Many discussions about travel and hospitality often revolve around two extremes – budget and luxury. What about travellers in between? Here’s where the midscale space comes in. It’s a trend that’s been picking up momentum in the hotel business.
In Malaysia, a handful of brands has been pushing the midscale space into the limelight. Hospitality groups such as Hilton, Ascott, Radisson and Accor have either launched or announced plans for new mid-market properties here in recent years.
More recently, the Hilton group rolled out two Hilton Garden Inn hotels in Puchong, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. Meanwhile, Accor unveiled the four-star Ibis KLCC in the heart of the city centre and Ibis Styles in Inanam, Sabah.
What makes a hotel midscale?
The easiest way to define a midscale hotel would be a property that’s positioned between the luxury and budget hotels. The way Hilton regional general manager (Malaysia) Jamie Mead sees it, mid-market properties have to go beyond accessible room rates.
“It should be a hotel that provides a comprehensive selection of services and amenities that are high quality. Our midscale customers want to have nice hospitality experience, but at the same time, they have a price point that they want to stick to,” he explains.
Those aspects have to do with more discerning midscale travellers these days.
“Midmarket travellers want convenience and quality. They want luxury, but not luxury in the typical sense. It’s the luxury of time and convenience, where they are able to blend business and leisure together,” Mead explains.
But how do hoteliers maintain quality while keeping affordable rates in check? Surely, guests would have to make do without something?
“You don’t have to do without a lot actually,” Mead says, referring to the wide selection of amenities at Hilton Garden Inn hotels. “A midscale hotel is just positioned slightly differently and designed in a way that is comfortable and more accessible.”
However, Mead concedes that midscale hotels usually remove some services that midmarket customers typically don’t want. A good example would be the removal of the traditional concierge service.
The idea is to make the stay less structured and more relaxed.
“Hotels can sometimes be a bit intimidating. Our midscale hotels have been designed to be hassle-free with a strong emphasis on hospitality. We try to take away any sort of guest hesitations or perceived complications,” Mead offers.
Positive hospitality outlook in Malaysia
There is tremendous opportunity for midscale hotels in Malaysia. That might have something to do with good economic fundamentals. But hoteliers would tell you that it all boils down to catering to a growing segment of travellers.
It falls back to the good old principle of supply and demand, according to Ibis KLCC general manager Ho Ricky.
“Nowadays, travellers are able to get information with a few clicks of a button and that has increased their understanding and interest towards midscale hotels. Travellers want to be able to get their money’s worth and be rest assured knowing that they are paying and getting what they need, minus the frills.
“Thus, the demand for it increased and naturally there’ll be plenty of buzz that follows it,” he offers.
The rise of midscale hotels in the country is also tied to the rising spending power in the region.
“The prospects of midscale hotels are tightly linked to the global travel trends. Other than the cheaper airfares, the rise in middle income from Asia Pacific is also contributing to demand for midscale hotels in Malaysia.
“Furthermore, a better awareness on what a midscale hotel has to offer, providing certain luxuries of upscale hotels without burning holes in their pockets, adds to the rise of midscale hotels,” Ho explains.
Mead says all the indicators for the hospitality business in Malaysia are good – whether it’s visitor arrivals, the economy or the Government’s position on tourism.
“If you look at the data, visitors in Malaysia will increase more than five million this year. That’s split pretty much equally between international and domestic travellers. This presents a huge opportunity for not only hotels, but many segments of the economy to provide services and facilities for this growth of travel,” he says.
Are midscale hotels…boring?
In the age of social media where Instagram aesthetics matter, midscale hotels are in a pickle. After all, there is this perception that midscale properties tend to be very standard. In other words, well … boring.
What does it take for a midscale hotel to stand out?
“It’s design,” Mead answers almost immediately. “We put a lot of effort on a sense of place and having a hotel experience that is quite sensory.”
“For some midscale hotels, there is a lot of that ‘sameness’ regardless of where you go. But that is not our approach at all. Each hotel has its own design, but there is also a sense of familiarity where people can relate back to the brand,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Ho reckons it’s all about good hospitality.
“Good hospitality is founded on meeting the expectations of a hotelier’s targeted guests. In today’s highly competitive hotel industry, hotel operators need to find creative ways to communicate their brand message and unique selling points to their target audience,” he says.
The design aspect aside, Ho says challeges for midscale hotels are primarily centered on fulfilling the needs of different types of travellers.
“The services by a midscale hotel need to be effectively communicated to travellers to prevent any disappointments,” he says.
One thing is for certain though: Travellers these days are spoilt for choice. Ultimately, it’s about sourcing for the accommodation with the best value.
“Travellers are now more informed with their available options for hotels, hence, they can make clear decisions of what they can get with their travel budgets, making midscale hotels an extremely favourable choice,” Ho concludes.