Letter from Hong Kong: Some Pick Hotels for Returns, Others for Romance.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Monday, 28th October 2013
Just returned from Hong Kong after attending the HICAP conference – good to see how the event has grown since its early days when it was held at the Kowloon Shangri-La.

It's a sign of the growth of the hotel industry in our part of the world – when it began in 1989, the business was being driven by influences and capital from the West – and now the money flow is happening within the region and from Asia outwards.

4Hoteliers Image LibraryAnd the power men in power suits wielding the power play are increasingly based in the region. On the Investment Outlook panel, four key investors were asked to pick their city and the segment they'd go for.

Vincent Yeo, CEO, CDL Hospitality Trusts picked Tokyo and mid-market. Tan Juay Hiang, CEO, Ascendas Hospitality Fund Management, whose company made waves when it bought the 336-key Park Hotel Clarke Quay (pictured) in Singapore for S$242 million earlier this year, picked Hong Kong citing the Hong Kong-Macau-Shenzen triangle potential. Christopher Heady, Senior Managing Director, The Blackstone Group (HK), also went for Tokyo but said full service and Suchad Chiaranussati, Managing Director, SC Capital Partners picked Yangon, Myanmar.

Intellectually though, Suchad said he'd invest in Papua New Guinea because after a stay there where he was forced to pay a very high rate for an average hotel plus he had to pay an exorbitant amount for wifi. "It'd be a good place to own a hotel".

These investors are in a good place. According to STR Global's March 2012 report, Asia Pacific's RevPAR growth is at 23.0% year to date, far outperforming all other regions in the world. With a region-wide aggregate RevPAR of just over US$86, Asia Pacific also comes out ahead of both Europe and the Americas in absolute performance.

The region is also teeming with new development – over the next three to four years, some 330,000 new rooms are likely to enter the market – more than new supply in Europe, Middle East and Africa combined.

So other than those main cities, where are the hot spots? Maldives came up a lot. It's the only place in the world where there are 15 resorts commanding higher than US$1,000 average rate. And 60% of the world's seaplanes are there, which explains why Blackstone Group bought two seaplane companies there. Said Headley, "We see positive numbers in arrivals and there is good customer satisfaction."

Yeo said that he always thought of the resort business as cyclical but not any more in Maldives where, thanks to China – accounting for one in four visitors to the islands – the seasonality has evened out.

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