YTL Hotels sees strength in South-east Asia markets

Staycations and short hops around South-east Asia seem to be making a comeback, noted YTL Hotels’ chief, as travel demand continues to remain strong after the initial wave of post-lockdown revenge travel.

Mark Yeoh Seok Kah, executive director of YTL Hotels, told TTG Asia that there has been an “upswing in demand on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays” for YTL properties in its home country Malaysia.

Locals in Thailand are also driving up demand at The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui, pictured

“We’ve always had a domestic tourism base, but I see more Malaysians are getting used to the concept of staycations, and I think they will continue to do so (in the long-term). In Singapore, staycations in hotels are common, but this only emerged in Malaysia post-lockdown,” he elaborated.

Over in Thailand, locals are also driving up demand at The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui (a YTL-owned property). This segment typically flies in from Bangkok for the weekend.

At the same time, Yeoh observed that as airfares stabilised, YTL’s traditional European and Australian markets returned in droves. However, he does not expect the Chinese market – an important source for Thailand pre-pandemic – to “fully return until 4Q2023”.

“Although we remain very bullish about the market, flight capacities and air routes first have to be reinstated,” he explained.

Overall, Yeoh is “very positive” about South-east Asia’s travel future, pointing to recent news of economy carrier Scoot’s injection of Embraer jets into its fleet, indicating stronger operations to come for secondary destinations in the region.

Yeoh opined that the “final frontier” of travel in South-east Asia was to transform the region into the “Mediterranean of Asia”, likening it to Greece’s cruising sector, which boomed over the years, spawning a host of tourism-related businesses.

While Yeoh acknowledged that appropriate infrastructure is lacking in this region to support such an endeavour, he believes that long sailing trips from Singapore northwards to Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Cambodia, or eastwards towards Philippines and Sabah, would appeal to the younger, luxury travellers of the future.

When asked how the perceived strength of regional tourism would affect future acquisitions and pace of new signings, he told TTG Asia that the company is working on a few projects in Malaysia and continued focus is placed on Japan’s Niseko Village.

“Many opportunities have surfaced, but we are sifting through them to find one that makes the most economic sense for us. As we own all our properties, my mandate is that all our projects must be in a location that (allows ownership),” he said.

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