Luxury hotel group Rosewood Hotels & Resorts is planning a major foray into Southeast Asia. Chief operating officer Symon Bridle talks regional expansion
According to Symon Bridle, three factors make a “sense of place”: culture, history and sensibilities of the individual destination. While these might sound a little vague, the troika has long been the guiding philosophy of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, one of the world’s fastest-growing luxury hotel companies.
Since 2009, Bridle has been the chief operating officer of Rosewood Hotel Group, the management company of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. In this position, he has overseen the firm’s expansion away from Europe and the Americas and into Asia. In late 2014, the group opened a hotel in Beijing, a move Bridle described as a success that has given them the confidence to “expand deeper into the region, particularly in Southeast Asia”.
“This region is known for its dynamic cities and the world’s most exotic resort destinations…[and] the culturally rich locations in Southeast Asia lend themselves particularly well to our brand,” Bridle said.
Rosewood will open its first Southeast Asian property this year in Phnom Penh. This will be followed in 2017 by a beach resort in Phuket and a luxury tented camp in Luang Prabang, then properties in Bali and Jakarta in 2018, and Bangkok and Siem Reap in 2019.
“Typically, hotel companies look at Siem Reap with its cultural heritage as their initial or only property in Cambodia, but we also saw an opportunity in Phnom Penh,” Bridle said. He describes Phnom Penh as a “vibrant, colourful, dynamic city”, one that represents the future of Cambodia. He added that he is “looking forward to introducing the loyal Rosewood guests worldwide to this new location for them to savour”.
Rosewood Phnom Penh will occupy the top 14 storeys of the Vattanac Capital tower, the city’s tallest building, in the heart of the burgeoning central business district. “When we were presented with an opportunity to work with such a supportive and sensitive hotel owner, Vattanac Properties, we jumped at the chance,” Bridle said.
Although he admitted there are “always differences in cultures and traditions” when moving into new countries, he firmly believes this is negated by the fact that Rosewood “always respect[s] the backgrounds of our associates, listen[s] to them and follow[s] their guidance”.
“When it comes to managing the hotel, brand-wide our team follows the same principle. We create an environment in which associates are nurtured and encouraged to appreciate and respect the host community’s culture and traditions, while delivering insightful service with incredible attention to detail, which is also reflected in design.”
As no man is an island, neither is a hotel, and Bridle is a strident believer in joined-up working practices. Because of this, he said there will be “natural affinities” between their city and resort properties. “Rosewood Phnom Penh and Rosewood Siem Reap being a clear example of possible partner hotel stays by travellers, and likewise you may say the same of Bangkok and Phuket,” he said.
Added to this is the fact that the regional and international sales teams are shared between the hotels, allowing them to “communicate the unique selling points” of all the properties in the region. “We also have a very strong brand identity and culture; all our associates are brand ambassadors,” Bridle added.
When asked why Rosewood is not opening in, arguably, more obvious locations such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Ho Chi Minh City, Bridle jokingly retorted: “That doesn’t mean we aren’t looking”. He added that other Southeast Asian cities not yet in the line-up of planned openings are “definitely on our radar”.
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