Hotel chain to go high-tech in SEA

Swiss-based Golden Tulip Hospitality Group will pour US$1.56 billion to build hotels in the region, offering facilities that include VoIP, IPTV, game consoles and iPod music systems.

BANGKOK--Swiss-based hotel chain, Golden Tulip Hospitality Group, on Monday announced plans to pump US$1.56 billion over the next four years to expand its operations in Southeast Asia, which include building high-tech guest rooms.

The company, which currently operates 324 hotels in 54 countries, is targeting to open 50 hotels in the region by 2012 and will launch three brands: economy-business Tulip Inn, four-star Golden Tulip, and five-star Royal Tulip. Tulip Inns will represent 60 percent of the company's portfolio, with the other brands making up the remaining 35 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

The company's first Tulip Inn subsidiary in Southeast Asia will open in Bangkok this June, following the regional launch of Golden Tulip last October.

The hotels will use advanced in-room IT facilities to target tech-savvy business and leisure travelers across the region's key urban centers and secondary growth areas.

"We are very excited about the in-room IT [amenities]," said Mark van Ogtrop, managing director of Golden Tulip Southeast Asia. "It may be expensive, over 100,000 baht (US$3,156) per room [was invested on IT equipment], but from a marketing point of view, it will create a truly exceptional USP [unique selling point] for our brand."

Each room will offer voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), IP television (IPTV), game consoles, iPod music systems and computer-compatible TVs. Other facilities also include mood-responsive lighting and music, and customizable e-wallpaper.

Golden Tulip plans to open around 20 hotels in Thailand over the next four years, with most other properties launching in Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and Indonesia. Singapore, the Philippines and other Asean countries will also be included in the company's expansion plan.

The hotel chain plans to target the region's biggest potential customer base: domestic Asian business travelers. Its decision to focus on economy-business hotels rose from a lack of international competition in this segment, and "saturation" at the luxury end of the market, according to van Ogtrop.

The company will also engage local service providers, and is aiming to make Tulip Inns as well recognized as Thailand's domestic brands Amari, Dusit Thani and Centara. "We see that the fastest and best way to grow is to leave the development up to the local experts," van Ogtrop said.

He added that Golden Tulip Southeast Asia is also investing heavily in e-marketing and online booking systems, such as Expedia and, due to the changing nature of how travelers source and book their accommodation.

"More consumers are selecting and booking hotels directly themselves," said van Ogtrop. "We spend a lot of resources to ensure that in any given city, our hotels have predominant positioning online with all distribution systems and third-party Web sites.

Greg Lowe is a freelance IT writer based in Thailand.