HotelsEpicentre of S Hotels & Resorts' investment portfolio will shift towards Asia, with a strong focus on lifestyle brands.

More lifestyle brands on the way for Thailand

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SHR SAii Lagoon Maldives_Aerial Pool Shot 3-MLEGSQQ
Two new hotel brands are poised to enter Thailand next year: the resort-oriented SAii and digital-driven nābor. (Pictured: SAii Lagoon Maldives) Photo Credit: S Hotels and Resorts

Dirk De Cuyper, CEO of S Hotels and Resorts (SHR) – a subsidiary of Singha Estate Public Company – is a busy man.

In addition to a portfolio of 39 hotels spanning from the UK to Fiji, the Thai company that went public in 2019 hopes to more than double that number to 82 managed or fully owned properties by 2025.

A majority of those – around 80% – will be hotel management agreements, an “asset-light” approach that De Cuyper believes will generate “recurring income”. He added, “We see opportunities grow and grow faster. We are confident that we can can achieve our goals by 2025.”

Even though Thailand-based property developer Singha Estate started SHR in 2015 with an investment portfolio in secondary destinations within the UK, “moving forward we are really focusing on Asia, Thailand, lifestyle [and] leisure,” said De Cuyper.

To that end, SHR will introduce two brands in Thailand in 2021: the resort-oriented SAii, as well as the younger, experiential and more digitally connected nābor (read as 'neighbour').

Branded as upper-upscale, SAii's first property debuted in the Maldives in 2019 while two of SHR's Outrigger beach properties in Thailand will be the first to be rebranded SAii Laguna Phuket and SAii Phi Phi Island Village in Q1 2020.

The two rebranded resorts will highlight wellness in the Lèn Be Well personalised spas, already a feature at SHR's stand-alone white label Santiburi in Koh Samui. SAii will also roll out new F&B concepts at these resorts: the Thai-inspired Mr Tomyam, and the brand-new Mediterranean Miss Olive Oyl. SAii properties will average 100 to 150 keys.

Nābor, positioned as a luxury mid-scale lifestyle brand with 75-90 keys on average, is aimed at a digital-savvy clientele keen to explore local experiences. The nābor app allows guests to access a number of in-house and off-site services. For instance, guests will be able to order authentic food or book tables at outside restaurants in the nearby community.

“The luxury component is in the product itself. It's not a cookie-cutter product,” said De Cuyper on what distinguishes Nābor from other brands.

“The plan is to sign on partners who have hotels with character but lack a brand and a platform with a global reach,” the hotel chief said. Future nābors will be located in Phuket, Hua Hin, Chiang Mai and Bangkok, offering an experience he calls “off the beaten track” even in such familiar destinations.

The challenge, meanwhile, is waiting for the return of international travellers. “I'm a strong believer in Thailand. When it opens up, the ramp up will be very fast.”

But until international borders reopen, "next year will be an adaptation, so 2022 we could see 80% of what it was before,” said De Cuyper hopefully.

In the meantime, SHR, like most hospitality companies, has been quick to shift its attention to the domestic market. However, the CEO is also clear-eyed that the domestic market is not suffice, even with the “We Travel Together” subsidies from the Thai government to drive tourism within the borders.

“Thailand is a global destination and the development is geared towards that.”

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