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Shangri-La hotels looks for expansion in Thailand

Luc Citrinot, eTN  Nov 18, 2010

BANGKOK (eTN) - If some Bangkok hotels like to display ostentatious luxury, the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok has systematically adopted the contrary approach. Since its opening, the hotel has built its reputation on its sense of discreet luxury. Over the last two years, Shangri-La Bangkok has embarked on one of its most extensive renovations, transforming completely all the public spaces. The facelift has created an elegant atmosphere where contemporary elements blend harmoniously with a more traditional Thai design. All the restaurants have also been renovated, from the famous Salathip Pavilion, which now proposes an exquisite contemporary Thai cuisine to NEXT2, the hotel’s trendy alfresco buffet restaurant. Two new outlets have also been created: the Long Bar is the newest outlet for creative drinks and snacks, while chocolate amateurs will have difficulty resisting the Chocolate Boutique. Inspired by traditional European chocolate shops in Belgium or in France, the outlet is a must-do to discover signature chocolates and beverages. This November, the hotel completed the renovation of upper guest rooms.

This extensive renovation takes place at a time when the Bangkok hotel market still remains shaky. “We still did not recover completely from the political events. We are currently running at 50% occupancy compared to 80% in previous years at the same period,” said Thierry Douin, Vice President of Shangri La for Thailand and Indonesia in exclusivity to eTurboNews.

For Mr. Douin, recovery is still sluggish for long-haul MICE groups. “We experience now a recovery from regional markets for the organization of MICE events. They are close to Thailand and know how to monitor the situation. However, MICE organizers overseas remain cautious about Thailand as they do not want to take a risk,” he explained. Mr. Douin expects the hotel to return to better occupancy rates with the coming winter season as Thailand’s situation is now stable.

Shangri-La faces also difficulties to fill up its Chiang Mai property opened in early 2008. “Chiang Mai is a lovely city with great food, beautiful landscapes, and charming historical structures located within the walled old town. It needs more promotion to become an ideal MICE destination,” he told. The Shangri La property is now getting popular with the Indian wedding market.

The chain remains confident, however, about Thailand’s tourism future. “The kingdom retains its reputation as an exotic quality destination offering great value and unmatched service. We remain committed to growth in this country,” added Mr. Douin. Shangri-La currently searches actively for a new property in Bangkok, which could become the first Traders Hotel [Shangri-La four-star brand] in Thailand. “We are open to any possibility. We could take over an existing property or manage a brand new one. We look basically for a presence in Bangkok’s central districts around Sathorn, Silom, and Sukhumvit areas,” he explained.

A couple of years ago, Shangri-La announced to develop a property in Phuket. The project has been since cancelled, but Shangri-La is still interested to set up its presence in Southern Thailand. “We are continuously looking at opportunities not only in Phuket but also in Koh Samui and eventually Krabi,” he said. Shangri-La's move to Southern Thailand is part of an ambitious expansion plan, which foresees 100 hotels by the year 2013. “We are looking for example to a property in Bali, to eventually add a Traders in Jakarta. We also monitor closely developments in Vietnam, but this remains a difficult market to enter. However, we see there a lot of potential,” added Mr. Drouin.

Shangri-La hotels looks for expansion in Thailand
Thierry Douin, Vice President and General Manager, Shangri-La Thailand and Indonesia / photo by LC

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