|By Suchat Sritama, The Nation, Bangkok,
Thailand / Asia News NetworkMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 10, 2010--BANGKOK -- The Shangri-La Hotel plans to open a new property, Traders in Bangkok, and is eyeing the southern Thailand for further expansion.
In the capital, the group aims to build the Traders hotel in the Sukhumvit area, which is one of the busiest districts for both business and tourism.
The Hong Kong-based chain has been expanding the Traders brand in many key cities, including Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Bangkok is the next target.
Traders Macau is scheduled to open next year and Traders Puteri Harbour, Iskandar, in 2012.
"We already have the Shangri-La Bangkok located on the Chao Phraya River and the Shangri-La in Chiang Mai. Now we are looking for a second property in the heart of Bangkok," said Thierry Douin, regional vice president and general manager.
He said the group was also hoping to open another Shangri-La in the South, possibly in Phuket, Samui, Krabi or Trang, or in Hua Hin in the upper-southern part of the country.
The group has been interested in the southern region for years but never finalised its plans for the area, he said.
"Product alone is not enough for opening a hotel, as it is also about the software, or people development, which we are focusing on through our 'Moment of Truth' project. We also want to choose only the right partners and also the right time," Douin said.
Once the southern property is open, it will help the group create a wider range of marketing strategies and packages for Thailand, from culture in the North to beaches in the South.
The move in Thailand is part of a global expansion plan aimed at having a portfolio of 100 hotels by 2013, Douin said. Twenty-four Shangri-La hotels and two Traders are currently under development.
Although the Kingdom has had to cope with political turmoil and severe flooding this year, Douin said the country still had potential to grow in the long term because of its various attractions. Moreover, it now offers the world's best value for money, which should attract many more visitors.
Douin said the Shangri-La Bangkok had completed a renovation costing US$60 million. The hotel added a number of meeting rooms, garden rooms, event suites, a long bar and a boutique chocolate shop, besides refurbishing guest rooms, the lobby, swimming pool and club lounge.
Since January, the hotel has run at a 45-per-cent occupancy rate, against the projection of 57 per cent. This month, it has received bookings for 40 per cent of its rooms, below the target of 50 per cent. However, reservations should increase to 60 per cent in December, Douin said.
He attributes the business slowdown to the economic and political uncertainty and the current flooding in many provinces.
"I think tourism in Thailand will recover fully in the second quarter of next year," he said.
The hotel is pausing its day-cruise service between Bangkok and Ayutthaya but is continuing its private dinner cruises in the capital.
"Despite slow bookings coming in, the hotel does not anticipate engaging in price cutting, but will offer more privileges for guests as it did in the middle of the year after the political crisis," he said.
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Copyright (c) 2010, The Nation, Bangkok, Thailand / Asia News Network
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