Financial turmoil worldwide does not seem to alter the optimism of Martin Rinck, President and Managing Director of Carlson Hotels Worldwide-Asia Pacific. “We are fully convinced that Asian demand for hotels will continue to grow as more people in the region enjoys higher standard of living and more low cost airlines opening flights. Excellent value for money and generally a high standard of services remain also core assets for other travellers,” he explains. Carlson Hotels Company is still a late entrant in Southeast Asia but it has the ambition to double its portfolio over the next four years.
New properties carrying one of Carlson’s three core brands –Regent, Radisson and Park Plaza- are due to open in the Maldives, Manila, Cebu and Kuala Lumpur. The company has however grand plans for Thailand, where it is planning to have a total of nine properties by 2011. “Thailand will be one of our largest, most strategic markets in the region for Carlson Hotels, “adds Rinck. “ Despite current political and financial difficulties, Thailand is a perfect destination with aggressive marketing campaign from TAT, excellent service standards, friendly people and the development of niche products such as medical tourism”. Four hotels are due to open in Bangkok until 2010 with other properties being built in Phuket (two hotels) and Krabi and two more announcements to be shortly revealed to the public. “We are also interested to operate Park Inn units, our mid-market hotel segment. However we are looking for a local investor who would be able to help us opening up for 10 to 15 properties within an 18- month to 2-years time frame,” explains Rinck. Asked if the addition of another 7,000 rooms in Bangkok over the next 5 years might not jeopardize Carlsons Hotels’ own growth plans, Rinch remains optimistic. “I am not sure that the current financial crisis will allow all those hotels to open up as many investors will have difficulties to find investors ready to invest.” Beside Thailand, Carlsons Hotels look to open properties in Indonesia and look for opportunities in both Singapore and Vietnam.