Phuket Property: Centara anticipates tougher times ahead

PHUKET: The insight, influence and impact that the Bangkok-headquartered Central Group employs and exerts across nearly every sector in Phuket is undeniable. The group’s interests encompass retail, infrastructure, construction, real estate, and especially hospitality – through its flagship hotel chain Centara Hotels and Resorts (CHR).

The Gazette recently caught up with CHR Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Chris Bailey to discuss the leading conglomerate’s view, outlook and plans for the island in the near-future.

In addition to the Blue Marine rebranding project (details below) in Patong, are there any other projects Centara is undertaking in/around Phuket?

We plan to open Centara Bangtao Resort Phuket, which is a new-build project that will stand on 1.6 acres of land. Currently in the design and planning stages, construction will begin in July 2014 and the resort will be opened in the third quarter of 2016.

The resort will have 150 rooms, with a swimming pool and sundeck. There will be one restaurant, a Cense by Spa Cenvaree, a mini-gym, a business corner and a kids’ corner. Centara hotels are designed to deliver the Centara style of service with quality accommodation and facilities, but without facilities that may be superfluous to guest requirements.

How would you describe the past and current positioning/segmenting of the Centara brand, especially in respect to the Phuket market and related economic factors?

Centara adopts a mixed market policy with all its properties; in other words, we do not want to be
focused and target on any single market, however strong, as it can be a very dangerous strategy if
situations change.

Blue Marine will be no different and will target European, Australian, Russian/CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States], South Asian, Chinese, regional markets and of course domestic, which is and will remain a very important market for Centara; our new alignment with the Central Group, and the “1 Card”
loyalty program, will form a major part of our strategy to attract more domestic guests to all properties in 2014.

This [mixed market policy] is supported by our 18 global sales locations within the group. Actually, for economic issues, we are starting to see some positive changes, especially in the UK and Europe but still expect guests to remain value-conscience when it comes to selection of a resort. Our domestic advertising and promotion will also see significant increases. That said, it [advertising and promotion] will not replace international distribution, but complement it as our growth in inventory means we have considerably more rooms to fill in 2014.

How do you view the trajectory of Phuket’s hospitality sector? Where is the market now and where do you see it heading in the next 1-5 years?

For Phuket in general, I do believe there will be tougher times ahead. Traditional mature markets are giving clear signals that they do not like what they see happening on the island and are starting to move more guests to other locations, especially in the South like Khao Lak, Krabi and Koh Lanta. Currently this inventory [of rooms in Phuket and vicinity] is being filled with the fast growing newer markets from China and Russia.

Indeed most of the growth in 2013 hails from these two specific markets. However, even these two markets are sending signals to the destination for a need to control product, experience and safety. The hope is the destination as a whole understands and accepts these signals and acts upon them now, rather than be wrapped up in current volumes and success.

The Phuket industry needs to be a long-term player; globally, we see the industry littered with destinations that have lost their market by not understanding that customers are not a god-given right, regardless of what you do to them. That said, I see shifting market volumes, shorter stays overall and an experience-driven customer, rather than those just looking for beach and sun exclusively.

Scenic, cliff-top resort in Patong renovated, rebranded

Centara Hotels & Resorts has acquired the management contract for The Blue Marine Resort & Spa Phuket, and will assume management from January 5, 2014.

Located on the cliff at the northern end of Patong Beach, the resort is owned by Patong Cliff View Co Ltd, and will temporarily be renamed as “The Blue Marine Resort & Spa Phuket managed by Centara Hotels & Resorts”.

A renovation program was recently carried out, completed in October last year, and further renovations will now be undertaken to harmonize the property with Centara’s four-star Hotels & Resorts core brand.

Following completion of this renovation, which is projected for October 15, 2014, the resort will be rebranded as Centara Blue Marine Resort & Spa Phuket.

“We are pleased and proud to be announcing that The Blue Marine Resort & Spa is to join the Centara portfolio,” says Thirayuth Chirathivat, chief executive officer of Centara Hotels & Resorts.

“This will bring to nine the total number of Centara properties on the island, which illustrates the enormous confidence we have in Phuket, one of the most famous holiday destinations in the world.”

The Blue Marine Resort & Spa features panoramic views from its cliff-top location, and is backed by a green forest on the hillside.

“We are delighted to be adding a further superb resort property to our Phuket portfolio,” says Chris Bailey, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Centara Hotels & Resorts.

“This means we are entering the New Year with another very powerful addition to our marketing strategy in the south of Thailand, and broadening our appeal to travellers by adding a four-star resort to Patong Beach, one of the island’s premier destinations.”

Accommodation at the resort is a mix of rooms, suites and villas, the latter offering a choice of one and two bedrooms, with each having its own private pool. There are three swimming pools, plus two pools for children. Other leisure facilities include a spa, fitness center, and a kids’ club.

The restaurants include Blue Pacific, which serves international cuisine, and Tub-Tim, which serves Royal Thai cuisine. Extensive meeting facilities are included, with the Mediterranean Room able to hold a maximum of 180 guests for cocktails, and the Caribbean Ballroom 90 guests.

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