One of the big things we missed during the pandemic was the ease of travel, or at the very least, the ease of travelling to another country. Alas, a litany of restrictions are placed at the borders—quarantines; PCR testings; inflated ticket prices—they are enough to quell even the most ardent wanderlust in you.
But now it looks like there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Travel restrictions are lightening up; VTLs are cemented. Maybe it's time to dust off that passport.
And when you're ready to embark on that flight out of here, Conrad Hotels and Resorts is ready to welcome you with open arms. Even with the last two years of the pandemic, Conrad has been fine-tuning its travel and stay experiences across APEC. We asked Nils-Arne Schroeder the VP Luxury and Lifestyle, Hilton APAC on how they kept sharp during a lockdown and what to expect when people are ready to travel again.
ESQUIRE: How has Conrad tried to stay afloat amid of the pandemic while maintaining the brand's luxury arm?
NILS-ARNE SCHROEDER: As one of the largest and fastest-growing hospitality companies in the world, delivering exceptional hospitality to our guests is the nature of our business and we recognise the need to keep innovating while adapting to meet our guests' changing needs.
The pandemic has had an impact on the hospitality industry and our hotels over the last two years and it is encouraging to see the change in sentiments and confidence in travel resume as travel borders start reopening. As a brand, Conrad Hotels and Resorts constantly seek to raise the bar in inspirational and meaningful travel experiences. To do that, it's imperative to evolve our offerings to cater to the changing travel needs of our guests, while bearing the spirit of innovation. In the past two years, our hotels focused on providing aid and support to the communities around them, while looking at ways to pivot their offerings and experiences for the recovery that we are confident will come.
One of the innovations we launched last year is the Confirmed Connecting Rooms—which resolves the bookings and instant confirmations of connecting rooms. This guest-centric innovation is rooted in catering to the needs of our guests, especially for larger families and friend groups as demand for domestic travellers and staycations remains robust.
The downtime during the pandemic gave our hotels to look at ways to elevate their culinary offerings. At Conrad Centennial Singapore, for example, the team introduced a unique afternoon tea experience, the Language of Flowers Afternoon Tea, which includes a mix of sweet and savoury delights focused on flowers for home delivery during heightened movement restrictions.
In January, the hotel also launched a new Afternoon Tea Theme—The Strawberry Afternoon Tea, which features the Premium Japanese Strawberries with Valrhona Chocolate Dip. Our hotels and resorts around the region also invested in revitalising their properties during the pandemic. One of our halo resorts for Conrad, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island went through a multi-million dollar refurbishment that elevates our guests’ experiences with the newly-designed water villas and refurbished restaurants along with various other new exciting additions.
Another award-winning resort, Conrad Koh Samui, launched the innovative Iris Farm during the pandemic that brings the farm-to-table experience on the island. Spanning 8,000sqm, the farm recycles organic resources while conserving landfill space. A wide range of organic herbs and vegetables are now served in the hotel’s bars and restaurants. At the same time, the hotel imparts eco-friendly farming techniques and offers authentic engagement activities for all travellers. Young guests are invited to participate in collecting eggs for cooking in the hotel’s restaurants, as well as to feed chickens, goats, and rabbits, and free-roaming ducks and geese.
ESQ: Given the restrictions with travel, how does Conrad Singapore try to be relevant, especially with local residents?
NILS: Similar to all our Conrad hotels around the world, the team at Conrad Centennial Singapore, is exploring new ways to provide luxury experiences that are unique to the destination for our guests. Singapore's food culture is a widely known favourite of the locals and Conrad Centennial Singapore launched the “Coffee Stay Huat” staycation package with PPP Coffee and the Chye Seng Huat Hardware team, to introduce guests on how to appreciate coffee. The staycation included an hour-long coffee tasting session hosted by coffee practitioners from PPP Coffee.
ESQ: How has sustainability efforts been since the pandemic?
NILS: As a brand that places a priority on meaningful travel, we've always prioritised sustainability by placing it at the forefront of our operations. We take the global issue of plastic pollution seriously as a threat to the communities, environments and destinations in which we operate. We also recognise that waste reduction is a critical focus for our guests.
In line with Hilton’s Travel with Purpose, we plan to halve our environmental impact by 2030. Conrad Hotels and Resorts announced our partnership with luxury brand Byredo to offer bath amenities in eco-friendly full-sized dispensers, thereby reducing the hotel’s single-use plastics footprint from bathroom amenities by at least 50%.
ESQ: What are the trends that you'll expect to see in 2022?
NILS: One of the trends that I foresee driving luxury travel this year is the desire by travellers to jet off on vacations to recharge and reconnect with loved ones. Especially after the long-term travel and movement restrictions over the past many months, our research tells us that many consumers are willing to travel to undiscovered places as they seek new experiences that are memorable and more importantly, authentic. They want to make a positive impact on the community and the environment through their travels.
A second trend we are seeing amongst consumers is that they will stay with brands that reflect their values and beliefs. Our global trends report found that sustainable travel will be top of mind for the 2022 traveller and beyond, and guests are not only looking for eco-conscious brands, but will remain loyal to brands, companies and organisations if their values align with what they believe in. During the pandemic, we saw people develop new passions, especially around culinary and fitness. We found that the 2022 traveller will seek experiences that speak to the new habits they have formed over the past two years.
What is just as important to the new generation of luxury travellers is the need for an evolved experience that is more relaxed and casual. Gone are the days of the tuxedoes and suits in our restaurants and bars—even if guests still look forward to that bespoke environment in select restaurants across our hotels. Moving forward, guests will expect flawless service to be executed with the highest attention to detail in a casual setting that gives them a sense of place and the room to be themselves. Our team members across our Conrad hotels and resorts are absolutely well positioned to deliver that authentic luxury experience to our guests.
ESQ: What's the most surprising thing about this trend report?
NILS: Local culinary experiences are absolutely integral to the travel experience and every one of our Conrad hotels and resorts are well-positioned to deliver authentic and inspiring gastronomy experiences to our guests. An interesting discovery is that gin is expected to increase in popularity into next year. This is especially so in Southeast Asia, where cocktail drinkers crave gin and tonics more than ever before. The Conrad Centennial Singapore's Lobby Lounge and The Terrace were one of the first locations in Singapore to jump onto the gin and tonic trend back in 2018 with the Gin Experience. In anticipation of the upcoming trend, we recently relaunched the menu in partnership with Fever-Tree which showcases a range of 24 different gins, two of which are from Singapore different gins, two of which are from Singapore.