GuocoLand keen to expand Thistle hotel chain

By THE STAR

KUALA LUMPUR: GuocoLand (M) Bhd, the operator of UK-based Thistle hotels, aims to expand the hotel chain in Malaysia and Asia following a RM50mil refurbishment and rebranding exercise to be completed by the middle of this year for two of its Malaysian hotels, said managing director Paul Poh.

He said the company would be opening more Thistle brand hotels in Asia, either though acquisitions or building new ones.

“Yes, we are keen to expand the (Thistle) hotel business in Asia and Malaysia. Our intention is to be able to grow like we did in London,” he told reporters at the launch of the Thistle hotel brand in Asia yesteday.

Two Thistle hotels are slated to open in Shanghai and Beijing, China by the end of this year, Poh said.

In addition, GuocoLand is building another five-star hotel in its Damansara City project, an 8.5-acre integrated commercial development in Damansara Heights. The estimated RM200mil hotel, to be operated under the Thistle brand, is expected to complete by 2011 or 2012.

Thistle hotels are part of Guoman Hotel Management (UK) Ltd, owned by GuocoLand, a subsidiary of Hong Leong Group.

There are 34 Thistle Hotels in Britain, which are predominantly four-star rated, including 11 in central London.

The two five-star rated GuocoLand hotels undergoing the RM50mil refurbishment and rebranding exercise were the previously named Guoman PD and Hyatt Johor Bahru. They are now rebranded as Thistle Port Dickson Resort and Thistle Johor Bahru, the first time the Thistle brand was used outside of Britain.

Poh said the company did not renew its contract with Hyatt because “it made more sense to bring our brand (Thistle) to Malaysia, that is the only reason.”

The occupancy rate of Thistle Johor Bahru is expected to rise to 70% from 50% previously, while Thistle Port Dickson Resort is projected to see the occupancy rate double to 65% in their first year of operations under the Thistle brand, Poh said.

He added that he expected to see returns for the RM50mil investment in four to five years. With the new rebranded hotels, contribution from the hospitality segment is expected to rise to 37% of company revenue.

Peviously, GuocoLand’s hospitality segment contributed about 30% of revenue to GuocoLand, while the remaining came from property development.

Thistle Port Dickson Resort will have 251 bedrooms, a nine-hole golf course, nine function rooms and three kilometres of beach shoreline. The price of an average room ranges from RM180 to RM225 per night.

Thistle Johor Bahru will offer 381 bedrooms including 125 luxury rooms, and 19 apartment units. The indicative room rates is between RM230 and RM250 per night.

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