RailNew railway lounges are "game-changing opportunity" as PPG aims for a global footprint of 500 lounges by 2025.

Beyond airports, Plaza Premium Group trains sights on rail lounges

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The complimentary zone at the DragonPass x Plaza Premium Lounge for Changsha High-speed Railway passengers.
The complimentary zone at the DragonPass x Plaza Premium Lounge for Changsha High-speed Railway passengers.

With a nod to the evolving needs and behaviours of the post-pandemic travel market, Plaza Premium Group (PPG) has unveiled its new business transformation strategy, which includes adding railway lounges to its network in what they term as a "game-changing opportunity".

In January, PPG opened its first high-speed railway lounge in China, which is fast becoming a significant form of cross-country land transport for business and affluent travellers.

Located at the Changsha South High-speed Railway Station, the lounge is the result of a collaboration with DragonPass, a global digital platform for premium travel services.

With a capacity for 290 guests, the Changsha South railway lounge features a nursing room, playroom, zones to facilitate privacy and social distancing, seamless dining experience with Smart Order, a contactless food ordering system via smart mobile devices, and a designated lounge seating space for seniors, the disabled or members of the military in a 700sqm area.

Changsha is China’s key transit hub connecting major cities like Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Shanghai. Two other high-speed railway lounges are due to open in Shenzhen and Guangzhou in 2Q 2021.

“Extending our global hospitality experience of over 20 years and award-winning lounge services beyond airports is a game-changing opportunity for us,” said Song Hoi-See, PPG founder and CEO.

He added, “The strategic partnership with DragonPass represents a milestone for us to explore a new territory in travel. Passenger traffic of high-speed railway in China have skyrocketed in recent years and even more so post-pandemic.

"High-speed railway is an alternative way of travel for many in China and we look forward to bringing our world-class hospitality across the region.”

Expansions despite the pandemic

At a recent roundtable discussion, Song, together with chief commercial officer Bora Isbulan, revealed that new projects for PPHG include expanding the airport hospitality service from ‘curbside-to-gate’; more collaborative strategic B2B and B2C partnerships; a US$5 million investment to level up information and technology-driven decision making; and strengthening its direct-to-consumer ‘Open to all travellers’ approach via multiple surveys conducted.

Despite the pandemic, Plaza Premium Lounges opened in the past 12 months in Sydney, Dallas/Fort Worth and Sabiha Goken. The next 12 months will also see the launch of lounges, hotels, dining concepts and meet-and-greet services at 50 locations worldwide.

The group aims to expand its current number of over 180 lounges to over 500 lounges by 2024/25 through growing both the Plaza Premium Lounge venues and affiliate lounge networks to position PPG within the 100 top busiest airports worldwide.

“We expect more than 30-40% outlets will be around Americas and China. The rest is across key airport hubs such as in Europe, India, the Middle East and Southeast Asia,” said Song.

Another feather in its cap, PPG’s new global membership programme, Smart Traveller, launched in 1Q 2020, transforming PPG’s end-to-end airport hospitality customer experience, distribution and business modelling.

It also touts two ‘firsts’ for the group.

Smart Traveller is the first integrated digital solution, both app and web-based, to connect all PPG airport hospitality offerings with the air travel market. It is also the first global loyalty and membership programme built for air travellers and airport users, combining both PPG offerings and extensive non-PPG affiliate network offerings via a point reward system which currently houses over 1,000 specially curated travel and lifestyle products. The rail lounge network will be integrated into Smart Traveller in Q2 of this year.

“Smart Traveller is an integrated loyalty membership programme which works seamlessly across all Plaza Premium Group services throughout the hospitality ecosystem. The plan is to integrate both experiences onto one single platform in view of the air-to-land travel community,” said Song.

The group is expected to release more details in the next few weeks.

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