The InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has emphasised that growth remains a key priority in Thailand – and around the world – even if the hotel industry takes some time to fully recover from Covid-19.
The global pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the hospitality sector as lockdowns, travel restrictions, closed borders and social distancing have severely affected business on a global scale.
But Rajit Sukumaran, IHG’s Managing Director, South East Asia and Korea, said there is still plenty of reason for optimism, both now and in the future.
“History tells us that travel will return and, as demand comes back, we’ll be well-positioned to welcome guests to our hotels – and continue to grow,” explained Sukumaran.
“There’ll clearly be bumps in the road, and people say there may not be a full recovery until 2023, or even later. But governments across South East Asia and Korea have reacted to reduce the spread of Covid-19 which means that, in most markets, we have seen restrictions start to ease and the easier movement of people domestically, even if borders remain closed.
“This means we have been able to re-open most of our hotels, and we are also still continuing to grow as we open and sign new properties, which is a clear sign that owners believe in our brands.”
Sukumaran added that he was especially passionate about the part Thailand had to play in InterContinental Hotels Group’s future, as a country renowned for attracting a wide demographic of visitors to an idyllic selection of “must-visit” locations.
“We were proud to open the Kimpton Mai Lai Bangkok last month – an incredible property we know guests are going to fully enjoy,” he continued.
“We have also recently announced the signing of Crowne Plaza Bangkok Grand Sukhumvit, which has a fantastic, central location and will be our largest Crowne Plaza in Thailand. On top of this, we have many more exciting destinations in the pipeline – in both resort and city locations.
“So, Thailand is an important part of our growth strategy and we have a dedicated team based in Bangkok to support our current estate and planned growth. We are expanding the team so we have a range of functional expertise on the ground which includes Commercial, Development and Human Resources.
Globally, we opened more than 80 new hotels in Q3 – when openings were actually higher than in 2019 in both EMEAA and the Americas, on a rooms basis. In fact, Q3 openings in the Americas were the highest since 2011, which is a positive statistic against the current backdrop. And we set a new signings record in China, too.”
A key focus for IHG is their desire to take new brands to new destinations – and with 16 in their portfolio, it is an approach which clearly has plenty of potential to succeed.
The company has launched Staybridge Suites and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants properties in Thailand this year – and there’s more to come.
“We are always very positive about expanding our estate in the country,” explained Serena Lim, Vice President, Development for IHG, South East Asia and Korea.
“We are on track to double the size of our midscale estate – Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express – in Thailand in the next 3-5 years. Also, we will be expanding our InterContinental brand with the opening of InterContinental Khao Yai National Park and InterContinental Chiang Mai Mae Ping – two fantastic hotels – in the next year or two.
“Add to that the opportunities we’re seeing to strengthen the presence of some of our other brands, such as Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo and voco, and you’ll realise how committed we are to growth in the country.
“And it’s not just in the traditional, big locations – we’re also passionate about expanding into second tier cities, too, such as Chiang Rai, Rayong and Hat Yai, and resort destinations including Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai. We announced a double signing in Phuket at the end of October to bring Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express & Suites to Kata Beach.”
InterContinental Hotels Group’s confidence in the hotel industry’s ability to recover from the pandemic and thrive once more comes at the end of the most unexpected and challenging of years.
But as Sukumaran explained, he believes that people inherently want to connect and visit new places, and that they will rediscover their sense of wanderlust as soon as possible – and InterContinental Hotels Group and their hotels will be well-placed and ready when they do.
“Although a full industry recovery will take time, we’re confident in the steps we’ve taken to protect and support owners and drive demand back to our hotels as guests feel safe to travel,” he said.
“We remain focused on leveraging the strength of our brands, scale and market positioning to recover strongly and grow this business moving forward.
“Since the start of the crisis, we have been focused on responding in the best way we could on every front. The first focus was on the safety and wellbeing of our guests and colleagues and making sure we acted in the best interests of all of our stakeholders.
“Secondly, we asked ourselves how we could help the situation and be part of the solution, rather than the problem – that has always been very important to us.
“And finally, we wanted to ensure that we came out of the pandemic in the strongest-possible position, which would be achieved by taking action to ensure we supported our guests, our colleagues and our hotel owners, while protecting our own business and positioning it for a recovery.”