A new Bangkok Shang fights back

14 March 2003

Armed with a new product and an aggressive sales and marketing team, Shangri-La Bangkok is set on becoming the leading hotel on the Chao Phraya river.

General manager Adrian Mueller (pictured) said that despite the fierce competition in the Bangkok market, the new product, US$20 million later, and smart marketing will enable the hotel to claw back market share.

The renovation programme took two years, longer than expected as the hotel maintained full operations throughout the work.

This had its inevitable impact on business, particularly from European tour operators.

This year, the hotel is out to regain its position in tour brochures as well as corporate books.

Mueller said it was difficult to estimate the market share it lost over the last two years because "we had so many events that happened. September 11, Bali and now the threat of war".

"But we are now focused on winning the business - we are going to every trade show this year. We had a good start to the year, the leisure segment for the first eight weeks of this year was up 30 percent over last year.

"In February, we did 78 percent occupancy and I know most of our competitors did well too."

He is mindful of the competition, particularly from the Peninsula across the river, which has gained from the past two years of a weakened Shangri-La and has emerged as a formidable competitor.

Said Mueller, "They are a fierce competitor but also a friendly neighbour. We work together to make the case that the river is something special. But, of course, we compete. If I can steal one room night, I would. There would be no scruples."

He expects to run in the high 60s this year on an average rate of US$110.

All work on guest rooms and public areas has been completed. The Horizon Club rooms and lounge have been re-designed to reflect a more contemporary feel.

A new spa is planned and will be completed by end of this year. Said Mueller, "We are very excited about our spa project, Chi, which we will manage by ourselves. We did not want to do it with someone and have another brand.

"We have taken a different approach by not following the South-east Asian/Bali-type spa in terms of design and treatments. Ours will incorporate European wellness with our Chinese heritage."

Mueller said the Bangkok spa would become the showcase for other Shangri-La spas - the group is planning five to eight spas in the next couple of years.

Being a latecomer to the spa game has its advantage, he said.

"It means you can do it right and learn from others' mistakes. The ones that are three or four years old already will have to reinvest. We will be launching our spa squarely in the five star segment."

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