Regent’s rebirth gains traction

CLOSE to a year after he acquired Regent, Steven Pan, chairman of Regent Hotels & Resorts, said a revamped global infrastructure to support the brand would roll out next month. This includes a worldwide reservations system under Sabre and a new website.

Interviewed on the sidelines of the Hotel Investment Conference Asia-Pacific (HICAP) UPDATE in Singapore yesterday, Pan said a lot of time over the past 10 months had been spent on building the sales and marketing and operations team, a process he hopes to complete in the second half of the year.

A search for a head of operations for Regent has started.

Observers said that since the acquisition, there had been a couple of exits from the pipeline, as the owners considered the question of supporting infrastructure, which Pan needed to build from scratch after buying the brand from Carlson.

Pan said building the infrastructure was indeed the priority. As well, a lot of time has been spent on making revisions to pipeline hotels to ensure they were more in line with the new Regent concept.

The Regent in Bali, expected to open in 2012, would be the closest idea of the new Regent, he said, “but the real, 100 per cent new Regent won’t happen until three years later, probably in Austria and Sanya”.

Asked to describe the new Regent hotel, he likened it to a handmade piece of work, which was so unique it would be difficult to benchmark the competitor set.

It is also smaller: 200 rooms or fewer in urban locations, and 100 rooms in resort locations. “Those days of luxury hotels with 500 rooms – that’s gone,” he said.

Branded residence will also be part of most of the new Regent properties.

There are five Regent hotels in operation, and “seven to eight” in the pipeline. “We expect to open three to five Regent hotels per year in the next five years.

“So we should have no more than 30 to 40 Regent hotels in five years,” Pan said.

Regent was the defining Asian brand when it was launched 20 years ago by Adrian Zecha, Bob Burns and George Raphael. Pan agreed the high Regent standards have become the norm in luxury hotels today. “The Regent hotels we’re conceptualising today will go into the market three to five years from now and will compete for the next 10, 20, 30 years. Old standards will not make it. Hence, it is important to implement the new concept.”

Pan elbowed out InterContinental Hotels Group and another Middle East-based group in bidding for the Regent brand. When asked when Regent would return to Hong Kong, where the former Regent is today the InterContinental, he said: “It’s a question I think about every day.”

– Read From the Top with Steven Pan, TTG Asia, next issue

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