IHG bullish on Thailand growth

BANGKOK, 11 November 2020: There are no short answers on when tourism will rise above the Covid-19 scare, but InterContinental Hotels Group claims growth remains a key priority in Thailand – and around the world.

At a media briefing hosted by IHG on Tuesday the group’s managing director, Southeast Asia and Korea, Rajit Sukumaran, said there was still plenty of reasons for optimism, both now and in the future.

The global pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the hospitality sector as lockdowns, travel restrictions, closed borders and social distancing have severely affected business on a global scale.

“History tells us that travel will return and, as demand comes back, we’ll be well-positioned to welcome guests to our hotels – and continue to grow,” explained Sukumaran.

But in the meantime, the group is introducing a franchise option for hotel owners in Thailand. He talked about soft management options and third party management firm involvement to drive growth. The franchise model is now firmly on the table as the group plans to double its portfolio in Thailand by 2025.

“We have to be nimble and fast to address hotel owner needs by being sympathetic… owners in Thailand have been in the market for a long time, and they know the fundamentals are sound.”

He acknowledged no one knows when the pandemic will end but “we are no longer walking in the dark…  do we have a plan if travel restrictions remain in place in 2021 or restrictions begin to ease? Yes, we do.

“There’ll clearly be bumps in the road, and people say there may not be a full recovery until 2023, or even later. But governments across Southeast Asia and Korea have reacted to reduce the spread of Covid-19 which means that, in most markets, we have seen restrictions start to ease and the easier movement of people domestically, even if borders remain closed.

“This means we have been able to re-open most of our hotels, and we are also continuing to grow as we open and sign new properties, which is a clear sign that owners believe in our brands,” Sukumaran noted.

Thailand continues to play a strong role in IHG’s growth plans as the group opens more hotels many of conversions rather than what he called “greenfield” projects.

IHG opened Kimpton Mai Lai Bangkok last month and announced the signing of Crowne Plaza Bangkok Grand Sukhumvit. A Staybridge Suites opened on Thonglor in the Thai capital recently. Two hotels under the Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express brands will open in 2021 on Kata Beach Phuket, and there are plans to open properties in second-tier cities such as Hat Yai, Chiang Mai,  Chiang Rai, Pattaya and Rayong.

“We are on track to double the size of our midscale estate – Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express – in Thailand in the next three to five years. Also, we will be expanding our InterContinental brand with the opening of InterContinental Khao Yai National Park and InterContinental Chiang Mai Mae Ping by 2022,” explained IHG vice president, development for IHG, Southeast Asia and Korea, Serena Lim.

Globally, IHG opened 80 new hotels in Q3 – when openings were actually higher than in 2019 in both EMEAA and the Americas where openings in the Americas were the highest since 2011. There are record openings in China, a destination that is gaining traction recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic driven entirely by buoyant domestic travel demand.

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