Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Business Times: StayWell brings Australia hotel brands to Singapore

June 29, 2010
StayWell brings Australia hotel brands to Singapore
Park Regis hotel opening in Sept; Leisure Inn plans on drawing board
By EMILYN YAP 

AUSTRALIA-BASED StayWell Hospitality Group is looking to stamp its Park Regis and Leisure Inn brands on more properties in Singapore and the rest of Asia.

The first Park Regis hotel here is set to open in September, and the group also has the country's first Leisure Inn hotel on the drawing board. 

StayWell may be rather new to Singapore, but it is not venturing unassisted. The group's chairman is Asok Kumar Hiranandani, who built up property firm Royal Brothers with his brother, Raj Kumar.

Park Regis Investments - in which Mr Asok Kumar Hiranandani is a shareholder - won the bid for a piece of state land at Merchant Road in 2007. It has invested around $175 million in total to build the 203-room four-star Park Regis Singapore, as well as a seven-storey office block, on the site.

The hotel is targeting business travellers and room rates could start in the range of $200. StayWell is expecting an occupancy rate of 70-80 per cent. Talks to lease the office space out are underway.

The hotel will be a 'stunning investment' in the next few years, Mr Hiranandani told The Business Times. His confidence stems from the hotel's location near Clarke Quay and from the opening of the two integrated resorts.

To stand out from the competition, Park Regis Singapore will incorporate 'bits of Singaporean and Australian flavours', said StayWell CEO and managing director Simon Wan. For a start, it has picked an Australian, Jason Dowd, as the hotel's general manager.

'We will make sure that from the composition of the food, the composition of the wine, the television channels in the room to the staff uniforms, there will be some Australian flavour complemented by local themes,' Mr Wan said.

There are generally few good hotels up for sale in Singapore, so those on the market tend to generate interest among investors and observers. According to Mr Hiranandani, Park Regis Singapore has already attracted investors' interest. 

'If someone gives us a management contract back for at least 15 years, we'll be more than happy to sell the hotel . . . The intention of bringing the brand to Singapore was to take it out of Australia and expand it to Asia,' he said.

'But I'd rather open the hotel first and get the income going. If it's an attractive price, we'll take the offer and buy another site.'

StayWell hopes to follow up with another hotel here under the three-star Leisure Inn brand. The Park Regis and Leisure Inn lines will complement each other, Mr Wan said, adding that there is strong demand for well-located and well-managed hotels in the three-star market.

He cited the success of Ibis Singapore as an example. The hotel, managed by another hospitality group Accor, opened in February last year and has achieved an above 90 per cent occupancy rate in the last three months.

But StayWell will not be rushing into any deal just so it can set up the Leisure Inn hotel. 'Because of high land costs, we have to be very careful in approaching this,' Mr Hiranandani said.

StayWell has 24 hotels in its portfolio and owns 14 of them. The group is looking to expand in Asia, and is in negotiations to buy 38 hotels in China.

Mr Hiranandani also said that he has bigger plans for StayWell but declined to elaborate. All he shared was: 'We are the only unlisted hotel operator out there.' 

So is StayWell eyeing a public listing? Mr Hiranandani's son Bobby, who has been involved in the day-to-day running of his father's hospitality business, said: 'There are many options we are looking at. A listing is somewhat possible down the road.'


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Martin Koh/ Sherry Tang
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