The Banyan Tree: branding the intangible
Jochen Wirtz is an Associate Professor of Marketing and Academic Director of the UCLA – NUS Executive MBA Program at the National University of Singapore, Singapore.
Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts had become a leading player in the luxury resort and spa market in Asia. As part of its growth strategy, Banyan Tree had launched new brands and brand extensions that included resorts, spas, residences, destination club memberships, retail outlets, and even museum shops. Now, the company was preparing to aggressively grow its global footprint in the Americas, Caribbean, Europe, and the Middle East while preserving its distinctive Asian identity and strong brand image of Banyan Tree.
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Ho and Chiang hit upon the idea of building a resort comprising individual villas, local-inspired architectural design and positioned as a romantic and intimate escapade for guests. Banyan Tree had moved up its positioning into the higher end of the luxury market, and by 2008 its rack rates were typically between US$1,200 and 7,000 for the resort in Phuket, and between e1,500 and 4,200 for the resort in the Seychelles. Operations at Banyan Tree began with only one resort in Phuket, situated on a former mining site once deemed too severely ravaged to sustain any form of development by a United Nations Development Program planning unit and the Tourism Authority of Thailand. It was a bold decision, but the company, together with Ho, Chiang, and Ho’s brother Ho Kwon Cjan, restored it after extensive rehabilitation works costing a total of US$250 million. So successful was Banyan Tree Phuket when it was ﬁnally launched that the company worked quickly to build two other resorts, one at Bintan Island in Indonesia and the other at Vabbinfaru Island in The Maldives. The company never looked back since. Even though Asia’s travel industry experienced periodic meltdowns such as the Asian Economic Crisis in 1997/1998, the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, the dot.com crisis in 2001/2002, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, and the