Davao is Park Inn's springboard to Asia Pacific

Subscribe Now October 06, 2013 at 11:33am

It took quite sometime for Park Inn, the “baby” sister brand of the upscale Radisson Blu hotel brand, to break into Asia and when it finally did, the Philippines – Southeast Asia’s fastest growing economy, became its springboard. And it’s not in Metro Manila, not even within Luzon that its very first hotel opened.

Lanang, Davao City in Southern Philippines is Park Inn’s first home, right beside a new SM mall, one with an SMX events hall and office space for business process outsourcing (BPO) locators. It’s because Park Inn – a mid-scale brand – entered the local market in partnership with country’s largest conglomerate, the SM Group of tycoon Henry Sy.

“This is what we’re talking about with the future, with a hotel, SMX and mall all together. This is really where synergy works at its best – where synergy moves forward as a group not as individual (business),” says Christina Bautista, SM Hotels vice president.

This suggests that Davao is not the last of Park Inn’s foray into the Philippine market, but is just the beginning as the country moves to harness its potential in tourism with the help of private investors like SM.

The build-it-and-they-will-come strategy, after all, has worked well for the SM group in its shopping mall empire which has now stretched all the way to mainland China.

To date, the SM group’s existing hotel portfolio also includes the Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay, the Pico Sands Hotel in Batangas and the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cebu City. Soon to rise at the Mall of Asia complex is another upscale hotel under the Conrad brand.

Davao isn’t a bad choice for Park Inn’s first Asian hotel, the city having insulated itself from the turbulence seen in other large cities of Mindanao. Art Boncato -Tourism Assistant Secretary who was until recently, the Region XI Tourism, credits Davao’s better peace and order situation to the able leadership of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Also, he notes that this city has a land area three times bigger than Metro Manila and is very competitive as far as doing business is concerned. It has a stable power supply and at a cost lower than in most places in the country. It even contributes renewable energy to the grid. The city has an international airport and the list of carriers flying to the city is growing.

Davao City has a total of 7,014 hotel rooms, 1,000 of which opened only in the last two years, Boncato says. The 204-room Park Inn added to this capacity when it opened its doors only last March.

‘Energetic’ brand

One enters Park Inn hotel in Davao with a burst of colors. It’s an eye candy of a hotel, appealing especially to young guests.

Park Inn by Radisson Davao aims to set a new hospitality benchmark in the growing mid-scale segment in the Philippines. As part of the Carlson Rezidor global hotel network, it is seen to benefit from the patronage of 10 million Global Club Carlson members.

The property has 198 standard rooms and six junior suites with respective published rates of P4,788 and P6,629 per night. Based on the hotel website, however, there’s a promo of P2,400 for weekends and P2,625 per night for early bookings (21 days in advance). Of course, there’s free Internet access. It has a swimming pool and bar as well as a fitness center.

The hotel’s all-day dining outlet RBG (Restaurant, Bar, and Grill) serves charcoal-grilled meat and seafood, local and classic dishes. It even features various cheeses produced by a local gourmet cheese producer Malagos, which has unique creations such as goat cheese laced with mango or pineapple. The drinks menu has been designed in a bid to offer “variety and value.”

While the nearby SMX is the one positioned to capture the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions), Park Inn has meeting facilities of its own for a smaller audience. It has four meeting rooms, each of which can accommodate 30 people and two rooms can be combined for bigger space.

Incubator

To bring the fledgling Park Inn Hotel to the market, the international hotel group brought in as general manager Geir Sikko, a Norweigian hotelier who has had a 16-year track record with the company and is a specialist at nurturing upstart hotels. At the age of 18, Sikko went to Italy to learn more about wine. He lived with an old Italian family in northern Italy for a year, learned the local Ianguage and more about wine – skills which are very useful in this industry.

Sikko is also no stranger to Filipino culture, being married to a Filipina singer whom he met in a previous stint in Beijing. He himself is a performer and delighted visiting journalists from Manila with an operatic a capella number. He handpicked most of the staff of Park Inn. Having an ear for music, job seekers with musical talents got brownie points and some of these talented staff likewise performed for visiting journalists over dinner-buffet at RBG.

Being affiliated with the Radisson Blu group has both upsides and downsides. On one hand, the brand recall is strong but on the other hand, Sikko says some may be looking for the same kind of five-star amenities when Park Inn is like a “little brother” or “little sister” three- or four-star hotel.

“However, I think if I’m able to capture and train the best of our staff. We will be a strong player. It doesn’t really matter what the hotel is called.”

But while this is first Park Inn in the country, it’s not necessarily going to be the protoype for the next ones. Park Inn Davao is actually in between the next generation and the old generation Park Inn hotels.”The next generation Park Inn will be more funky than what you see here… The lobby will be called a living room, with blanket, book shelf and you have a bar there,” he says.

With the SM group as its partner in the Philippines, Sikko says there’s no reason why this brand won’t take off. He says the hotel group doesn’t enter a new market without a strong local partner, which was why it wasn’t in a hurry to jump into the Asian bandwagon for the longest time. Having said that, he says SM “is obviously the strongest partner” his company could find in the Philippines.

Sikko says it usually takes three years for a new hotel to gain strong traction, but adds that Park Inn is getting a fair share in the market at a “better than anticipated pace.” Business generated from the Internet is likewise on the rise.

“Globally, we get a volume of bookings through online travel agents and our own reservations system in the website,” he says.

“Once a month, I look at Tripadvisor, look at reviews and I personally answer. But I don’t spend all of my energy doing that because I have to look at whats happening in the building.”

Source: inquirer.net



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