|By Boonsong Kositchotethana, Bangkok Post, Thailand|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Nov. 26, 2004 - Carlson Hotels Worldwide is aggressively relaunching its Regent brand -- absent from Thailand since November 2003 -- as part of a strategy aimed at rebuilding its local profile.
The Minnesota-based group has struck a deal that will put Regent, its flagship five-star brand, back onto the Thai skyline with a 20-year agreement to run a four-billion-baht luxury hotel and residence on Sukhumvit Road, in front of the old Ambassador Hotel next to Soi 13, for Grande Asset Plc.
Carlson has also been in discussions with various property owners to manage their hotels and resorts under the Regent brand in Thailand, specifically in Hua Hin, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Phuket, said Paul Kirwin, president and managing director of Carlson Hotels Asia Pacific.
The current focus is to establish a Regent presence in Phuket within a few years. In addition, the group was in talks to introduce two sister brands -- Radisson and Park Plaza -- to the Thai market, he said.
The Regent name disappeared a year ago after the rebranding of Rajdamri Hotel Plc's former Regent Bangkok and the Regent Chiang Mai Resort and Spa to Four Seasons, owned by Toronto-based Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
Four Seasons sold the Regent brand to Carlson five years ago. Mr Kirwin said completion of the transition period and an internal reorganisation process over the past few years had enabled Carlson to resume promoting its Regent brand.
Since Carlson is planning hotels in key primary and secondary cities across the Asia-Pacific region, Thailand was an important development area, he said.
The group plans to add 15 hotels to its Asia-Pacific portfolio by early 2006. With 43 hotels in 11 countries and an additional 15 management agreements signed, its number of hotels will increase to 58 with more than 11,000 rooms by early 2006.
Over the next three years Carlson intends to add 10 new properties a year to its Asia-Pacific portfolio. Globally, it wants to add 75-100 new hotels and resorts per year to its worldwide network that includes 850 properties under five brand names, as well as seven cruise ships.
The expansion is driven by the revival in travel demand and tourism following a lull caused by the 2001 attacks, the Sars outbreak and other crises, he said.
He said the company expected to close a deal with a firm to manage a property in Bangkok's Sukhumvit area under its Park Plaza brand by the end of this year.
An agreement to run a Phuket property under the Radisson brand could fall into place over the next six months, he added.
Construction of The Regent Bangkok Hotel & Residence is due to start in January with the official opening in mid-2007. It will have two high-rise towers: one for the hotel, featuring 327 rooms on 28 floors, and The Regent Residences, with 350 residential condominium units.
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