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New chapter opens for Dusit International
Raini Hamdi, Bangkok, January 15, 2013

DUSIT International, which now has veteran hoteliers Giovanni Angelini, David Shackleton and Jeffrey Flowers on board the ship, is sailing into golden seas, with at least five hotels confirmed to open this year in diverse locations and each showcasing new brand standards.

The five hotels, all new-builds and management contracts, include a Dusit Thani in Guam, Hainan and Abu Dhabi; a Dusit Devarana in New Delhi; and a Dusit D2 in Pasadena (US).

In the pipeline are a Dusit Thani in Jeddah, a Dusit Devarana in Hainan and a Dusit D2 in New Delhi. This month, CEO, Chanin Donavanik, expects to sign a Dusit D2 in Nairobi and, in February, seal a JV in China with a local partner to manage and develop Dusit hotels in the country, as the group has done in India.

Last year, a Dusit Thani Maldives was opened.

“Now we can expect to open seven to 10 hotels every year,” said Chanin.

The group has development offices for China (in Hong Kong), India, Middle East and Europe (in Dubai) and North America (which is covered by Flowers, formerly with Marco Polo Hotels).

“We have people and offices in place, that’s why we are growing. As well, as a Thai brand, we are seen as neutral – not American, not European,” said Chanin.

He added: “We made a mistake of not pushing expansion in the past, but it was also because we weren’t sure what to do. We tried, for example, to do a JV in China, but it was difficult to get a good deal and it often kept changing. We couldn't move much until we had people on the ground and it took time to get the talent and set it up.

"So when Giovanni (former CEO of Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts), Jeff and David (formerly with InterContinental Hotels Group and Starwood Hotels & Resorts) left their jobs, we had the right talent, people with the experience and expertise, to help us expand.

"Our objective is to grow the brand so that in three to five years, we can be considered as one of the better hotel companies. To do that, we have to keep opening good hotels.”

Chanin stressed however that he remained committed to grow in Thailand, Dusit's base for 63 years. It has a US$150-US$160 million property fund listed on the stock exchange and is actively seeking hotels to acquire and put into the fund.

But he said good assets were hard to come by as hotel prices were high and many were owned by wealthy families who did not want to sell.

"We are still positive about Thailand except for some locations like Bangkok, where the ARR is weak as there are so many hotels. But as a whole, the government is doing all the right things – moving the low-cost carriers to the old airport and going ahead to expand Suvarnabhumi, for example. With a third runway and maybe the expansion of the terminal, it will be double the size of Phuket airport," said Chanin.

"Aside from the government's moves, it's also the wealth created in Asia and the number of people in the region. Two million Chinese and one million Russians visited Thailand last year; more Indians are also visiting. So, Thailand will continue to do well.”

– Full report in TTG Asia, January 25 issue

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