A Signature Media Publication

Centara Hotels – Brand Evolution at a Structured Pace


Tom Thrussell, Vice President – Brand, Marketing & Digital, Centara Hotels & Resorts

Centara Hotels & Resorts have six brands and 37 hotels open and operating around the world in the current portfolio. Another 30 hotels have been slated in the pipeline and are under development. The hospitality brand has a strong focus in Thailand with 32 operational hotels in the country followed by an international presence of five hotels. Of the five properties, two are in the Maldives, one in SriLanka, one in Vietnam and the first Middle East property opened in Muscat (May 2017).

The brand are very distinctive and caters to different segments. The Centara Grand is the five-star product, the Centara brand is the four-star upscale brand which caters to families while Centro by Centara cater for value-conscious guests. Long-staying guests can opt for the Centara Residences and Suites and finally, the millennials have something to relate with the new brand Cosi. This new property will soon open in Koh Samui on 1 December 2017. This brand has been built keeping the tech-savvy millennial-minded generation in mind offering them an affordable lifestyle brand. The property is all about smart phone integration offering services like mobile check-in, Netflix in the room and even an all-day breakfast at the social hub.

Revenues for the hospitality brand has been positive with check-in increasing at five percent or more this year. This is coupled with new announcements such as a new five-star luxury property in Maldives followed by expansion in Cambodia with developments in Phnom Penh and Laos. There are also plans for a property in Cuba which should be completed by end of 2018. The Middle East too has its fair share of development with the joint venture with Nakheel for a 600-room four-star luxury family resort in Dubai on Deira Island. The Centara Muscat Oman and two more properties in Qatar – Centara Grand West Bay with 261 rooms and 96 residences and the Centara Residences and Suites. The hospitality group is also working on a new ultra-luxury brand in Doha.

Further development includes doubling revenue and number of hotels within five years. Destinations being considered include Thailand, South East and East Asia, Indian Ocean – two properties in Maldives with another one signed, Mauritius, SriLanka and the Middle East with further development in Dubai.

The Dubai showcase

An overview of the Centara Grand Mirage in Pattaya

Being well-known in Thailand for delivering family-oriented experiences with the Centara Grand Mirage in Pattaya. This property is a blue print for success which is themed around the Lost World offering 600 plus rooms and a water park. Sought after by not just the Thais, the property is a big draw for Australian, Russians and Europeans guests.

Building on its themed-resort success, the Deira-Island property will be a Centara product. The up-scale four-star resort will fill the value-accommodation and make a headway into the segment. The resort will offer 600 beach-front rooms, a water park, varied restaurants which will also include a fresco and rooftop outlet, spa, the Centara Kids Club with lots of entertainment. The resort is being built around the theme of the ‘Magic Carpet’ which will run through the design of the property.

Based on initial talks with the designer, there will be a big bright yellow magic carpet shaped roof. This will be the highlight of the property which will stand out and will work as great brand recall for families and kids. The theme will run though the water park and food and beverage outlets. The slides in the theme park will be built in the form of a carpet which will be developed with Nakheel. Scheduled for opening in the early part of 2020, the property will appeal to not just the international audience but the local market too, who could visit the property for short-breaks or even staycations.

Key Initiatives

A room view of a Centara property

The hospitality group has keyed in on three key gateway cities for expansion in the Middle East region at the moment – Oman, Qatar and UAE. The three countries will remain in the forefront of plans as new opportunities are explored for expansion and development as well as on the management and investment side of things. The development team though has evaluated other emirates such as Ras Al Khaimah and Abu Dhabi.  With the development of properties scheduled at speed, the Group has also put technology at the forefront of its plans. Of all the brands, Cosi is more like a test-bed for technological advancements. The brand will target specific digital savvy customers with its full smart phone integration. However as Thrussell explains, “We do not want to blind guests with too much technology. We would like to enable technology for them.”

Some of the highlights would be seamless wifi across the property and not just in the room, lobby or pool-side but in areas closer to the beach; USB ports by the bed and Smart TVs accessible to Netflix are among the many others. Guests can also check-in on their mobile for a digital door key. The lobby is being converted into a social living space.

Adapting to new technologies, the Group will look at expanding these technological advancements to other brands. Another area of focus is speaking personally to guests be in via WhatsApp, WeChat or even social platforms. This assists in keeping guests connected with the hotel at all times as well as being updated on all the latest developments without overt intrusion.

Gaining Market Share

The Group has a diverse marketing mix. As Thrussell says, “We will for sure engage our core distribution partners such as travel agents and tour operators with whom we share a fantastic relationship. We also recognise that we need to be more customer facing which is the new trend.” Bearing this fact in mind, we want to go as direct adapting different mediums. We are taking on an international PR agency to have a consistent and targeted messaging approach. Digital marketing would be the next focus which is being grown globally and strategically in key markets. Some of the areas of investment include SEO searches, Social Media, retail advertising and taking on local experts.

Mobile will be a big focus for the Group. In terms of traffic, the group has around 60% plus purely from mobile. However, it has not reflected in bookings. Though low in terms of booking but in terms of search it is high. As a group, the attitude is to have a mobile-first approach and then desktop. The mobile app will be redeveloped over the course of next year as well as the website. With all these factors well in place, the Group manages to get a quarter of their guests as repeat visitors.