|By Bamrung Amnatcharoenrit, The Nation,
Bangkok, Thailand / Asia News NetworkMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 05, 2013--BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) -- This year is expected to be a golden one for the hotel industry, with a parade of new openings in major tourism provinces thanks to improved political stability, which has created a better investment climate, and the upcoming Asean Economic Community (AEC) single market in 2015.
According to data released by the Thai Hotels Association (THA), an estimated 3,919 new rooms, mainly four- and five-stars, will be added to the market during the course of the year.
Meanwhile, Jones Lang LaSalle's Hotels and Hospitality Group projects that there are some 8,000 new rooms in all Bangkok hotel segments in the pipeline between now and 2015.
The company's research has found that here are major negotiations under way in Phuket, Bangkok, Pattaya, Samui and Chiang Mai this year as well.
In the capital, Hilton, Radisson Blu, Marriott, Centara and Indigo hotels are all scheduled to be opened this year, mainly in the Sukhumvit area.
In Phuket, Accor Group will open the Pullman Phuket Arcadia and the Novotel Phuket Kamala Beach, while Centara, the country's leading chain, will strengthen its portfolio with seven openings nationwide.
Ronnachit Mahattanapreut, senior vice president for finance and administration of Centara Hotels & Resorts, said it was hard to count the overall number of new hotels among all categories this year, as there are also many three-star hotels opening with less fanfare across the nation to cash in on the rising number of foreign tourists, especially from China.
"However, the clear trend of the hotel industry is that Thailand is considered a major destination for investment among foreign investors in this business," he said.
Centara was recently approached by foreign financial institutions from four countries to set up a real-estate investment trust, but the company needs time to study whether such a move would be a boon for its business, he said. In principle, the fund would take a lead role in purchasing attractive properties around the country.
Patrick Basset, senior vice president of Accor for Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines, described the industry outlook as positive, thanks to the impressive number of international arrivals in the final quarter of last year, which led into a very strong first month for 2013.
The benefits have clearly fallen into all of Accor's 50 hotels in Thailand, which have posted solid forward bookings for the current quarter, he said.
"Accor believes Thailand is a country that has very strong economic fundamentals, which have enabled it to pull itself out of every crisis and rebound quickly without serious long-term consequences. We hope Thailand's [political and investment] environment maintains the status quo, so that we can move forward with business as usual and continue to drive Thailand as one of Asia's top tourist destinations," he said.
However, Basset urged the government to continue to improve the Kingdom's airport infrastructure, as airports in both Bangkok and Phuket are reaching full capacity.
AEC investment boost
The advent of the AEC is seen as a force to make Thailand more attractive for investment, with the country becoming a platform to expand hotel networks regionally, thanks to its good location, strong infrastructure and skilled labour.
"Let's take a look at the country in relation to other countries nearby," Centara's Ronnachit said. "From the North to the South and the East to the West, it is being connected with projects. The borders are being opened up like the integration of the European Union, and connected with new transport links."
Thailand will become a corridor for trade and investment, which also means a big opportunity for hotel businesses. According to THA data collected from websites, Bangkok still has more hotels than any other Thai tourism destination with 1,123 properties, followed by Phuket with 1,083, Surat Thani with 867, Krabi with 782, Chon Buri with 711, and Chiang Mai with 565.
The average occupancy rate around the country was recorded at 64.91 per cent last year, an increase of 6.49 percentage points over the previous year.
In Bangkok alone, occupancy grew to 66.76 per cent, compared with 60.07 per cent in 2011.
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