John Keells aims to double its hotel room stock in 5 years

John Keells Holdings (JKH), one of three large hotel chains in the country, is pumping in over US$1million annually on promoting its premium Cinnamon brand and aiming to double its room stock in five years from a current 2,200 in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The group, which has been working on a brand strategy for the past 3-5 years, says it is now ready to take the brand – includes opening resorts – to South East Asia.

“We are ready,” noted Ajit Gunewardene, Deputy Chairman – JKH, in an interview on Wednesday in Colombo at the group’s make-shift corporate headquarters at the former Duty Free Shopping complex adjoining the Cinnamon Lakeside hotel, adding “We are ready to strengthen the brand”.

He said the group has been looking at the region for investments. “We did a lot of infrastructure in the past few (five) years to be able to travel with the brand. Now we are ready. We made huge investments in an integrated software system, management systems – essentially a plug and play integrated system, customer relationship management and a brand strategy. All these manuals are in place. So taking the brand out (overseas) makes is easier now. It’s not anymore about just buying a hotel and operating. We need to be able to add value.”

The group has been helped by its own independent research study on the local traveller and his/her needs. “We resorted to the research route against the traditional marketing as the economy has evolved to a point where the gut (gut feeling type of marketing) is just not enough to cater to a discerning local clientele. To be truly professional we need to know their (clients’) likes and dislikes,” he said adding that the Sri Lankan clientele is quite significant and accounts for 20 per cent of JKH’s occupancy annuallyThe research, the first ever on the domestic traveller, showed that local visitors also – similar to the foreign traveller – are seeking an experience (in a holiday). “Unlike before they don’t want to just go on the holiday. The new age traveller wants an experience. It’s no more the room-pool-buffet type of local tourist that we are dealing with. They want something more,” said Dileep Mudadeniya, Head of Brand Marketing for Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts, who was associated with Mr. Gunewardene in the interview.

Mr. Gunewardene said the group is not resorting to the traditional manner of advertising Cinnamon hotels. “We are using our position in Sri Lanka as a destination to position our hotels as well. It’s almost a nation branding. We will complement what the authorities are doing. It’s Sri Lanka first and the then the Cinnamon brand.”

JKH will be adding 500 more rooms in the next five years in addition to the 800-room, 5 star Cinnamon hotel at “Cinnamon Life”, the integrated property at Glennie Street which comes on stream in 2018. That would have 4.5 million sq. feet of space inclusive of two apartment towers, one office tower, a 400,000 sq. feet mall and a 2000-vehicle park. The conference space can accommodate a total of 5000 delegates with the largest hall able to seat 1,700 delegates.

He said Cinnamon is also looking at the top-end segment of luxury hotels and considering creating properties in the 20-room range.

[ Via Sunday Times ]

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