HICAP (Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific) 2022, which recently
took place in Singapore after two years of virtual editions, provided a
unique opportunity to bring hotel investors, owners and operators
found themselves in the same room, on the same panels and perhaps, most
importantly, at the same after-conference dinners and cocktail parties.
Those opportunities were exactly what the 2022 edition of HICAP, held
in Singapore and for the first time in person since the onset of the
One of the panels, entitled 'Investment Insights: Financial Gurus
Open Their Knowledge Vaults', featured four speakers whose combined
portfolios are valued in the tens of billions of dollars. When the
conversation turned to where opportunities lie, Japan was on almost
Kenneth Gaw, president and managing principal, Gaw Capital Partners,
saw Japan as “a very diverse offering for both business and tourism”. He
reeled off attractions like “culture, food, shopping, and natural
scenery” as well as sports like hiking, skiing and golf.
As an investor, he pointed out that “a lot of good hotels built for
the Olympics are suffering” and that “the yen is very cheap”, meaning
that he sees opportunities to enter or expand in that market.
Lure of the East
Staying in North Asia, he also mentioned South Korea, fuelled by
interest in Korean culture, but pointed out that the destinations in the
country were not as diverse as Japan.
Wei-Lin Kwee, senior vice-president, hotels, Pontiac Land Group, the
real estate developer that is also the owner of the Capella Hotel Group,
pointed out that her company had recently announced signings in Japan
under the Capella brand, the first of which will be Capella Kyoto in
Panel speakers at HICAP's 'Investment Insights: Financial Gurus Open Their Knowledge Vaults' session took turns to share their investment hotspots in Asia. Photo Credit: Wei-Lin Kwee
Siddhant Jhunjhunwala, director of Investments APAC, KSL Capital
Partners, brought the conversation back to Southeast Asia, which he
called “overlooked”. He cited lower operating costs and sustained
interest in the market. “It’s an interesting place in the world right
now,” he said. “We’re looking for opportunities there as well.”
Gaw mentioned Thailand as a major player in the tourism industry.
“Thailand is an attractive destination that will recover”, pointing to
resort destinations like Phuket, Pattaya and Samui to lead the bounce
He mentioned that for new investments, he probably wouldn’t be
looking at Bangkok unless an asset was truly distressed and could be
acquired for a good price.
Suchad Chiaranussati, chairman and founder of SC Capital Partners
Group, himself a Thai national, pointed out that he hadn’t bought
anything in Thailand in 15 years, saying that “I can’t find any value”
as an investor.
He also pointed out that 2023 was “a very critical year” with
elections that could result in “a landslide for the other side”. In the
face of such uncertainty, he said that he’d “love to hear that music
play out” before entering the Thai market again.
It's wait and see in the Maldives
The Maldives, its attraction for high-spending tourists and the few
restrictions the country applied during the height of the pandemic came
up in the conversation. “This December we will wait to see what
happens,” said Pontiac’s Kwee. “On the books it’s looking OK.”
Gaw, on the other hand, pointed out that the lack of freeholds could discourage hotels from setting up there.
The one who got away
As the panel drew to a close, moderator Mike Batchelor, who is also
CEO Asia Pacific - hotels & hospitality group at JLL, asked each
speaker about the deal that got away.
Kwee cited being the losing bidder for Raffles Singapore by a slim
margin, but Chiaranussati drew the most laughs by saying “Answering this
question, you cannot not hurt people.” He then mentioned Westin Tokyo
as a bid he lost.