Waldorf Astoria pushes into Bangkok’s luxury hotel space

The people behind Bangkok Astoria Bangkok (from left): AvroKO's William Harris, Hilton's Martin Rinck, MCDQ's Visit Malaisirirat, Hilton's Alan Watts and AFSO's André Fu

The much-anticipated Waldorf Astoria Bangkok officially opened its doors yesterday, the latest in a growing swathe of luxury hotels that have launched or are launching soon in the Thai capital to tap the country’s robust inbound tourism sector.

The first Waldorf Astoria in South-east Asia and the fourth in Asia-Pacific – after Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu in China – the new hotel is the fruit of Hilton’s partnership with Magnolia Quality Development Corporation (MQDC), which is the property development arm of Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand conglomerate.

The people behind Bangkok Astoria Bangkok (from left): AvroKO’s William Harris, Hilton’s Martin Rinck, MQDC’s Visit Malaisirirat, Hilton’s Alan Watts and AFSO’s André Fu

MQDC’s CEO Visit Malaisirirat, speaking at the press conference yesterday, said the alliance marks “an important strategic move into ultra-luxury hospitality” for the Thai property developer, which recently announced another mixed-use development in Bangkok’s Bangna district.

“We have been looking for flagships in South-east Asia for some time,” commented Alan Watts, Asia-Pacific president of Hilton. “Bangkok is one of the most competitive markets in Asia, and Waldorf Astoria will redefine luxury not only for Bangkok but also South-east Asia.”

But Waldorf Astoria is not the only luxury hotel brand that has come knocking on Bangkok’s doors. Even within its prominent Ratchadamri location, Waldorf Astoria Bangkok already calls The St Regis Bangkok its immediate neighbours, while the recently opened Park Hyatt Bangkok and Rosewood Bangkok (opening 2019) – both of which stand less than a kilometre away – are a constant reminder of the level of competition crowding Bangkok’s luxury hotel market, not to mention upcoming hotels like Capella Bangkok (opening 4Q2018) and Four Seasons Bangkok at Chao Phraya River (opening 2019).

Hilton is, however, maintaining “an extremely bullish outlook” on Thailand, including the luxury segment, vice president, operations, luxury Asia-Pacific Daniel Welk told TTG Asia. “Look at the number of arrivals coming into Bangkok, which hit 35 million last year and is expected to reach 38 to 39 million this year,” he said. “The city itself is dynamic and offers amazing products, and the infrastructure is improving.”

And if there’s anything that growing competition has brought, it’s greater clarity for Hilton’s hotel brands, Welk stated. “The swim lanes are more defined now,” he said. “(Waldorf Astoria Bangkok) is Hilton’s ninth hotel in Thailand, and we’re well positioned to absorbed any new competition the market will bring.”

After Bangkok, Hilton has another three additional Waldorf Astoria hotels in the pipeline for Asia – the Maldives (opening February 2019), Bali and Jarkarta (both opening 2020).

Asia overall is a region of strong growth for Hilton’s luxury brands, revealed Martin Rinck, global head, luxury & lifestyle group. There are some 35 Conrad properties worldwide, and 12 out of 18 currently under development are located in Asia.

Canopy, the new lifestyle brand launched in 2017, is now Hilton’s “fastest-growing brand” with 30 under development and Chengdu will be the first city in Asia to welcome the brand this year, Rinck added.

A new luxury brand, LXR, will debut this year-end as Hilton’s collection of independently established properties with their own identities.


Glitzy new kid on the block

Waldorf Astoria Bangkok has 171 rooms and suites housed between levels six and 15 in Magnolia Ratchadamri Boulevard, a 60-storey, mixed-use luxury complex whose free-form architecture was designed to resemble a sprouting magnolia flower. The complex sits on a prime strip of land on Ratchadamri Road next to Grand Hyatt Erawan, overlooking the Royal Bangkok Sports Club.

Renowned architect André Fu is responsible for the design of Waldorf Astoria Bangkok’s interiors, melding Art Deco design elements with Thai artisanal traditions, curvy lines and bespoke items in the 171 residential-style guestrooms and suites – which start at an expansive 50m2 – as well as the Front Room signature restaurant, the Peacock Alley lounge and The Brasserie restaurant on the Upper Lobby.

New York-based design and concept firm AvroKO is the creative force behind the trio of distinctive dining outlets perched at the hotel’s top three floors from levels 55 to 57, decking out the Bull & Bear steakhouse with the naga-and-garuda chandelier piece de resistance as a local narrative of the New York classic; giving The Loft bar a touch of an Upper East Side artist’s apartment with sketches and ideas as part of the décor; and the Champagne Bar at the hotel’s peak on level 57.

Beyond the topmost floors, the hotel also features another three restaurant concepts. Front Room, the signature restaurant helmed by chef Far Rungthiwa Chummongkhon, serves up new Nordic and Thai flavours on the ground floor; The Brasserie, located on the upper lobby on the 15th floor, offers traditional French brasserie fare all day; and Peacock Alley, modelled after the New York original, presents pastries and refreshments.

The hotel is also home to the 730m2 Magnolia Ballroom on level 10, which is expected to be a sought-after events venue for high-end weddings and functions with its eight-metre ceiling, a statement-sweeping staircase and capacity to accommodate 700 standing guests or 330 seated guests.

Other amenities at this luxury outpost include an outdoor temperature-controlled swimming pool, 24-hour fitness centre, spa and personal concierge service.

Room rates start from 13,000 baht (US$397), plus applicable government taxes and service charges.

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