SAN talks to Dean Schreiber about technology, new brands and the sharing economy.
• What is your background and how did you come to be
working in the serviced apartment sector?
"I joined Oakwood Asia Pacific from Pan Pacific Hotels Group where I was senior vice president of operations. Beside hotels, Pan Pacific had a number of serviced apartments in the region and I was excited by the idea that this product could become a mainstream alternative to hotel accommodation. The gap between hotels and serviced apartments could be narrowed by providing exceptional hospitality to our resident guests on a daily basis. Throughout my career, I have held positions with InterContinental Hotels Group, Harbour Plaza Hotels and Resorts, Century International Hotels and Le Meridien Hotels and Resorts.
I have over 30 years' experience in Asia Pacific and the Middle East and I also have extensive experience in property development, new property openings, general management and hotel operations for five-star and luxury brands. At Oakwood Asia Pacific, my role is to focus on establishing and executing the strategic direction for the business unit and oversee the growth of the brand throughout the region. I'm also responsible for locating properties suitable for Oakwood management internationally, positioning these properties within the relevant markets and building the Oakwood brand."
• Asia Pacific is one of the most vibrant regions for the industry - which do you think are the prime untapped markets in the area that Oakwood will move in to over the next few years?
"Oakwood Asia Pacific continues to push forward with expansion plans for the Asia Pacific region and beyond, with plans to double our branded portfolio of 28 properties over the next three to five years. In the last 12 months we have opened properties in Bangalore and Hyderabad, in India; Tokyo, Japan; and Incheon, South Korea.Our current pipeline includes 11 properties across Asia Pacific, including developments in Sri Lanka, Japan, China, Indonesia, and India."
"We are seeing a slight shift from a more corporate-dominated demand for our properties to an increasingly growing leisure market opting to stay with us. Having the option of larger rooms and better in-room facilities seems to resonate well with guests travelling on holidays. We are exploring this market segment further and adding a wider range of leisure options in our Oakwood Residence Brand. We have also begun adding more brands to our portfolio to cater for specific demands - most notably our Oakwood Studios brand designed for our single traveller looking for a premium quality product with space relevant to their immediate needs. We are also opening our first mixed use hotel and serviced apartment product in China in 2016 that has both short- and long-term room products and we will continue to roll out this brand in the future."
• What is the typical business v leisure traveller ratio in the region, and how has that changed in recent times?
"We aren't just looking at business v leisure traveller - today, as travel numbers increase worldwide, we look at an even more fragmented market place made up of several types of traveller, each of them with different objectives and requirements. These include the business traveller working for an MNC, the small business traveller, the female traveller, the millennial traveller, the independent traveller and the senior traveller. Also, the distinction between business and leisure, work-time and down-time is blurring for all. According to a recent study by Virgin Atlantic, nine out of 10 business travellers now mix pleasure into every business trip they take. Bleisure travellers take advantage of the business trip time away to explore their various destinations. Innovations in technology are allowing these travellers to be more efficient with the additional time they have, for example checking into hotels and flights from a mobile device to using in-flight Wi-fi."
"This holds true globally; according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) 2015 report, in China alone there has been extraordinary growth in both business and leisure travel with China poised to overtake the United States as the number one business travel market in the world. China is expected to surpass the US in travel spend by 2017. The GBTA report also shows that the combination of business and leisure travel is a good thing - if a company can provide a perk along with the business travel, it goes a long way in retaining that worker."
• Do you see the likes of Airbnb as a threat to the serviced apartment sector, and if so what can the industry do to rise to that challenge?
"As a serviced accommodation provider, we welcome the emergence of the sharing economy; we see it as a benefit to the serviced apartment industry as it increases the profile of the serviced apartment model as opposed to that of hotel accommodation - emphasising the virtues of the space, flexibility, privacy, home-away-from-home environment of our model. It is important for travel managers to understand that the sharing economy is not going away, and actually it increases options for travel managers and encourages companies such as Oakwood Asia Pacific to be more innovative and more supportive. Private home owners have been renting their places out for years - it is nothing new. Airbnb have simply brought attention to this and given us additional access to more consumers. We always need to listen to our customers and this type of accommodation that AirBnB offers is exactly what we ourselves are offering."
• What was the thinking behind the launch of the Oakwood Studios brand, and which locations do you intend to roll the brand out to?
"Currently we are seeing an increase in the number of assignments to Asia Pacific; an increase in short-term assignments and a rise in younger international assignees coming into Asia Pacific. We are seeing a more diverse global workforce, and as a result, are committed to providing inventory that is diverse enough to satisfy that increasingly diverse workforce. The Oakwood Studios brand is designed to appeal to urbane travellers with an innate sense of curiosity. They use their globe-trotting to discover, to experience new things and discover new places. Often early adopters, they are well-informed on current affairs and their passion points are community and culture. Oakwood Studios will be located in key cities known for a vibrant culture. It will add a new dimension to urban city stays, offering global nomads a casual and unpretentious space to work, live and thrive. The perfect product for key international Tier 1 cities, we would look towards such developments in markets like London, New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai."