Asian Hoteliers Grow West

While numerous United States and Europe-based hotel companies have made expansion into Asia a central part of their growth strategies, some Asian hoteliers are focused on expanding their presence in the Americas as well as other parts of the world. Hong-Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts continues to grow in Asia, particularly China and India. But the luxury hotelier has also targeted the Middle East, opening the Shangri-La Hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2003. The company now owns four hotels in the region.“Our development philosophy is to select locations which will allow us to showcase the brand in markets with high potential for Shangri-La guests,” said senior vice president for development Marc Hediger. “As well, the mid-to-long-term expansion strategy is to enter markets to accommodate the increasing outbound traffic from China and Asia to the West.” During the past 12 months, Shangri-La has announced projects in New York City, Vienna, Toronto, and Phuket, Thailand, as well as Beijing, Tainan and Shanghai in China. Singapore-based luxury resort and hotel company Banyan Tree Holdings Ltd. operates 23 hotels and resorts worldwide and plans to open two resorts—Banyan Tree Mayakoba on the Yucatan Peninsula and Banyan Tree Cabo Marques in Acapulco—soon. The company also is working on three projects in the Caribbean. “World travelers really see the world as their oyster,” said Ho Kwon Ping, executive chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings. “They’ll visit Prague this year and Phuket the next, to Maldives this year and Mayakoba the next. With global air travel becoming increasingly convenient, seasoned travelers are now seeking more exotic destinations—places and roads less traveled.” Many of the guests at Banyan Tree’s Asian resorts travel from outside the region, such as Russia, the United Kingdom and Italy, Ping said. “To a certain extent, our global expansion is derived from a positive response from these markets.” When entering a new country, lodging companies sometimes have to adapt their hotels in order to cater to a new traveling clientele, and that can present a challenge. Shangri-La has what Hediger calls “brand DNA,” factors that do not change from hotel to hotel. “When building a new Shangri-La hotel, the brand DNAs are typically the foundation of the development,” he said. “Those include a dramatic lobby, standard guest-room features, and a thread of Asian ‘high notes’ throughout.’” But the hotel will also mirror the country or city it is located in, he said.