and in the UK, F&B menus have been shortened and rotated frequently to accommodate the fewer kitchen staff available.

M&C recorded 163,000 staycation nights in the first 10 months of 2020, with at least 65% made directly on the brand website by loyalty members. As of end-September, online channels accounted for 80% of bookings, marking a 56% hike from 2019.

Continuing towards the digital drive, M&C will be scaling up online marketing promotions to reach domestic leisure consumers and target potential drive-in consumers residing within 300km of hotels in certain cities in US, UK and Europe. As corporate business slowly return, the group has expressed that some parts of the offline bookings will be handled digitally as well.

Looking ahead, M&C will review its global footprint to align with objectives of parent company, City Developments Limited (CDL), a Singapore Exchange-listed global real estate company with total assets of over S$23.8 billion (US$17.8 billion).

M&C will focus on key gateway cities including Singapore, London and New York, zooming into key brands within the four-star sector under three brands: M Collection, Millennium Collection and Copthorne Collection; as well as several properties in the five-star sector under Leng's Collection.

To better suit future market conditions, the group has closed Copthorne Penang since July and deferred renovation for Millennium Hilton Downtown in New York.

M&C is assessing at least three offers of expressions of interest for various assets globally, and the sale of any of these assets, if concluded, is likely to result in significant gain on disposal.

All these initiatives mean M&C's global room inventory of more than 40,000 at the end of 2019 might be reduced, but the company said the revised footprint and inventory better position it for recovery.

"M&C is strengthening its foundations to prepare for a recovery in hotel operations from as early as 2021. Our product has been refined to offer new revenue streams. We have improved processes, cost structure and digital marketing, amongst other efforts, as we prepare for improvements in business sentiment and confidence to travel. By streamlining our global portfolio in line with the strategy of our parent, M&C will emerge stronger and better positioned to benefit from a post-Covid-19 environment," said Lee Richards, vice-president operations, Southeast Asia, Millennium Hotels and Resorts.

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