HotelsFrom debuting new brands to building back manpower, Accor's Garth Simmons is pushing ahead with recovery in the region as demand rebounds.

Hospitality's on a rebound, but where is it heading in Asia for Accor?

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Garth Simmons, CEO of Accor Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea sees light at the end of the tunnel for the recovery of the Asia Pacific hotel sector.
Garth Simmons, CEO of Accor Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea sees light at the end of the tunnel for the recovery of the Asia Pacific hotel sector.

The past two years have been a tumultuous and uncertain period for the world of hospitality across the globe, but Garth Simmons, CEO of Accor Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea, now sees light at the end of the tunnel for the recovery of the Asia Pacific hotel sector as borders reopen across the region.

It’s a good sign that The Long Bar (at Raffles Hotel Singapore) is occupied and busy with tourists again.– Garth Simmons, CEO of Accor Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea

“It’s a good sign that the Long Bar is occupied and busy with tourists again,” Simmons noted, speaking to Travel Weekly Asia at Raffles Hotel Singapore in the second week of April, merely days after Singapore opened its borders on 1 April. “You can imagine in another month’s time we’re going to see more easing in restrictions.”

Bright spots have already appeared in the hospitality sector for Southeast Asia, a region where Simmons has been charged to head, together with Japan and South Korea since October 2020. “What we’ve seen in Singapore is a short lead time – a couple of days, or within a week. And that’s actually the pattern we’re seeing across the region as well.”

Simmons is confident that Southeast Asia is poised for a stronger comeback is the coming months, even if recovery in this part of the world still lags other major markets like Europe or the Middle East. In Southeast Asia, Japan & South Korea, the hospitality group has to date signed 6,900 rooms (29 hotels) across the region’s 12 countries, as well as 1,800 keys within four branded residences.

Southeast Asia's first Tribe hotel will open later this year the Phnom Penh Post Office Square with 260 rooms.
Southeast Asia's first Tribe hotel will open later this year the Phnom Penh Post Office Square with 260 rooms.

Turning on the inclusive charm

Southeast Asia’s major tourism markets and population centres are where Accor is lining up the bulk of its development plans.

A focus is Vietnam, where Accor will introduce the all-inclusive luxury resort Rixos in Southeast Asia, following the strong performance of the brand in Turkey. The French hospitality giant acquired a 50% stake in the Turkish hotel brand in 2017.

But can the all-inclusive concept work for the Asian market? Simmons believes that the Asian market is ripe for a model that has already proven successful in markets like Turkey’s Antalya and the Maldives.

“It's not just about having a hotel. It's actually about creating the destination – you've got to have water parks, a big property, big land in great locations,” Simmons stated. “I liken it to a cruise on land.”

However, the location of the Rixos project in Vietnam has yet to be revealed although Simmons added that the all-inclusive brand will be rolled out in other regional markets like Phuket.

Southeast Asia’s other key market, Indonesia, is primed for more buzz. Besides partnering with Traveloka earlier this year to expand its global distribution, the last two years also saw the opening of the 279-room Pullman Bandung Grand Central alongside the 240-room ibis Styles Bandung Grand Central in West Java and an international convention centre for up to 2,000 pax, plus the launch of Raffles Bali with 31 private pool villas and cave dining experiences in Jimbaran Bay.

As well, Accor will bring the new lifestyle brand, Tribe, to Bali and Phnom Penh later this year, while Pullman Singapore Orchard will open in September as part of a mixed-use development after refurbishment.

Accor launched its first multi-branded hotel complex in Indonesia's Bandung with Pullman & ibis Styles Bandung Grand Central.
Accor launched its first multi-branded hotel complex in Indonesia's Bandung with Pullman & ibis Styles Bandung Grand Central.

Plugging the gaps in SE Asia

Major business hubs in Southeast Asia also have to step up their messaging that they have reopened for business and tourism. “Singapore has to do a lot more in the MICE space because what we have had is the message out that Singapore’s closed for the big conventions and big MICE business.”

The return of major MICE events will be critical to the recovery of hospitality sector, but the path to stabilising markets remains compounded by the region’s perennial challenge of manpower shortage.

The absence of Chinese tourists for two years is sorely missed in Southeast Asia, with no clear sign that this market is coming back anytime soon. But Simmons feels the events of 2020-2021, including the pandemic and geopolitics, will ultimately lead to Southeast Asia being a top choice when the Chinese doors open for international travel.

“The Chinese are not fans of America or Australia, but they love Asia. It’s not that they’re less excited about visiting the US or Europe, but their choice is going to be where their visa allows them to go to, so I think it’s going to be Asia,” he noted.

Overall, Simmons expects optimism to build up in Southeast Asia as borders reopen. “I think 2022 is going to be a good year only because we've certainly out of the bottom and we're on the way up. And 2023 could be very, very positive.”

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