Riding Asia’s booming hotel sector

CEO for Asia at Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels & Hospitality, Mike Batchelor, tells Pamela Chow how traditional hotel operators are navigating Asia's dynamic hospitality landscape

What impact has the spate of hotel consolidations had in Asia and on JLL’s movements in the region?
Our global merger and acquisition (M&A) team has facilitated the large-scale acquisition of Australia-based Mantra by French giant Accor in 2017. This transaction follows a number of high-profile M&A transactions among major hotel operator and investor groups such as AccorHotels’ acquisition of Fairmont Raffles Hotels International in 2016 and Marriott International’s merger with Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

Thai group Minor International announced last June that they are making a move to boost its European presence with plans to acquire NH Hotel Group for around 2.5 billion euros (US$2.9 billion).

Given this high volume of M&As in the region, we believe that the drive to add brands or geographies will continue to grow as traditional operators or private equity groups increasingly look for expansion and growth opportunities.

How about homesharing – how has this segment impacted the traditional hospitality playing field?
Within the homesharing space, we are also seeing an increase in hotel groups making strategic investments into homesharing platforms. This is part of a defensive play to disrupters entering the traditional hotel accommodation space.

What other key trends do you predict will influence Asia’s hotel market in 2019?
We do see more non-hospitality players entering the hospitality space – for example, Muji and Alibaba.

We also anticipate an increasing number of global private equity players and institutional investors – presently underweight in property – seeking exposure in the growing Asian tourism sector.

Lifestyle hotels are carving out a niche in Asia Pacific, boosted by strong demographic factors such as rapid population growth in India and China, the rise of millennials and even older guests becoming more tech-savvy.

Asia is known to be highly fragmented. How disparate is business interest each area?
Key gateway cities – Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore – remain highly sought after, albeit limited stock of quality trophy assets are offered for sale. Stable economic growth, robust tourism fundamentals and the low interest rate environment continues to attract diverse investor interest.

Despite the many hotels in Thailand’s capital Bangkok and other popular tourist destinations, relatively few hotels are offered for sale. When they are, as seen with the recent offerings of The Intercontinental Hotel Koh Samui and ex-Crown Plaza hotel in Bangkok, they are keenly contested by both domestic and regional investors.

Investors are now seeking opportunities to diversify their portfolio in various markets across South-east Asia and the Indian Ocean, including the Seychelles, Cambodia and Vietnam. JLL recently sold the Banyan Tree Seychelles and Raffles Portfolio Cambodia (Siem Reap and Phnom Penh).

Amidst the buzz of robotics, personalisation and partnerships – what were your key takeaways from 2018?
There will be 370 million youth travellers by 2020, of which three out of five will be from Asia. In time to come, the technology-savvy millennial travellers will dominate the travelling scene.

To keep up with the growing influence of these travellers, hotels are reinventing themselves by offering unique and personalised technology-based experiences.

Hotel chains are hungry for more smart hotels and more innovation to speed up efficiency and improve customer experience.

What key Asia markets and destinations will JLL be focusing on in 2019?
Japan, Singapore, Thailand will be the markets of increased focus in 2019.

In Japan, with the upcoming 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Tokyo Olympics we anticipate heightened global awareness of Japan as an investment destination. A number of hotels developed by the mid-sized developers are also anticipated to come into the market for sale, creating further investment opportunities.

In Singapore, South-east Asian high net worth investors are looking for long-term holds and wealth preservation continues to make Singapore one of the region’s most sought-after destinations.

Finally, Thailand is expected to remain as one of the most active hotel investment markets in the region, driven by continued demand from international visitor arrivals, robust hotel trading performance, improving infrastructure and a stable political environment.

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