Aggressive expansion in the Middle East from Asian group

The Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts will see the opening of 24 new hotels in the next 36 months. TTN’s SHALU CHANDRAN spoke to Bernold Schroeder, senior vice president and managing director of hotel operations, Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts
A room view of the Banyan Tree Desert Spa & Resort Al Areen in Bahrain

Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts recently opened its first property in Bahrain.

It also opened the first tower of the Angsana Suites on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road in January, and the second tower of the project, to be known as Angsana Dubai, opens by this summer, according to Schroeder.
In addition, Abu Dhabi and Oman are both developing a Banyan Tree and an Angsana in each place. There are also plans to open an Angsana property in Fujairah and a Banyan Tree in Ras Al Khaimah by the end of next year.
“The property in Ras Al Khaimah will be a similar to the Al Maha Desert Resort in Dubai with a wildlife sanctuary. We are also negotiating another new property on the beach in Ras Al Khaimah,” he said.
Reasons for their aggressive expansion into the Middle East were many. The company had to face many crises that hit Asia including SARS, the tsunami, bird flu, the Bali bombings, and due to these factors delays occurred in their Asian developments, and so they turned to explore new markets.
“We have always wanted to be a global chain and realised there was a gap in the boutique market segment,” he said.
“In Asia, we own most of the hotels, which is primarily our business model – we develop and manage. In the Middle East the focus will be only on managing the hotels; we will also do some architectural services.”
“Since we started in Bahrain, and have seen a pebble effect in this region with more and more offers from various developers like Al Dar in Abu Dhabi, and we hope to see them open on time.”
The group is opening 24 hotels in the next 36 months. “Theoretically, that is one every six weeks. I think we are here at the right time,” he said.
“We expect to see a heavy demand from the GCC market for our spas in Dubai. Traditionally, the European markets have always been our biggest market with almost 60 per cent of revenue coming from them. We see a lot of guests from UK, Germany, Switzerland and Italy and we expect to continue to see a huge interest from them. We also believe that when our properties are ready, we will be able to attract all the stopover business to Seychelles and Maldives from the European markets. “
Schroeder was quietly confident regarding recruitment issues. “Our plan currently is to encourage our Asia based employees to move to the Middle East. Our properties in the region have staff in supervisory, executive committee, department heads which comes from within our brand.
“In Dubai we are now exporting our Indonesian and Thai staff. The advantage is - in Phuket alone we have seven hotels under various brands and are supporting over 4000 households. These people would love to work in the Middle East but are not too keen on working for a different company. There has been a lot of bad feedback and so people are more cautious. These people are aware of our work culture and ethics and find it easier to adapt. However, we do have to take care of these employees even more. “
After the Middle East, the group are looking towards the Indian and Chinese markets.