VP and area general manager – North Asia, ONYX Hospitality Group, Simon Dell

ONYX Hospitality

Speaking exclusively with Panayiotis Markides, vice president and area general manager – North Asia, ONYX Hospitality Group, Simon Dell shares how the hospitality group is vying to promote its Hong Kong properties, its target markets and the destination’s latest trends.

TTG: What is your strategy for enticing travellers to the destination as well as your business in 2016?

With the advances in technology, consumer travel habits and demands have evolved significantly over the past decade. In 2016, we will develop new initiatives aimed at enhancing existing offerings and increasing guest satisfaction. Specifically, we will focus on increased engagement on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, and via our partnership with some of the influential bloggers to increase our exposure. At the same time, we will continue to drive direct bookings growth on our own brand websites, and build customer loyalty towards our brands. For OZO Wesley Hong Kong, we will also be working closely with our regional sales offices and actively participating in long-haul requests for proposal processes.

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TTG: What feeder markets are you focusing on?

At ONYX, we focus on both leisure and business travel, meeting the needs of each and every single travellers. Within the MENA region, the Middle East is a key source market for visitor arrivals to ONYX properties in Hong Kong. Although the number of visitors travelling from this region to Hong Kong is more or less the same over the past years, we continue to work closely with our overseas sales office and our public relations company in the UAE to support our sales and marketing teams.

The MENA region is as well an important destination for us to develop new hotels. Most recently, we also entered a strategic alliance with Singapore Hospitality Holdings to accelerate the growth of two of our brands, OZO and Shama, across the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. With the newly established joint venture, we target to open 46 OZO and Shama properties by 2024.

TTG: Tell us about the latest upcoming tourism trends in Hong Kong and how you plan to capitalise on them?

We see an increasing appetite amongst travellers for the essentials done just right. Therefore, we looked at this trend, embarked on a market research and developed a new brand in OZO, which provides travellers with exactly what they need – a great sleep experience, a great start to each morning and great connectivity. Our first OZO hotel opened in Hong Kong in 2013. Since then, it has been well received by travellers and industry partners.

Another tourism trend that we observed here in Hong Kong is that, there are now more and more family vacationers. Families nowadays often go on vacation in a group comprising of parents and kids, and sometimes involving the grandparents. When they choose their accommodations, space and rates are two major concerns for them. While they would like to have a more spacious room to place their belongings and to move and play around, there is a general dislike for having to book two to three rooms, with no guarantee of having adjoining ones. Serviced apartments like Shama meet this rising demand perfectly by providing family vacationers with the options of two-bedroom apartments, together with fully equipped kitchenette, where family members can take care of each other more conveniently, dine in whenever they want, and enjoy the convenience of having a spacious apartment.

TTG: Can you highlight any of Hong Kong’s newest attractions as well as projects that will boost tourism? 

Sports tourism has gained popularity these few years within the region. The Hong Kong Cyclothon, inaugurated last year, is one of the key highlights in the Hong Kong tourism events calendar. Participants and cyclists from Hong Kong and 17 countries and regions across the world took part in the event last year. Some pushed themselves to the utmost, whilst others simply enjoyed the city’s scenery on long and leisurely rides. In 2016, the Hong Kong Tourism Board plans to extend the track and make it 50 kilometres long, allowing cyclists to go to Sunny Bay on Lantau Island.

Another exciting project for Hong Kong this year is the Hong Kong Formula E, which will be held on October 9, 2016. The Hong Kong ePrix Circuit will approximately be a two-kilometre track, running between Lung Wo Road and the Star Ferry on the Hong Kong Island side, which is just a 20-minute walk away from Shama Central Hong Kong, and a 10-minute ride away from OZO Wesley Hong Kong. The Circuit is expected to be one of the fastest on the calendar, with top speeds of 225kph. The FIA Formula E championship has gained vast global attention since its launch two years ago, and surely this will attract tourists to come and experience the thrill and excitement.

Also, the new Iron Man Experience in Hong Kong Disneyland will definitely be an attraction to kids and superhero fans. Slated to open later this year, it will be the first Marvel-themed ride in any Disney park. Other new destinations that will start to open to the public this year include the West Kowloon Cultural District and the revitalised Old Central Police Station Compound.