7 December 2000
With its recent acquisition of Rafael Hotels and its
expansion into markets outside Asia, Mandarin Oriental
Hotel Group now has as many hotels outside the region as it
does within Asia/Pacific.
It now has 10 hotels in the region, seven in the US and
Caribbean, and four in Europe.
Group sales and marketing director Michael Hobson said
this shift in portfolio marked a dramatic change for the
group and is in line with its quest to become a global
luxury hotel brand.
"We believe there is a duopoly in that area now and we
think we can be that third global player."
Hobson however said the move did not mean Mandarin
Oriental, whose home base is in Hong Kong and is better
known for its Asian properties, would be forsaking its
Asian roots. "This gives us the opportunity to bring the
Asian touch in hospitality to the world. The Asian culture
is a strong part of Mandarin Oriental and it makes enormous
sense for us to bring this Asian art of hospitality to our
Hobson added that it also made sense for Mandarin
Oriental to expand beyond Asia. "Apart from North Asia, we
have reached the top in Asia. But as Asia grows, why
couldn't we have two Mandarin Oriental hotels? There is an
opportunity to do more with our brand in Asia."
Key gaps remain. In North Asia, Mandarin Oriental is
eyeing Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing and Shanghai. In the US, Los
Angeles and Chicago are the obvious gaps as are Paris and
Frankfurt in Europe. China is a top priority, said Hobson.
"Its potential as an outbound travel destination is immense
and there is no better advertising than a flagship in key
The integration of Rafael into the Mandarin Oriental
fold has taken the better part of six months, said Hobson.
"Some of the properties, we had to take time to explain to
the owners the Mandarin Oriental brand before we could
Most Rafael hotels have been rebranded except for The
Mark in New York, partly because it is such as well-known
name in itself and partly because a Mandarin Oriental New
York is opening in 2001; Elbow Beach, Bermuda; Turnberry
Isle Resort & Club, Florida; and Hotel Schloss Fuschl,
Hotel Majapahit Surabaya remains without the Mandarin
Oriental brand due to its place in history - it was the
place where the first Indonesian flag was flown after
The group has grown from 5,800 rooms to 7,000 rooms with
the acquisition, said Hobson.
"The ultimate objective is to bring everything under the
Mandarin Oriental brand, with the owners' agreement," said
Asked about the Excelsior Hong Kong, Hobson said, "That
is the only one in the portfolio and it's part of our
history. We have no plans to expand on that first class,
four-star hotel brand."
"INSTANT BOOKINGS IS THE NEXT STEP"
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is working on the next phase
of its website development that will enable its "inventory
to be fully bookable instantly," said group sales and
marketing director, Michael Hobson.
Currently, it works with Travelweb as a partner and its
rooms are bookable by e-mail. "But to properly display
rates and availability, we need to bring that function
online or work with other players to make it fully
functional. That need is particularly acute and critical in
the US market," said Hobson.