Millennials are at it again it seems and now they’re affecting the hotel industry. According to a recent report by real estate consultancy JLL, co-living is gaining traction in Asia thanks to the millennial generation, who are being affected by high or rising real estate costs.

This goes beyond the relatively commonplace flat-sharing or shared housing, which has been popular among students and young professionals. The industry has started to organise with players like Hmlet and now ST Signature, professionally managing these properties, offering benefits and services beyond accommodation.

We spoke to Alan Goh Keng Chian, Founder, Executive Chairman and CEO, of Katrina Group Ltd, the parent company of ST Signature, about the evolving hospitality industry in Southeast Asia.

We are now seeing concepts such as co-living hotels bring that bring co-living and a sharing culture to the hospitality and tourism industry. According to research, business travel is also a fast-growing segment in the market and accommodation is a large part of the high cost. While only Singapore (4th) cracks the top ten in the region at US$468 per day, the cost of travel is still rising.

We spoke to Alan to find out more.

1. Could you share a little bit about why Katrina Group is making such a strong push into hospitality – what are the driving factors behind this investment?

The launch of ST Signature Chinatown is part of our growth strategy to create a strong hospitality brand in the region. We see great opportunity in the industry and strongly believe that the co-living concept will continue to grow within the region. With strong growth expected in the global business travel segment and Asia Pacific is a major growth region for hospitality, the future looks bright for ST Signature.

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2. Co-living as a concept has been around for a while, but co-living hotels are relatively new. What do you think is the potential of this segment of the market?

Driven by the millennial demographic, there is strong growth in the co-living market in Asia. According to a recent report by real estate consultancy JLL co-living is gaining traction in Asia, especially in markets with high or rising real estate costs. While flat-sharing or shared housing has been popular among students and young professionals, what differentiates co-living spaces is that they are professionally managed, often offering benefits and services beyond just accommodation.

Co-living hotels leverage on a growing travel industry by integrating high-quality and luxury aspects into an affordable travel bracket. The co-living hotel segment has strong potential to capture market share as the industry continues to grow. It provides short term co-living options to those who wants to experience the co-living community yet enjoy the privacy and comfort of a hotel.

ST Signature Chinatown room

3. Where do you see growth for the hospitality industry in Southeast Asia?  

Besides Singapore, we see growth in countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. 

4. Which markets are you planning to expand into and why?

We plan to open in major gateway cities in Asia, and we intend to capitalise on our presence in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo. We have established small serviced apartments and restaurant operations there and are quite familiar with the market.  

5. Co-working was also mentioned as being part of the experience of staying at ST Signature Chinatown – do you see a lot of potential from the business traveller side? If so, could you elaborate on that?

ST Signature co-living hotel is targeting the FIT millennials and short-term business travellers. We do see the potential from the business travellers. A wider, more global network is a key resource for entrepreneurs and business travellers. Staying in a co-living hotel is more affordable and allows networking opportunities between business travellers. Our locations are also in close proximity to both the business and tourist district, making it convenient for both business and tourist.

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6. Regarding your technology integrations, there is a growing global trend of incorporating automation solutions into the hospitality industry – can you describe what your technology does and how it impacts your guests’ experiences?

The hotel incorporates the smart Chat-In™ technology. This means that guests checking into the hotel, will be amongst the first here in Singapore, to experience this unique hospitality check-in solution that uses a virtual host – a feature that was innovated by ST Signature.  This unique self check-in technology enables guests to check in and check out of the hotel quickly and efficiently without the hassle of going to the reception counter. Guests no longer need to carry a hotel access card around with them, as they will now be using an access PIN to enter the cabin. 

The communal kitchen – Cook Lab

7. What is next for ST Signature?

We are in the midst of rolling out the ST Signature mobile app that will incorporate the current Chat-In™ technology, together with some new features like Facial Recognition, Bluetooth locks, In-house guest to guest chat groups and other unique communal spaces for the upcoming properties. Having a total of 1,000 rooms in three years is our target.

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