Portfolio Forecast 2023: The Silver Lining, Part 2

In collaboration with GuocoLand
Shot on location at Meyer Mansion/Midtown Bay/Midtown Modern Showflat by GuocoLand
Photography by Chino Sardea, assisted by Tracey Nguyen
15 Dec 2022

Thought leaders, industry experts, and changemakers from Singapore and beyond come together in this edition of Portfolio Forecast to answer the burning question: As we navigate economic uncertainty, inflation, supply chain disruptions, and geopolitical issues, what, then, is the silver lining for 2023?

(Related: Portfolio Forecast 2023, Part 1)

Clint Nagata

CLINT NAGATA, Founder and Creative Director, BLINK Design Group
Design & Hospitality 

"One of the major hurdles that we faced in 2022 was figuring out how to start off projects or completing them, due to the travel restrictions. Once that was lifted, we found it extremely beneficial to once again resume in-person meetings, prospect new sites, and visit projects under construction. While technology allowed us to manage through the pandemic, in-person meetings will always be irreplaceable.

The pandemic has fuelled interest in luxury travel perhaps more than ever. We have had interest in clients looking to create amazing destinations not only in Asia, but in other areas like Europe as travellers continue to look for curated resorts and hotels that tell stories of a place and its culture."

Ben Jones

BEN JONES, CEO and Co-Founder, The Mandala Group and Mandala Club Singapore

"The hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit during Covid. Our Group closed two of our venues, but we stayed focused and actually completed one of our biggest deals with the acquisition of Straits Clan private member’s club, which we repositioned and rebranded as Mandala Club. It was a huge risk at the time, but proved a rewarding investment as private membership communities are thriving since the pandemic reminded us all of the importance of human connection.

While the macro backdrop is certainly of concern, we stayed true to our vision in building Asia-Pacific's most interesting, exciting, and dynamic membership community. The silver lining is that we see it being appreciated by our members on many levels, from growing their network to elevating and enriching themselves through our programming. In addition, we’re ever delighted with new faces, with the community growing month-on-month to levels despite a shaky economy."

Ryan Clift

RYAN CLIFT, Chef-Owner, Tippling Club

"The main challenge of 2022 was definitely the lack of manpower. Everyone is struggling to fill positions. We managed to get through it unscathed, and the main goal now is to scale up and hire more staff. I dealt with it by working harder, finding ways to retain all our staff, and knuckling down to survive. I also hired talent in higher positions to build a stronger team. Stronger hands make lighter work and that’s how we got around it.

What keeps me optimistic is definitely the noticeable increase in foreign customers. Many high-net-worth individuals are returning to Singapore for big conferences and tend to visit the more successful, and more famous-named restaurants — Tippling Club being one of them. At the end of the day, it’s better for all of us that the airports are open: The city is increasingly returning to normal, thanks to foreign tourism. Let’s face it, Singapore is a foodie destination, so more tourists mean more benefits for the businesses here."

Nils Arne-Schroeder

NILS ARNE-SCHROEDER, Vice President, Luxury & Lifestyle, Asia Pacific, Hilton

"After operating under travel restrictions for over two years, 2022 saw our business having to pivot to a fully open environment in most parts of Asia Pacific. Pent-up demand for new, immersive experiences, wellness, and meaningful connections fuelled a jump-start for our luxury properties – each of which were challenged to deliver personalized service to the highest levels despite a global talent shortage.

With more than 10,000 highly trained team members passionately delivering best-in-class hospitality across our 31 luxury hotels and resorts in Asia Pacific, coupled by the robust growth momentum of Hilton’s luxury portfolio across the region – the future is bright. Owners and investors have continued to show great confidence in our luxury brands, which have truly changed the face of luxury hospitality in the most sought-after destinations.

Highly anticipated openings include the launch of LXR in South East Asia and Conrad in Malaysia next year, as well as the debut of Waldorf Astoria in Japan, AustraliaMalaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam in the coming years."

Toh Ting Feng

TOH TING FENG, CEO and Co-Founder, GetGo Technologies Pte Ltd

"Inflation is the major hurdle of 2022. As labour, fuel, electricity, and asset prices rise, so do the costs of delivering our service. We have responded by focusing on increasing our efficiency and productivity through embracing data and technology even more keenly, across both operations, as well as administration.

One thing that always keeps me optimistic, is coincidentally, that humans are innately optimistic. For example, our collective belief that we can **** climate change, or improve financial access, for the betterment of each other's lives, remains constant throughout these difficult times. This is especially true of the younger generation. As we at GetGo build towards a shared and sustainable mobility future, we ride on these trends of hope and optimism. We enable the younger generations with the freedom to drive, but with a significantly smaller impact on the environment and their wallets. This allows them to enjoy the independence of mobility in a sustainable manner which then allows them the time and money to also build a better future."

Tony Tan

TONY TAN, Founding Director, Smthgood

"Today’s consumer is sharper in the consumption of fashion, trends, and brands. It matters more than ever to consumers what their product is made of, how it is made, and its wider impact. It is therefore even more important for us to be transparent and particular in the curation of our brands. As a new start-up, we’ve also had to deal with service providers prioritizing earlier projects and raising prices as a backlog of projects continue to restart post-pandemic. This urged us to work on features that our users are most receptive to, while maintaining a hawk eye on our already slim cost base.

Going into 2023, we believe consumers will be even more discerning in their purchasing choices. While pricing will always be a key consideration, we see heightened awareness in consumers making better choices in favor of conscious and sustainable products, and support for brands that stand for more than profit. As consumer buying behavior continues to evolve and shift away from a purely transactional experience, we see an opportunity to move towards one that is led by purpose, discovery, inspiration, and personalization. This keeps us optimistic as we look ahead to Smthgood’s official launch come January 2023, in providing users with a unique and purposeful shopping experience, combining a gamified virtual styling tool and a conscious fashion marketplace powered by fashion AI."

Kevin Deisser and Jack Brown

JACK BROWN AND KEVIN DEISSER, Founders and CEOs, Invest Islands
Real Estate 

"Rampant inflation and the rocketing price of raw materials have raised the construction cost. The way we’ve tackled this is by resorting to new and locally-sourced materials, which has been a good way to keep rising material costs under control. Also, the increased cost of travel has deterred several potential prospects from coming to Indonesia, resulting in a diminished number of travellers visiting Lombok. However, we have adapted to this, offering virtual tours and footage so they can still be immersed in the experience without the travel commitments.

Indonesia is by far the best performing market in Asia, and arguably amongst the best in the world in 2022, with a positive GDP forecasted for 2023. The growing trend of digital nomads and remote working, post-pandemic, is fuelling investment in Lombok and Bali, with more people looking at relocating or investing in Indonesia. This, coupled with government initiatives to attract foreign investment, has resulted in the recent announcement of a digital nomad visa, and second-home visa available to foreigners.

Lombok is the 'new Bali' from 10 years ago, with much untapped potential for investment. The wave of hotels and hospitality projects coming to this island is growing rapidly, and it has proved to be a resilient market despite the past three years of global events. We can confidently say that the future is bright in paradise!"

Andrew Teo

ANDREW TEO, Festival Director, Legacy Music Festival 

"The main hurdle we faced was uncertainty. We had no clear indication regarding reopening of entertainment activities. The safe distancing measures were changing all the time as well. It was very difficult to plan for anything.

The resilience of the entertainment industry really gives me hope for the future. Music festivals of all genres are being organized around the world and even closer regionally, and that shows that party goers are more open to a wider range of music genres. That gives me greater freedom to plan and hold more events that are fresh and unique."

Prakash Ramajilu

PRAKASH RAMAJILU, Division Director (Technology, Digital Media, Entertainment Mobility), Koelnmesse Pte Ltd

"Not knowing when uncertainty was going to turn into visibility was our greatest challenge. We ensured agility was built into how the Koelnmesse team worked and used our biggest challenge as a catalyst for business transformation. This allowed us to accelerate very quickly when we knew the markets were opening up.

As we continue to deal with the **** globally, the one thing that keeps me optimistic is how the world maneuvered over the last two years. We’ve witnessed an unprecedented number of innovations coming through at record speeds and we have seen how everyone has come together to make the best of a bad situation. This reiterates how adaptable people really are and how unity and camaraderie are extremely important.

Our industry had to transition to the virtual world while we waited for in-person events to be greenlighted. We had to adapt very quickly and at some point the world was asking if exhibitions and trade fairs were even needed. As events started again it was visible that attendees were hungry for interaction. Seeing this, it is evident that humans are social creatures, and we need to connect and rely on cooperation to survive and thrive."

Ooi Joon Aun

OOI JOON AUN, President APAC, Wyndham Hotel & Resorts

“'Uncertainty' – it’s been plaguing us since the pandemic started and continues to linger around. The multi facets of uncertainty include, but not limited to when Chinese outbound will resume, how and when borders will fully reopen, how consumer mindsets have shifted, and more. Uncertainty will be the new norm; however, we just have to learn to adapt and navigate flexibly around it.

The collective sense of 'cautious optimism' felt by our guests, our owners, partners, and hoteliers keep me going, even during the toughest of time. Although this sense of “cautious optimism” is tempered with trepidation from time to time, we continue to take incremental steps towards growing our business by introducing new hotels, market existing properties to tap on the pent-up travel demand across Asia Pacific."