Wan … StayWell targets more hotels
StayWell targets more hotels in Gulf
DUBAI, September 4, 2014
The Australia-based StayWell Hospitality Group, which currently operates Park Regis Kris Kin in Dubai, UAE, plans to increase its footprint in the Gulf region.
The group operates two hotel brands – the upscale Park Regis and midscale Leisure Inn. It has 34 properties across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia, India, the United Kingdom, and the UAE. CEO and managing director Simon Wan aims to up this number to a 100 by 2016.
“We have recently opened a development department here in Dubai,” revealed Wan. “We are also in the process of negotiating a partnership with an unnamed UAE-based hotel management company, which now has seven hotels in Abu Dhabi, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. We are in advanced negotiations with two hotels in Dubai and one in Qatar.”
“What I am aiming to achieve is five to six hotels in the UAE by 2015, and another five or six in the rest of the Middle East. We have signed nine hotels in India and we hope to sign another six more this year. In three years’ time, it is not inconceivable to picture that we will have some 20 hotels in India alone. Add another 20 in China, plus another 20 in our own backyard. We’ve also signed a joint venture with South Africa’s Mantis Collection.
"The number 100 looks a lot more achievable if you break it down. It might look like a very big number but it is achievable.”
Behind every successful man is indeed a woman, in this case it is Wan’s wife, as he reveals in a story about how StayWell Hospitality came about.
“I actually wanted to retire six years ago,” he recalls. “I booked a nine-weeks’ golf holiday in Hawaii because I like to play golf. The first three weeks were fantastic because my family was there. Week four my kids had to go back to school and my wife went with the kids. Week five I started playing with strangers. By week six, no one wanted to play golf with me because I had become so good at it!
“So I packed up and went home and my wife was happy. After two weeks she said, ‘We need to talk. I only used to cook you dinner, now I’ve to cook you breakfast, lunch and dinner. Go and get a job.’ I knew a friend who had hotels called Leisure Inn in Tasmania, who I partnered with. Then we went and bought the Park Regis in Sydney. That is how I started to build the company.”
“In 2010 and 2011, like most hotels in the city, we were struggling with Kris Kin in Dubai,” admits the CEO. “In 2012, we were recovering, while 2013 was a great year for us. We have seen RevPar grow by 12 per cent last year. This year we see strong growth too, it’s about 9 per cent over last year.
“Dubai, in the past, has marketed itself as a very high-end destination, but the reality is different – not every type of tourist might want to spend $250 every night in a hotel, especially with so many budget airlines coming in. To cater to a wider audience, Dubai needs to balance the luxury offering with the economy options. Young people don’t want to spend a lot on their holidays as do people who come to the emirate to meet friends and relatives. All they look for a comfortable, clean, secure place. It is possible for Dubai to keep its prestige while expanding in the economy accommodations business.
“I don’t think Dubai should copy and follow anybody else. It is different. It’s not the same as London, New York or Singapore. It’s in the middle of the desert for instance. It has a unique culture and let’s not devoid it of this asset.
“Having said that, Dubai is not achieving the same RevPar as the abovementioned cities: one day it might. Dubai is not in the same league as these cities, but it’s definitely heading there.”