HUANG BUILDS ON A VISION WITH HOTEL JEN
Written on the 13 May 2016 by Karen Rickert
ENTRUSTED with reinvigorating a tired hotel brand in Brisbane, Claire Huang decided to cast her net to the wider Roma Street community as well.
Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts acquired the 191-room property above the Brisbane Transit Centre from Holiday Inn in 2012.
The company used the opportunity to launch its Traders brand in Australia for the first time, while taking advantage of the location as a feeder destination to its properties in major capital cities.
The brand was then converted into Hotel Jen in late-2014, inspired by a virtual persona of a hotelier and global traveller to appeal to independently-minded corporate and leisure guests.
In a career spanning almost two decades with Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Huang climbed the ranks to general manager after working at a number of hotels across China.
At the helm of a 600-room hotel, she was selected to relocate down under and oversee the brand relaunch as general manager at Hotel Jen Brisbane.
Huang says it allowed Shangri-La to leverage her experience with the company, backed by an increasing number of Asian travellers heading to Australia in recent years.
"I thought the new brand was exciting and I like a challenge," Huang says.
"Two brands in two years' time was very confusing to the market, so it was a tricky exercise initially. But Australia is a very good market for new brands and concepts and it accepted Hotel Jen really well.
"It's a lifestyle hotel, but for daily life. It's not a lifestyle which is out of reach or too expensive."
Huang says the hotel staff offer genuine service and often share personal recipes or recommendations for South Bank with guests.
The brand relaunch and personalised guest services are paying dividends for Hotel Jen, particularly resonating with the domestic market.
Local travellers from Queensland and interstate make up to 60 per cent of occupants, taking advantage of the hotel's proximity to the cultural precinct and Suncorp Stadium. About 30 per cent are visitors from Asia, including Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.
Huang now has set her sights on making the Roma Street community a vibrant place to visit for locals and travellers.
She collaborated with council to light up Gallipoli Park next door by adorning an 80-year-old fig tree with red lanterns, as well as commissioned a number of street art murals in the area. Hotel Jen also hosts a food truck festival on the first Friday of every month.
"As a hotel, we're more part of the community rather than standing alone," Huang says.
"I also work very closely with Brisbane Transport Centre, engaging in renovation plans to make the centre come alive. We all live together and benefit from each other.
"I'm also part of the Roma Street community safety precinct committee, because security is important in every city and we work with them to stay across any issues."
Hotel Jen plans to gradually upgrade its facilities this year and introduce new customer touchpoints to add more value that's unique to the brand.