Pullman Kuching forges ahead to expand its business exposure

KUCHING: One of the leading five-star business hotels in the state, Pullman Hotels and Resorts (Pullman Kuching) will be expanding its business exposure, not only within the domestic but as well as the European market this year. The property is managed by an international hotel operator Accor Group.

IMMEDIATE OBJECTIVE: Tan strives to improve and expand the exposure of Pullman Kuching within the domestic as well as the European market for this year, bringing it to the next level in the industry.

Eric Tan

Eric Tan, who has been with the Accor Group for the past nine years, is current heading the task as the general manager for Pullman Kuching, having taken over from Fabrice Mini in January 2011. Tan has been in the industry for the past 18 years.

“In 2010, the management team as well as the hotel has concentrated mainly on setting up the hotel as a brand including pre-opening and fine-tuning activities as well as getting the right people for the job. More or less in 2011, we managed to stabilise most of the areas in the hotel. One of the major tasks we had was to get Pullman Kuching known domestically as well as in Asia,” Tan told The Borneo Post in an interview recently.

He further said that his immediate objective for this year was to expand the exposure of the hotel, not just within the domestic market but as well as the European market, which he highlighted as an important key point to the hotel’s growth in the industry.

“We are currently working very closely with the European regional office to promote this hotel and this area as a tourist destination. Cooperation also comes closely from regional offices in Thailand, Bangkok, Singapore, Jakarta, China as well as Hong Kong,” he added.

According to Tan, the top feeder market for Pullman Kuching was mainly Singapore, Japan, Australia and the UK. “The area that I want to work on is mainly on the leisure side, which includes leisure as an individual or leisure as a group. I would like to go one step further into the foreign market. This will generally improve the traffic flow into Kuching and at the same time the neighbouring cities around the state.”

The hotel itself is also well-known as a conference hotel in the state. One of its biggest achievements last year was to secure an international conference, the 19th Malaysian Urological Conference which was held in October. With this success, it has managed to secure a few more conferences in 2011, 2012 and all the way up to 2014.

In terms of revenue generator, Tan revealed that both MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) and corporate contribution formed close to 60 per cent of the hotel’s business. Leisure, on the other hand filled up the remaining 40 per cent. “We are currently working closely with the Sarawak Tourism Board to bring in more foreign residents that come in for leisure.”

“One of the main contributor is also from food and beverages – wedding banquets as well as dine-in guests. We are running on minimum five weddings per month and will be able to cater for as many as 1,200 people at any one time,” he explained.

Pullman Kuching owns the largest hotel banquet hall in the state, with 3,660 square metres dedicated to the extensive banquet hall. The ballroom measuring 1,615 square metres can accommodate up to1,500 people for a sit-down banquet and 3,000 people for a cocktail reception.

On the accommodation front, the hotel houses 389 rooms, each complete with the latest technological in-room connectivity devices. In 2010, the hotel ran at an occupancy rate of close to 40 per cent. For this year, Tan stressed that he was looking at an occupancy rate of above 50 per cent. “We are considered a market leader here, in terms of revenue per average room, catering to the high-end market.”

“Our strategy is to follow up on what we have done in 2010 to get in the additional revenue. I have focused on the foreign market because it will give me a longer average length of stay as well as higher average spending. We are in very good terms with our regular clientele which will continuously generate future businesses,” Tan highlighted.

When asked if the market in Kuching is able to accommodate more new hotels, Tan concurred with the current situation saying that it was good to have more competitors around as this would be able to support more events coming into the city. “At this point of time, the demands are coming in strongly. In order to sustain the business, we need to have more top quality hotels which are able to support the increasing events.”

Meanwhile, in terms of guest breakdown for 2010/11, the domestic market represented almost 50 per cent of the total business. The remaining was from the international markets. “For whatever that we have recorded last year, I’m looking at a surplus of about 20 per cent for this year.

“Since Pullman Kuching started last year, our average year-to-date manning ratio was 0.85, close to 350 employees. I would very much love to increase the manning ratio to one this year, which is quite normal for a five-star hotel to have one staff to one guest room,” he explained.

“That would be ideal for a five-star hotel operation, but again the workforce in Kuching is quite challenging. However, for the hotel industry, there will be improvement in the time to come given that Kuching is slated to be a hub for business meetings and as a convention location and STB is very aggressively pushing this idea across.”

In Malaysia, Pullman Kuching is the second branded property after Pullman Putrajaya in Kuala Lumpur. The Accor Group is set to launch the third Pullman brand property in Bangsar by the third quarter of this year. Internationally, Pullman brand owns 49 hotels with 13,924 rooms across 16 countries.

“Considering the vast experience that the Group has in managing top quality hotels throughout the world, we have an added advantage and we are continuously endeavouring to take the hospitality business to greater heights,” Tan concluded.

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