The hospitality sector seems to have recovered from the pandemic as occupancy picks up and hotel companies are building new properties. Swiss-Belhotel International aims to double its portfolio with major developments across Asia Pacific fuelling its goal to become the go-to partner for hotel owners.
Travel Daily Media spoke to Lee Richards, Senior Vice President – Operations and Development for Central Asia, Swiss-Belhotel International, about the group’s expansion plans in Asia Pacific.
Travel Daily (TD): What are the short-term and long-term expansion goals and how will you get there?
Lee Richards (LR): Our company is dedicated to being the go-to partner for business owners who value trust. With ambitious plans for expansion, we aim to establish ourselves as one of the leading international brands, collaborating with owners across Asia Pacific countries.
We have signed a Joint Venture partnership in Malaysia, where we have plans to expand our footprint and brand with over 10 hotels. We also have agreements in place in Thailand and are exploring partnerships in Japan, which is a new market for us. In Vietnam, we have several projects and takeovers in progress, and we are in discussions with one of the largest Hospitality Travel companies in China. Our company sees Asia as the powerhouse for our SBI family of 16 brands, and we have set a goal to grow to 530 hotels by 2030, with a significant focus on Central Asia in our expansion plans.
We have a well-defined Asia-Pacific growth strategy, and our experienced team is driven by passion and professionalism. Leading our expansion is Mr. Gavin Faull, our President and Chairman, along with his three sons who are actively involved in taking the company forward. Our current hotel operations have demonstrated strong performance with healthy Gross Operating Profits (GOPs) and quick Returns on Investments (ROIs) for our Owners, earning us a dependable reputation in the market. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we have emerged even stronger by quickly adapting our strategy and remaining focused on the changing market needs and technology advancements. We have built a solid foundation to support our rapid growth trajectory.
TD: What brand developments and enhancements are in the pipeline?
LR: Our current portfolio includes 16 brands that cater to different classifications, ranging from 5-star luxury to 2-star budget hotels. Each brand has well-defined product standards, service standards, and unique positioning, which are operationally showcased in our properties.
Recognizing the growing need for sustainability during the pandemic, we have developed a new brand called Māua, an eco-friendly and sustainable retreat for the luxury market. The first property has opened in Bali, and we have many more projects in progress. We are also in the process of finalizing the concept for our lifestyle adventurous brand called Bohemia, keeping in mind the needs of the wild & young-at-heart leisure travelers. Additionally, we have another mid-scale lifestyle brand under development that will add to the diversity of Swiss-Belhotel International’s offering.
Regardless of the country, town, or remote location, we have a brand that can partner with owners and cater to their needs.
TD: The beauty of Asia, which is also seen as a challenge, is the diverse markets and every country is unique. How does SBI adapt to every market to fuel its development?
LR: At Swiss-Belhotel International, we deeply appreciate the diversity of cultures and wholeheartedly respect them. When operating in any country, we are meticulous in adapting to local customs and traditions. However, there is one aspect that remains consistent no matter where we are – our unwavering commitment to building personal relationships with our Owners and Investors.
Our Winning Partnership philosophy drives us to collaborate closely with our Owners, working hand-in-hand to bring their vision to life. We recognize that we are constructing “their” hotels, and we are dedicated to making their dreams a reality.
TD: What are the hospitality trends you are seeing now that travel and tourism is back on and how do you capitalize on them?
LR: There are four emerging trends or groups that have surfaced in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic:
• The Memory Makers: These are the travelers who seek to create unforgettable and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. They are driven by a desire to make cherished memories and are eager to embark on new adventures.
• The Tech Savvy: This group craves the latest technological advancements, whether it’s through innovative travel apps or cutting-edge futuristic experiences. They are drawn to tech-driven experiences that offer a sense of excitement and novelty.
• The Experientialists: These travelers are motivated by the thrill of trying something new and unique. From rafting to climbing mountains to diving, they are eager to push their boundaries and embark on novel experiences.
• The Environmentally Conscious: These travelers are environmentally sensitive and appreciate the value of being on this planet. After surviving the challenges of the past three years, they are grateful for the opportunity to travel and seek sustainable and responsible travel options.
The key to capitalizing on these emerging trends is to actively listen to your audience and quickly adapt to their evolving needs. By understanding and catering to the unique preferences of each group, travel businesses can stay relevant and effectively meet the changing demands of travelers in the post-Covid era.