Hotels must check in new ideas to stay on top

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon (third from left) says an Industry Transformation Map for the hotel sector was launched last year to tackle challenges such as manpower constraints. JW Marriott is tapping technology to track and
Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon (third from left) says an Industry Transformation Map for the hotel sector was launched last year to tackle challenges such as manpower constraints. JW Marriott is tapping technology to track and replace worn-out items such as linen, to free up staff for more value-add work.PHOTO: JW MARRIOTT SINGAPORE

Minister of State outlines sector's challenges at JW Marriott launch

Sustaining strong growth in the hotel industry will not be easy, given the increasingly high demands from travellers, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon yesterday.

He noted that tourists are now "seeking unique and differentiated experiences wherever they go".

However, that is just one aspect of a wider issue. "With an ageing population, Singapore also faces manpower constraints that compel us to think about how we can re-design our infrastructure, processes and business models to be more manpower-lean and more productive," he added.

He was speaking at the opening of JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach at mixed-use development South Beach.

South Beach is a joint venture between City Developments (CDL) and Malaysia's IOI Group.

Dr Koh said the Industry Transformation Map (ITM) for the hotel sector, which was launched last year, aims to address these challenges.

"Having outlined the strategies to transform the hotel industry, the key now lies in the execution of the ITM."

Dr Koh, who is also Minister of State for National Development, noted how the hotel in Beach Road presents a blueprint for the industry. The 634-room property, which is close to many tourist attractions, has its own draws, including a restaurant helmed by world-renowned chef Akira Back.

He noted how the hotel preserves the rich heritage of its location while presenting a wide range of cultural and culinary offerings to cater to a diverse market. "With these fresh concepts and ideas, the JW Marriott has distinguished itself as an attractive choice for travellers," he added.

The luxury hotel, the first in Singapore by JW Marriott Hotels and Resorts, has exploited new methods to improve operations.

Radio Frequency Identification technology, for example, is used to track and replace worn-out items such as linen.

"This allows valuable manpower resources to be deployed to more productive uses," he said.

He added that the hotel is also committed to developing a pipeline of talent for the industry.

It is participating in initiatives such as the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn scheme, which encourages fresh polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education graduates to work and gain qualifications at the same time.

In his speech, Mr Kwek Leng Beng, executive chairman of Hong Leong Group and CDL, noted that determination and perseverance had enabled the South Beach project to be pulled off.

In 2007, CDL, together with Israeli Elad Group and UAE Dubai World, had won the tender for the site.

But after the two foreign investors exited, CDL partnered IOI.

Mr Kwek added that CDL has introduced various innovative hospitality concepts such as W Sentosa.

Next up, in 2019, will be the first Edition boutique hotel here, in Orchard Boulevard.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2017, with the headline 'Hotels must check in new ideas to stay on top'. Print Edition | Subscribe