|By Pitsinee Jitpleecheep, Bangkok Post,
ThailandMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 18, 2007 - The world's largest hotel chain, Best Western, will double the number of hotels under its management in Asia to at least 200 within the next three years with Thailand among its strategic countries.
Under the ambitious plan, the number of hotels in Thailand operated by Best Western will increase to 25 by 2008, up from 11 at the end of last year.
Each will have a management agreement running for five to 10 years. One-third of the hotels will be managed by Best Western itself and the remaining will be under a franchise format.
From 2007 to early 2008, the Best Western chain will sign
contracts with three hotels in Thailand:
Best Western is moving to Thailand despite the weak economy because the tourism industry is very mature with average growth of 15 percent per year, said Glenn de Souza, Best Western International Inc's vice-president for international operations in Asia.
In Bangkok yesterday, David Kong, president and CEO of Best Western International Ltd, said: "Thailand, in particular, is a priority market for Best Western because the country's share of global travel arrivals continues to increase."
Best Western has resort-style properties, many with spas, in Chiang Rai, Phuket, Koh Samui, Krabi, Pattaya and Phangnga. It also has a boutique-style hotel in Bangkok.
Best Western has 106 hotels with 20,000 rooms under its management in Asia. Its revenue in this region increased 18 percent to US$1 billion in 2006. The number of hotel rooms it manages is expected to rise to 50,000 in 2010, and sales are expected to grow by 15-18 percent annually from 2008 to 2010.
Aside from Thailand, the company also hopes to expand in China, India, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam. In 2010, Best Western will have 20 hotels under its management in Indonesia, 13 in Malaysia and 20 in Japan. Another 100 hotels will be added in India over the next 10 years.
"The Best Western chain is fully confident of the potential of Asian's tourism industry, which has grown by leaps and bounds in the past and it will expand even more in future chiefly because it is blessed with a sunny tropical climate that draws tourists and other long-term visitors from colder climes," Mr Kong said.
The lower cost of living is also another attraction for tourists from the developed world, and the region's economy has surged in the past decade.
Additionally, these countries have steady levels of growth, improving infrastructure and well-educated people.
Apart from Asia, Mr de Souza said, the company plans to expand in the Middle East starting next year. Priority markets include Dubai and Kuwait.
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