RAFFLES: BUILDING AN ICONIC BRAND

Jeannette Ho, Vice-President, Raffles Brand and Strategic Partnerships, talks about the past, present and future of the brand

Raffles’ Jeannette Ho is tasked with protecting, and developing the world-renowned Raffles brand. The first hotel was established by Armenian hoteliers, the Sarkies Brothers, in 1887 and named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the British founder of Singapore. In recent years the brand has gone global under the French Accor group and today, exclusive hotels carrying the Raffles name – and ethos – exist all over the world. We asked Jeannette Ho about the evolution of the brand.

It’s a very exciting time for the brand and we are seeing great momentum. This year we opened the Raffles in Shenzhen and Raffles Maldives Meradhoo – which has over-water rooms, and has very rich marine life. And then we followed up with the reopening of the iconic Raffles in Singapore. We’re looking to double our portfolio of 14 to 28 hotels in the next three years. In April next year, you will see the opening of Raffles Bali, an exquisite resort dedicated to wellbeing, followed by the Raffles Udaipur, a magnificent palace hotel on a pristine lake in India.

WE ARE VERY MUCH ABOUT PROVIDING EMOTIONAL LUXURY

Is the history behind the new Raffles hotels as important as that of its Singapore agship?

It’s very important for us to be faithful to the Raffles DNA, yes. Last year we opened the Raffles Europejski Warsaw. That, back in the 19th century was the most beloved hotel in Europe, so we are very excited to bring it back to Poland at a time when Warsaw itself is going through a renaissance as a city. At the Europejski we have brought back a 160-year-old “Lourse Patisserie”; so many people say “Oh I remember my Grandfather used to bring me here”. It’s where all the locals and luminaries used to come together.

For me personally, I am particularly excited about our upcoming opening in London, which is a transformation and careful restoration of a beloved British heritage building, that has never been open to the public before, so it’s quite a lot of responsibility to be restoring and bringing this property back to world travellers and the British population.

My role as steward of the brand is really to ensure that its DNA is intact through every individual property. It’s about bringing the dream of Raffles all around the world. Because it’s not just opening a hotel; the Raffles owners have a very specific vision that they have in mind when they take on a new Raffles property. So, whether it’s in Shenzhen, where they are bringing a new product and a new level of service that the city hasn’t seen before; or Boston, where we have a new build in the historical heart of this iconic American city, it’s very much about assuring that the Raffles DNA is kept throughout all the different properties, but also, to keep up with trends and the times.

What current trends have you identified that fit with the Raffles brand?

The area of wellbeing has evolved from niche trend to a core offering that guests want and expect. And for Raffles, we are very much about providing emotional luxury. So our wellbeing concept is about emotional wellbeing. It has three core pillars: Harmonious Design, Nutrition for Pleasure and Rituals for Serenity. We know that sleep is very important so what is the whole journey before you sleep? And when you wake up, how do you re- energise? So everything from lighting to music to the food that you eat, to reading materials, to scents and aromatherapy oils. And how your butler will personalise your journey for you with your bath.

WE’RE LOOKING TO DOUBLE OUR PORTFOLIO OF 14 TO 28 HOTELS IN THE NEXT THREE YEARS.

What has Accor brought to the brand?

The main thing Accor has brought to Raffles is the development pipeline, providing us with a strong distribution network. Also, very importantly, the new ALL loyalty programme from Accor – Accor Live Limitless – which allows the Raffles brand to have easy access to a much broader group of luxury travellers. We see our French market as very much a feeder market, naturally growing, and we are seeing more of our European markets growing stronger.

Tell us about the grand re-opening of Raffles Singapore.

In Singapore’s bicentennial year, we have done it as a community event and all the proceeds from that day will be given to various charities across Singapore. The re- opening is very important for us – it was one of the most anticipated events in travel and it allowed us to pay homage to our agship. But it’s also the timing that was important, because shortly after is the reopening of the Raffles in Siem Reap – near Angkor Wat – which itself is going through restoration, as is the one in Phnom Penh. So, in October, both properties are coming back after restoration. And we’ll have a new global brand campaign that’s going to come out in Q1 2020 next year.


Photo: Jeannette Ho, Vice-President, Raffles Brand and Strategic Partnerships