Accor, a leading international hotel-chain operator, aims to run 150 new hotels by 2015 in the Asia-Pacific region, of which about 100 will be in Asean, as part of its plan to play a bigger role in the booming region.
Currently, the firm operates 550 hotels in Asia and the Pacific and in 2015 this number is expected to rise to 700. The total number of rooms will increase to 133,200 in 2015, from 105,000 this year.
In Asean, there are 131 hotel properties operated by Accor under such brands as Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Grand Mercure, Novotel, Mercure, Ibis Styles, Ibis, and Ibis Budget.
In Thailand, budget-hotel expansion will be the focus in the future because of rising demand, especially from middle-aged and individual tourists. Accor found that more than 30 per cent of travellers were looking for good accommodation at an affordable price.
Patrick Basset, Accor senior vice president for Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines, said Asean was a key market for the company, driven especially by the approach of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. The integration is expected to boost intra-Asean tourism as well as visitors to the region.
The AEC will also help mobilise the labour force regionally. Thailand will benefit from the trend of choosing qualified people from outside to work with. In contrast, the number of Thais going to work elsewhere in the region is expected to be low because they prefer to work in their motherland.
Thailand is one of Accor's strategic markets. Currently, the chain operates 50 hotels under nine brands across the Kingdom. Over the next few years, eight new hotels under different Accor brands will be in the pipeline. Three will belong to Ibis, three to Mercure, and one each for Pullman and Novotel.
Basset said the outlook for the hospitality industry in the Kingdom remained good, once the political and economic climate is under control. Especially next year, it is clear that the MICE market (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) will be very promising. However, what the country should do to make it more competitive is improve infrastructure, especially mass transit.
Advantageously, there is still a low international-brand penetration in Thailand, with 15-20 per cent, compared with the United States, where it stands at 95 per cent, and Europe at 35 per cent. As a result, this trend will open a business opportunity for Accor here.
Also, the number of foreign tourists, especially from China and Russia coming to Thailand has kept rising. Accor saw the trend and has started training its staff in new languages, especially Russian and Mandarin, to welcome guests from those two nations.
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