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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 — The idea of running a hotel may seem like a great deal of fun for aspiring business owners who have always wanted to operate their own bed and breakfast or a hip boutique hotel.
But what many newcomers to the hospitality industry don’t realise is the time-consuming nature of the job and its not-so-glamourous side which involves calculating average room rates, managing the property’s cash flow and ensuring projected figures make sense.
Then there’s the question of what sets your property apart from a vast ocean of choices out there.
This is where Michael van Ommen and Leonard Theng of Kuala Lumpur-based hospitality consultancy and management company Filoxenia White Label come in.
The duo founded Filoxenia, which means ‘love for strangers’ in Greek, in 2017 after noticing a boom in boutique hotels in the city centre, mostly by third-generation landowners or those from construction and development backgrounds.
“Everyone has a decent idea of what a hotel is but the nitty-gritty of it is quite complex,” said Theng.
“If the market is showing a positive boom, number of hotels that will open, it clearly means we saw an opportunity where not every owner will be fluent in the hotel business.”
With over 20 years of experience in the hotel industry, Theng’s expertise focuses on sales and marketing and revenue management while Van Ommen is an expert in operations such as rooms, food & beverage (F&B), financial and general management.
They are currently targeting individual owners of three to five-star boutique hotels in Malaysia and the Asean region who are seeking hospitality management guidance in the areas of asset management, brand story and development, policy and standard operating procedures using a hands-on, solutions-based approach.
The white label company offers hoteliers an interesting edge with more flexibility and lower fees compared to the standard hotel management agreements (HMA), aiming to increase financial performance and asset value.
“White label in Asia is something new especially in Malaysia and what it basically means is an owner who has a hotel but doesn’t know how to develop their own brand.
“We are not here to compete but instead provide another option for owners to select, which is an international brand or us,” explained Van Ommen, who is originally from the Netherlands.
What then sets apart a great hotel from a good hotel?
According to Van Ommen, a great hotel has everything in place and that includes the hardware, software, well-trained staff, the right culture and clear job descriptions.
“Everybody knows where they are so they have a sense of belonging, a sense of safety which is reflected in the staff.
“You need to find all these unique characters that fit into your team and communicate and reflect the culture. It will show in rankings and ratings,” van Ommen said.
In the past, hotels used to focus on guest satisfaction but these days, what sets one hotel apart from its competition is the guest experience.
For Theng, nailing the guest experience guarantees that everything will fall into place and that begins from the hotel’s initial contact with the guest.
“You have to make sure they have that experience before, during and after.
“If they can get these three elements right, then you can talk about customer retention.
“There’s no point having a six-star hotel but people check in once and never come back,” Theng said.
On Airbnb shaking up the hotel industry, Theng said disruptors like the home-sharing site was a wake-up call for the industry to evolve.
“It gives them the opportunity to get out of a bit of a tunnel vision and probably go back to analysing and strategizing and putting implementation plans in place.
“I think it’s a good disruptor but hotels need to up their game to get out of that roundabout of Airbnb has affected the business and taking our clients,” he said.
Find out more about Filoxenia here.