More than just a bed

Traveling on a tight budget can be just as exciting as visiting the most attractive tourist spots. Searching for great deals or awesome promos is like traversing dark caves or diving deep into the ocean to find hidden treasure. For travelers, going cheap could mean austere and uncomfortable rooms that seem to be just a few steps up from a prison cell.

App-based hotel management company RedDoorz, the Philippines’ top affordable hotel chain, wants to change that.

“Travel should not just be about a pure functional bed,” said RedDoorz founder and CEO Amir Saberwal in an interview in the company’s Makati City headquarters. “In a way, it has to be ‘Instagrammable,’ so that they feel proud and share it to their friends. And you don’t have to pay a few hundred dollars to see your own country, but you don’t have to stay in absolutely rubbish accommodation.”

Philippines a ‘Priority’

Saberwal founded RedDoorz in Singapore in 2015 and has spent the last four years quickly expanding in Southeast Asia, setting up hotels in Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.

“Travel should not just be about a pure functional bed,” says RedDoorz founder and CEO Amir Saberwal

Locally, RedDoorz has put up over 200 hotels in over 20 cities nationwide since setting up shop here in 2018. These include Metro Manila, Baguio, Pampanga, Tagaytay, Palawan, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Davao, Bohol, General Santos City, Roxas City and Caticlan.

Saberwal said their journey in the Philippines has been “very exciting,” adding that the country will be a “key driver” for RedDoorz.

“If you look at Filipinos as a people — very outgoing, very fun-loving, adventurous, social in nature,” he said. “The softer aspects of life matter more than just pure, hard cash. Therefore, travel becomes intrinsic to that experience.”

Saberwal also noted that Philippines’ large population, as well as the growing income of Filipinos, make running RedDoorz here all the more fulfilling.

“We prioritize the Philippines over all the markets simply because we believe that young Filipinos want and need to travel,” he said.

Making it easier

Saberwal said the rise of digital platforms has changed what people expect when they travel.

“Experiential travel has become important,” he said. “The younger generation looks for experiences, not so much for material happiness. We manage to give an easy-to-discover, easy-to-book stay experience which is standardized.”

The company said the RedDoorz mobile app and digital platforms allows consumers to “indulge their travel whims at the snap of their fingers.”

Customers can book and pay for a room through the app, as well as get rewards and discounts, which RedDoorz said has led to repeat bookings, regardless of location.

The hotel chain currently offers RedDoorz, RedDoorz Plus and RedDoorz Premium, each offering a varying degree of value services. But the company said that in every RedDoorz, guests can expect clean rooms complete with clean bedsheets, free Wi-Fi connectivity and even toiletries and bottled water — perks not usually associated with affordable hotels.

Saberwal said RedDoorz not only researches heavily in where people want to stay, but also in how to make booking and payments easier, adding that the company looks closely at local problems.

“For example, traffic is a big issue in some cities,” he said. “If I’m coming in, say, Metro Manila, I want to stay five minutes from my place of work, not five kilometers because that could mean five minutes, that could mean 50 minutes. So we try to give that accommodation close to where people have work or leisure.”

Saberwal added that unlike many other hotel chains, nine in 10 of RedDoorz’ clients are domestic Filipino travelers, split equally between those who book for leisure and business.

Reddoorz in every street corner

Besides helping travelers, Saberwal said RedDoorz’ technology has helped to greatly increase the revenues of small business owners. “Most of our properties are owned by mom-and-pop businesses,” he said. “Currently, the property owner who is running a two-star, 25-room property doesn’t have access to Marriott or even the local hotel chains because those all start off at 3 ½ stars. The value of the three-star properties and below can only be added through a technology company, not through a traditional hospitality company.”

RedDoorz’ aggressive expansion is helped by the $115 million (around P5.93 billion) that the company raised this year, with $70 million (around P3.61 billion) raised in August 2019.

Saberwal said they are also looking into opening 2.5 to 3.5-star hotels down the line, as well as availing other investment options.

In the Philippines, the company plans to open hotels in Boracay Island, Bohol, Antique, Capiz, Dumaguete, Tacloban and Negros Occidental soon.

Saberwal said they also plan to open in parts of Mindanao like Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro by the fourth quarter of 2019.

“The vision is to have a RedDoorz in every relevant street corner,” he said. “To reach our targets, we pretty much have to be everywhere.”