CHIANG RAI, 3 January 2018: Phuket’s Katathani Collection has acquired the Dusit Island Resort, Chiang Rai, for around THB1,000 million from the CEO of VES Group according to reliable sources at the property.
The new owner, Sombat Atiset, will spend another THB 300-400 million on renovations that will take four months to complete.
Owned by Vikrom Aisiri, who heads VES Group that invested in Phuket Air, the 271-room Dusit Island Resort operated under a franchise with the Dusit Thani Group since it opened 28 December 1990.
Sources at the hotel confirmed that the new owner would continue to run the hotel under the Dusit brand until, 31 March, when it will close for renovations during the low-season and reopen ahead of the 2018 peak season 1 August.
Bookings under Dusit Island Resort remain open on all online booking channels such as Agoda and Booking.com. The Dusit Group’s website also continues to accept bookings. The new owner is protecting rates through to the closure this April.
Once it reopens in August rates will be adjusted to reflect a “five-star experience” a hotel source told TTR Weekly.
The property’s sale was apparently finalised with VES Group, last September, clearing the way for Katathani to take over operations during the same month.
Dusit Island Resort’s general manager, Mana Chanhorm, left the property in November and has since been appointed group general manager of Richmond Stylish Convention Hotel in Bangkok, an appointment that includes supervision of the group’s affiliated resorts and hotels.
Katathani has so far made no official announcement on the acquisition of the Chiang Rai property, except for statements made at an informal thank-you party for local Thai media in Chiang Rai in mid-December.
Katathani executive, Siriphan Panchatree, who has since been named hotel manager of the Chiang Rai property, affirmed that the property would be rebranded ‘The Riverie by Katathani’, once the hotel reopens 1 August.
Buying a property in far-north Thailand, 100 km from the borders with Laos and Myanmar, is a major shift in direction for a group that was founded on the western beaches of Phuket and has expanded just 120 km north to Khao Lak in the mainland province of Phang Nga.
Today, it has six properties; two on Kata Noi beach Phuket and four on Khao Lak beach in Phang Nga province. Total inventory is around 1,500 rooms.
Sombat, who founded the Katathani Collection built his fortune from timber and the plywood business mainly on Phuket Island and nearby Phang Nga province.
Explaining the decision to expand to the northernmost province from his southern home in Phukert, Sombat said he was drawn by the potential for tourism growth from China and Chiang Rai’s position as a gateway to Myanmar and Laos
Renovations will focus on a remake of bathrooms plus restaurants, including an upgrade of the swimming pool and back-of-the-house infrastructure.
Sombat sees his investment has an important benchmark that will benefit Chiang Rai.
“It will boost tourism and add value without competing with other properties,” he said, promising to position the hotel in the upscale market in a manner that will encourage people to stay longer than the current two-day average.
He hopes to develop a synergy with his six properties in Phuket and Phang Nga, that attract high-end guests.
“We have guests from Europe, Australia and from China,” he noted. “ By having a hotel in Chiang Rai, we will be able to package a stay combining Phuket and Chiang Rai”
Packaging the two destinations is a reality now that there are daily direct airline services offered by VietJet between Phuket and Chiang Rai.
Phuket is also emerging as an aviation gateway with direct flights from various major cities in Asia and also the Middle East gateways of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
This allows travellers to combine a southern beach resort holiday with time out in the far north to enjoy nature, sports tourism and ethnic minority culture.