The Middle East hotel industry will see a new player in the coming months as Onyx Hospitality Group announces its foray into this highly competitive market.
Onyx, which is an affiliate of the Thailand-based Amari hotel management company, has earmarked the Asia-Pacific region – with a special focus on the Arabian Gulf – as part of its $44.1 million (Dh162m) growth strategy.
Yuthachai Charanachitta, owner of Onyx, said: "We will be investing $44.1m in a corporate growth strategy, which will see new properties introduced across the portfolio of brands."
The group has also launched two new hotel brands: Saffron, a luxury brand; and Ozo, a select services offering. These will complement the established mid to upscale Amari brand which underwent a significant revitalisation programme in October last year.
Emirates Business caught with President and Chief Executive Peter Henley in an exclusive interview about the brand's expansion plans for the region.
How important is the Middle East in terms of market growth and opportunities in the hospitality sector?
We have identified the Middle East as a key market for the Onyx Hospitality Group. Amari, one of our three hospitality brands, is already well known among GCC travellers to Thailand.
The Arabian Gulf has a diverse mix of travellers. We are aware of the steady growth in regional travel and domestic tourism continues to be strong in a number of countries. This together with the efforts of regional tourist boards, airlines and tour operators to develop long-haul arrivals, we see great opportunities for both leisure and corporate travel, inbound to the region.
By bringing the four-star Amari brand to the region, our properties will embody the spirit of the local culture and mix it with modern Asian hospitality. Saffron, which is our five-star luxury brand, will cater for our most discerning guests, while Ozo is our three-star product, offering simplicity with a twist.
Are there specific countries that have been singled out for new opportunities within the region?
We are currently negotiating with a number of owners and hope to make our first announcements soon. With the recent launch of Onyx on March 10, we expect to receive many new enquiries from developers in the region. We are confident that we will meet our target of 50 properties by 2018.
How much is the group planning to invest into the Middle East over the next three years?
There are many projects that have been planned and construction has already started at some. Appointing a management firm is still under discussion for some developments.
Are these 50-odd properties targeted for the Middle East alone?
We are targeting to manage 51 properties across the Arabian Gulf and the Asia-Pacific regions by 2018. We have not determined how many of these should be in the Middle East. The development of our hotel management portfolio will depend on where we see the best return on investment for both the developer and ourselves.
Is it a sound business plan to introduce a new brand during such tight economic times?
You would have thought that this would indeed be the case. However, you can also see that there are significant opportunities available during such tight economic times. Combined with a strong belief in the cyclical nature of our industry, I do feel that our expansion plans are timely. Amari is known in the region and with our strong management team we are confident that we will succeed.
According to STR Global's recent reports, there is already a glut of hotel rooms in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Is this a cause of concern for you?
We do believe that are still are a number of opportunities in the UAE. We believe we offer effectiveness and efficiency, backed by an international team of industry professionals. This combined with world-class standards and warm Asian hospitality, perfected over four decades means that we can offer investors and owners a clear path to profitability.
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