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Straight From The 'Heart'

St Giles Exec Abigail Tan Shares Insights On Key Hospitality Issues

Friday, March 02, 2018
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Abigail Tan clearly doesn't fit the profile of a typical hotel brand executive as a young female with diverse interests outside of the lodging industry. But while flying a helicopter, playing the electric guitar and boxing are among her interests, hospitality is in her blood.

Having grown up in Malaysia as part of a family with a deep background in hospitality, it was no surprise when Tan joined the St Giles Hotels Group team in 2009 as director of corporate affairs and strategic investments. In 2014, Tan-whose father is the managing director of the publicly listed IGB Corporation, parent company of St Giles-was named as head of U.S., Europe and North America for St Giles Hotels.

In her current role, Tan oversees the company's two New York properties; The Tuscany - A St Giles Signature Hotel and The Court, a St Giles Hotel, as well as The London hotels; St Giles Heathrow and St. Giles London. The company currently has nine hotels in its portfolio with more than 6,000 rooms globally.

Tan shared her perspective with Hotel Interactive® on a few key issues impacting the hospitality industry, as well as the "Hotels with a Heart" charity that she started.

Q: Have you observed a significant increase in people traveling by themselves?

"When the trend of the solo traveler started to be more evident we did a little bit of research within our own hotel in London. Between 2016 and 2017 we were quite shocked and happy to see that there was a 20 percent increase in those traveling solo to the hotel. So that was kind of exciting for us. How can we as the St Giles brand-and also as an individual property-cater to the needs of these guests or find out what their needs are and tailor a service package that they would like and that would make them feel more valued as guest?"

Q: What specifically has the company done to enhance the experience of these guests?

"With that we came up with a campaign and did a little more research. We developed this package that involves rate reductions where the solo travelers can save up to 20 percent on their room rate….We also have developed a dedicated solo traveler concierge in each of the hotels that are offering this package. Two days before you arrive you are sent a survey by the solo concierge asking you 'what is the purpose of your travel? What is important to you in the city? What would you like to see? Where would you like to eat? Where would you like to go?' When the guest arrives we give them a custom made backpack with the St Giles branding on it. It is stuffed with all this information that's important to them. The solo concierge greets them on arrival and gives them a cell phone number for anything that they need when they are in the city. When you're traveling alone it's nice to know someone there at the hotel who can help you if needed and who knows you." https://stgileshotels.com/solo-travel/

Q: How do you look at the rapid growth of the home sharing economy and its impact on the lodging industry?

"I think a healthy level of competition is good because it helps us to refine our offering and really go back to the basics of hotels; why we exist, what's important and who stays at a hotel versus an Airbnb? I think it's very good for us to look at what the successes of Airbnb are…Companies like Airbnb and Uber and all these disruptors exist and they come up for a reason because they see the need. It's how we try to not follow them, but use their strengths and try to mold them into a service that we can give so we can provide an added level of impact."

Q: As a young female executive in a male dominated industry, what are some of the challenges you've faced?

"Of course a lot of the CEOs of the top brands and groups and hotel general managers are males, but I believe what we're trying to do as a hotel group and the St Giles brand is building our core team. I wouldn't separate having a female leader and a male leader. I think at the end of day it's the ability to drive the culture, and to create an experience and a space in the hospitality industry that's important and makes a difference."

Q: You have been the driving force behind the Hotels with a Heart charity, what inspired you to create this initiative?

"Instead of a separate community program it's something that sits at the core of all our training and brands. The foundation is to support the homeless youth in all the cities that we have hotels where we can try and impact the community by providing the homeless youth with work experience, internships, and apprenticeships. We want to help one person at a time and try and make a difference. It's not all about making money, it's about how we can give back. That is the ethos we try to give our team that everybody is part of this wider family and how can we be more than just a business?"
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