|By Chadamas Chinmaneevong, Bangkok Post,
ThailandMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 15, 2009--Minor International Plc (MINT) plans to buy properties on Koh Samui at bargain prices the rest of the year to expand its network.
The company is pursuing the island because the hotel business there has been severely affected by the economic downturn as well as local political instability, said Sathit Mansuwan, general manager of Anantara Baan Rajprasong Serviced Suites.
Anantara is the hotel and resort management chain owned by MINT.
"Many Samui hotels, particularly boutique hotels owned by local investors, have been struggling this year. We will see more local and international owners sell their businesses as their financial status weakens. We will try to buy some at bargain prices," he said.
Half of the hotel owners on Koh Samui are local investors. The occupancy rates of many hotels were only 5-10 percent this month and room rates have dropped by 20-30 percent. International tourists are uncomfortable travelling to Thailand because of its political problems.
However, Mr Sathit said the situation would improve in the second half of this year. The question is how many operators will survive in the interim.
MINT expects that revenues from the hotel business will drop in the second quarter and improve in the last quarter. Its 2009 hotel strategy is to explore the value-added market rather than reducing prices. The most important thing is to control operating costs and focus on the brand value of Anantara.
Yesterday, MINT introduced its first serviced apartment, Anantara Baan Rajprasong Serviced Suites on Ratchadamri Road. The company will manage 97 units from the ground to the 14th floor of the residential building owned by Baan Rajprasong Pattana Co.
Expatriates and international tourists who like shopping are key customers. Room rates start from 3,850 baht per room per night for room space of 77 square metres.
Mr Sathit said the company expects an occupancy rate of around 45 percent this year and 60 percent next year.
"It's the right time to introduce this property. I think economic problems will not affect us because it is located in a prime location and our price is 20-30 percent lower than other rivals," he said.
Anantara now has 10 hotels with 993 rooms in four countries and it expects to add two more hotels this year and at least five hotels the next two years.
MINT's average hotel occupancy stood at 58 percent in the first quarter, up from 55 percent the previous quarter.
MINT shares closed yesterday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 6.90 baht, down 30 satang, in trade worth 47.79 million baht.
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