Lebua Hotels and Resorts try to redefine luxury accommodation in Thailand
From the turn of the 20th century on, luxury has continued to change in regards to hotels. Starting with private baths, guestrooms eventually grew to include televisions, room service and celebrity chefs. These days, however, a small Thai hotel group is redefining the name of luxury, from sensational views to amazing extras that have created an entirely new and extravagant experience.
For more than 100 years hotel luxury has continued to evolve, adding in more and more features that guests consider luxuries in order to generate new business. The trend began in the early 1900s when guestrooms began to include private baths to the late 1960s when the Westin began 24-hour room service. The 1980s brought boutique style hotels to the forefront while celebrity chefs like Wolfgang Puck lent their name to hotel dining.
A recently published article by Forbes, written by contributor Doug Gollan, outlines how certain hotels are rising to the desires of travellers with “memorable experiences” such as in the early 2000s when Deepak Ohri first opened al fresco dining and drinks on the very top of a Bangkok skyscraper. While there were similar ideas, the article points out they lacked the same flair, leading Lebua Hotels and Resorts to further drive the global trend. It’s written that the Four Seasons in Mumbai offers a nearly identical choice with the AER Lounge.
President of Expedia Lodging Partner Services Cyril Ranque explains:
“Most of the time hotels struggle to build an F&B product that is attractive to guests and the local community.”
However, that’s hardly noted as the case for Ohri as the Lebua restaurants commonly generate $200 to $300 per diner in Bangkok, a city known for its inexpensive dining and hotel rooms.
The article goes on to explain that Ohri’s vision included converting unused space in the Sky Bar to a champagne bar. While it cost just $100,000 to construct, it generates four times that each month in sales. There’s also the addition of an Enchanting Tree that holds champagne flutes. It’s written that Ohri sells more bottles of $2,000 Blanc de Blancs in this one location than is sold in all of Singapore.
CEO of Evolution Capital Sanjay Singh adds:
“What he has done for his owners is remarkable. When he came, the building was a shell, and he has turned it into a destination that attracts visitors from around the world who come to Bangkok because of what he’s created.”
Ohri’s vision has also extended to Mezzaluna, where he hosted 40 wealthy world travellers in 2007 for a $30,000 per plate star-worthy dinner, generating large media coverage for Thailand’s emerging luxury. Criticized by some for the extravagant meal, Ohri defended it as spurring possible future investment in Thailand, while also raising money to help local charities.
It’s also explained that the building Ohri transformed, the abandoned State Tower, was changed into an all-suite hotel, adding in luxuries like nicer furnishings, bedding and better housekeeping, things that “guests notice and value”. He saved money by cutting back on lights and gadgets that aren’t necessarily missed. With a focus on hospitality, Ohri’s goal is to make stays memorable and a true experience, from the moment guests touch down at the airport to the warm greeting they receive when they disembark the elevator for the top floor dining.
Another way that Ohri is setting himself apart is how he is working together with online booking companies, something many hotels have tried to distance themselves. As revenues grow, Lebua Hotels & Resorts now manages three resorts in India, a Frankfurt restaurant, a New Zealand lodge and the two hotels found in State Tower. There are also plans for a possible skyscraper with rooftop dining and drinks in Hong Kong, plus open fine dining in London and Philadelphia.
As well, Ohri has forged a new way of doing things; from his open-door management policy to a policy of bypassing the old supply chains, going directly to farmers for produce. Now listed as one of Southeast Asia’s top hotels, even featured in a major Hollywood movie, Ohri continues to gain new attention and publicity for his creations as other luxury hotels take notice of the small things adding up to an entire experience, from the silver champagne cups to the breath-taking Bangkok views.
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