Building for the future

Shailesh Pallipuram, InterContinental Hotels Group's (IHG) vice president sales & marketing, South East Asia & Korea tells Rachel AJ Lee how the Crowne Plazas and InterContinentals are staying relevant to better handle meetings of the future

What do you think the meetings of the future will be like and what sort of facilities are needed?

The segment continues to evolve with new technology, a growing competitive landscape and an emerging millennial customer base for whom connectivity, culture and collaboration are trending.

With the Crowne Plaza brand, we spent a lot of time looking at insights of the ‘modern business’ traveller and built this into our design work. We know that the ‘modern business traveller’ has a contemporary, ‘lifeaholic’ and millennial mindset. Productivity matters but they also seek energising experiences and inspiration – living life to the fullest, trying new things and searching for efficiency.

This insight lies at the heart of the products and services that we offer to our business guests at Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts – a brand geared towards business travel that is ever more flexible, connected and mobile.

We offer Crowne Plaza Meetings Directors who are expertly trained via an exclusive global partnership with Meeting Professionals International; business-ready services and spaces; fast and fresh meal options specially designed to keep guests productive, and a Sleep Advantage programme to help perform at the top of their game.

Broadly, we see a trend for less structured meetings, freeing up more time and space for brainstorming and networking. Traditional boardrooms will give way to non-traditional venues, such as outdoor spaces, that create conducive settings for productivity, interaction, and creativity.

While face-to-face meetings are here to stay, technology will be essential for extending the reach of any meeting to those who cannot physically attend the event. Free wireless connectivity is no longer an option, but a must-have in every meeting.

Finally, the health and wellness trend in the meeting space will continue to grow, as companies strive to ensure maximum employee productivity. To help guests maintain wellness while travelling, IHG will be introducing the EVEN Hotels brand to Greater China, Australia and New Zealand over the next few years. As the industry’s first and only hotel brand created with wellness at its core, it offers a best-in-class fitness experience, healthier food choices and natural, relaxing spaces.

And how is IHG working with hotel owners to build properties that are better geared for meetings of the future?

The world of business has changed, and so has the way we work. Building properties to suit the needs of our guests starts by understanding who they are, what they like, and delivering an experience that meets their needs before, during and after their meeting (or stay) with us.

Outside of the meeting room, we’ve seen a continued trend for groups looking to immerse themselves in local culture and history, including activities and local fare to further enrich their travel experiences.

To cater for this, the Insider Collection by InterContinental Hotels & Resorts provides a range of delegate experiences that are rooted in the destination and can be tailored to meet different needs. These range from interactive off-site team-building activities to local speakers, or the opportunity for delegates to contribute to projects benefitting the surrounding community and environment.

Has IHG evolved the Crowne Plaza product to better cater to new meeting needs?

Crowne Plaza has implemented an innovative programme called Green Engage, an advanced online system developed by IHG for its hotels to measure the environmental impact of day-to-day operations. With deeper awareness of waste levels and energy usage, hotels are empowered with the right information to improve the sustainability of their operations.

Our Crowne Plaza brand also encourages nutritious menu options that can energise delegates and keep them engaged throughout meetings, while the Crowne Plaza Sleep Advantage programme provides a holistic approach to a better night’s sleep, through comfortable bedding, guaranteed wake-up calls, Quiet Zone Floors and aromatherapy.

Lastly, where will the upcoming Crowne Plaza and InterContinental properties be in the Asia-Pacific region?

There will be 50 Crowne Plaza and 38 InterContinental hotels and resorts opening in here over the next three to five years, including properties in Greater China.

There will be new Crowne Plaza hotels opening in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu) and Australia (Sydney), just to name a few.

The other notable launch will be Crowne Plaza Phu Quoc Starbay, the company’s first Crowne Plaza in Phu Quoc and third in Vietnam, joining Crowne Plaza West Hanoi and Crowne Plaza Danang. The hotel will be part of the new Star Bay/Green Hill development and will be close to both the island’s town centre of Duong Dong and the new Phu Quoc International Airport – making it a prime venue for corporate and leisure events, complete with a business centre, a dedicated meeting and events team and six meeting spaces.

As for the InterContinental brand, new locations will include Indonesia (Jakarta), Laos (Vientiane) and Thailand (Phuket).

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