The Hong Kong-based Langham Hospitality Group (LHG) recently invited a group of Indonesian and Singaporean journalists, including The Jakarta Post's Kornelius Purba, to visit one of its hotels, the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, Los Angeles county, the US. The group is expected to open a new hotel in Jakarta in 2017. The following is his report from the trip.
When Serene Tan disclosed that property developer Agung Sedayu Group (ASG) was her company's partner in developing and operating the Langham hotel in Jakarta while we were en route from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, I immediately recalled popular TV presenter Feni Rose.
Feni regularly appears on promotional TV programs on real estate and property for the giant developer, with executives of the company often appearing on her show. Feni encourages viewers to buy apartments or property as soon as possible because the dream properties are located in prime locations and designed by internationally recognized architects. One of her catchphrases is 'prices will increase very soon'. The conversations look so natural that viewers may be forgiven for thinking that it is a not promotional program. Feni is a strong promoter of a strong brand.
Agung Sedayu has developed and built many popular shopping malls, housing complexes and apartments in Kelapa Gading, Pantai Indah Kapuk, Senayan, Mangga Dua and other places.
Upon our arrival at the hotel in Los Angeles, we were greeted by public relations manager Susan Williger, a native of Pasadena. The hotel is located at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, just a few miles north of Los Angeles city.
It was a total coincidence that, like Feni's way of promoting ASG, Williger was also passionate when explaining most things about the hotel, including one of the hotel's trademarks: afternoon tea ' also referred to as second breakfast.
'Naturally, we want to make you feel special by instilling the essence of Pasadena, Los Angeles and the Langham into your stay. We hope the experience will make you feel like you're part of an enchanted world that has been carefully crafted and refined for over 140 years yet uniquely the Langham Huntington, Pasadena.' It was very promotional, but the way she explained it, including through body language, it was impressively convincing.
She persuaded us to enjoy the British afternoon tea ceremony, a tradition of the hotel chain. It was introduced by its first hotel, Langham Hotel in London in 1865. A strong European atmosphere can be easily sensed at the hotel, including in its rooms.
The rich cultural tradition is a strong selling point of the hotel chain. And many family elites and the rich in Jakarta like to associate themselves with European culture. The afternoon tea ceremony is one of the attractions to lure guests. Another trend in Jakarta is location. Many star-rated hotels are located within the compounds of or near upmarket malls.
'Enjoy a selection of savory tea sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream, fruit tarts, mousse torts and crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©es and of course a variety of the finest teas,' Williger promoted.
'Susan is very passionate in her work, a required quality in the hospitality industry,' said Tan about her colleague.
The Langham Hotel chain is wholly owned by Hong Kong-based Great Eagle Holdings Ltd., which operates and owns hotels on four continents.
The group signed an agreement to develop and operate a new hotel with the Sedayu in November in Jakarta. Construction is expected to start soon and the hotel is scheduled to open 2017.
The hotel will be located at District 8 of the Sudirman Central Business District (SCBD) in South Jakarta, between Jl. Senopati and Jl. Sudirman. The five-star hotel will have 170 rooms and 30 suites.
Langham is a little-known international hotel brand in Jakarta, or in Indonesia for that matter. Jakartans are more familiar with such names as Grand Hyatt, JW Marriott, the Ritz-Carlton, Shangri-La and Four Seasons five-star hotel chains.
For Agung Sedayu Group, this is the first time it will own and manage a hotel for the upper class in Jakarta. The company was founded in 1970. Its first big property was apparently electronic center Harco Mangga Dua Mall. It was completed in 1991. The family-managed company is one of the top property developers in Jakarta.
Jakarta reportedly will get more new star-rated hotels in Jakarta over the next few years, including Fairmont Hotel in the Plaza Senayan compound. The hotels are mainly for guests who come for meeting, incentive, conference and exhibition (MICE) events.
Tourists play a less significant role in determining occupancy rates at Jakarta hotels. Interest in staying at luxury hotels among domestic tourists, however, has significantly increased over the last few years, a reflection of the rising purchasing power of the middle class. On weekends or public holidays, many hotels offer attractive room rates to lure domestic visitors.
There is also rising demand for wedding venues at hotels. Many people also go to hotels to dine. One five-star hotel in South Jakarta is well known for its restaurants and cafes, and revenue from food and beverages is often not that different from room sales.
According to Steven Parker, managing director of the Langham Hotel in Pasadena major revenue is derive from room sales as well as from wedding receptions and business meetings.
'In Asia, food and beverages contribute significantly to hotel revenue. In general, this is not the case in the US,' said Parker, who has vast experience in managing hotels in Asia.