Amar Lalvani, CEO of Standard International (parent company of The Standard Hotels), presents the case for optimism in the hospitality business amidst the ongoing challenges resulting from Covid-19, along with his company’s navigation of the crisis and continued growth.
The latest additions to the company’s growing portfolio, The Standard, Hua Hin, The Standard’s first resort in Thailand, will open on December 1st, 2021, followed by The Standard, Bangkok Mahanakhon, the brand’s highly anticipated Asia flagship, which will open in 2022. The Standard is also excited to announce The Standard, Ibiza also slated to open in 2022. These three new properties will kick off a series of 10 additional landmark projects in highly coveted markets around the world, including: Singapore, Melbourne, Lisbon, Dublin, Brussels and Las Vegas.
The Standard brand debut into Thailand will be timely launched as Thailand is gearing towards opening its doors to international travelers amid the flexible travel restrictions and mass inoculation programs.
“We are incredibly proud to announce the openings of The Standard, Hua Hin, which is set for December, our incredible Asia flagship, The Standard, Bangkok Mahanakhon, which will open next year, as well as our second property in Europe, The Standard, Ibiza” said Standard International CEO, Amar Lalvani. “This has been a time of unprecedented crisis for the hospitality industry, and the millions of people around the world who work in the sector. Amidst such challenges, we are incredibly grateful that we continue to be able to delight our guests, serve our communities and create new opportunities for our team members by building landmark hotels around the world.”
Widely recognized as one of the most innovative lifestyle hospitality brands in the industry, The Standard has always set its goal of every project to defy convention, up the aesthetic stakes, and deliver an absolutely one-of-a-kind experience that can only be had at each of its properties.
“Thailand, with its strategic location in Southeast Asia and rich cultural heritage, continues to be a top leading tourism destination in the region. As we look to cement our presence in the Asia, we are offering over 20-years of experience in boutique hospitality and undeniably playful sensitivity, combined with careful consideration to design, detail and service to Thailand’s dynamic market starting with these two differently distinctive projects,” added Amar.
Having become a top destination in international travelers’ bucket list, Thailand has enjoyed a steady tourism growth for decades prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, with a total number of over 38 million and over 39 million visitors in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Recently, Bangkok and Phuket also reaffirmed its status as preferred ports of call among international tourists after the kingdom’s capital and the largest island have been named among the world’s most popular destinations in Tripadvisers Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best 2021 awards, in the ‘Popular Destinations – World’ category chosen by those who have personally experienced and obviously cherished the cities.
To bring back pre-Covid-19 tourism traffic is a tall order, yet the Tourism Authority of Thailand has begun what it hopes to be an optimistic recovery of the nation’s travel and hospitality industry. As the vaccine roll-out is underway, the country is slowly and carefully opening its doors to international visitors, with the pioneering ‘Phuket Sandbox’ program allowing vaccinated foreign tourists to enter the island since 1 July 2021, followed by similar initiatives for other holiday destinations including the ‘Hua Hin Recharge’ project which aims to inoculate 70% of its local population in a bid to safely draw local and international visitors to the beach town and to get the local tourism business slowly back on track.
As the tourism high season which normally kicks off early October draws near, Thailand will have five travel destinations (Phuket, Samui, Pattaya, Chiang Mai and Hua Hin which, according to the TAT, accounted for 50% of the total tourism receipts for the country) taking part in reopening schemes, and another two – Krabi and Phang Nga – joining extension programs. Phuket has now opened entirely to vaccinated visitors while the rest offer some routes to a few districts with some mandatory conditions applying. Hua Hin is also being considered to join as a quarantine-free destination where tourists are able to travel freely within an 86-kilometer zone.
Unlike other leisure destinations, Hua Hin, where the first resort of The Standard in Thailand is located, relies heavily on the domestic market with 74% of the total visitors originating domestically, pre-Covid. Average occupancy is 90% and above during the weekends and public holidays. In 2020, the Hua Hin hotel market posted the highest domestic occupancy with 39% surpassing top tourist destinations such as Pattaya, Phuket, and Bangkok.
Pent-up travel demand has been building up from high-income individuals and strong economies less dependent on inbound tourism have a great potential to fast-track recovery and become good demand sources. Thailand can potentially win over a strong demand rebound if other regional destinations are slower to achieve herd immunity and lift border restrictions.
The impact of Covid-19 on the global economy is undeniably huge. The outbreak devastated the hospitality business, but The Standard survived and remains highly optimistic about the future of the travel industry, with it 2021 market share in the US portfolio exceeding 2019 levels, at an average of 134 RGI (revenue generation index) vs 122 in 2019 versus its competitive set.
“Despite the challenges, we managed to maintain profitability and continue growing as we are increasing our market share of new projects and seeing further acceleration in our pipeline,” commented the CEO who attributed the company’s market share numbers to the brand’s strength and their decision to maintain their staff and continue their marketing and programming through the pandemic.
The Standard always had great direct-booking business contribution due to the brand’s strength which has grown from around 45% pre-pandemic to 58% which is huge for an independent brand. The success was a result of inventive packages and experiences responsive to rapidly evolving guest dynamic along with the highly creatively marketing the brand is known for.
Despite the economic conditions, Amar added, The Standard Hotels grew its global pipeline significantly over the past year. “Between The Standard, Bunkhouse and The Peri Hotel brands we now have 17 existing hotels, 15 of which have re-opened post pandemic, and 21 in the secured pipeline, with many more under discussion, making us one of the world’s leading independent lifestyle brands,” said the CEO.
The Standard, Hua Hin, The Standard’s first hotel in Thailand, will open on December 1, 2021. With 178 guest rooms and 21 pool villas with beachfront access, The Standard, Hua Hin will be a timeless destination for the Thai creative set and The Standard’s global network of loyal clientele. A beloved getaway dating back to 1911, Hua Hin emerged as a destination when the construction of the railroad that connects Bangkok with the South first arrived at the pristine little beach town.
By the mid-1920s, it became the chosen holiday retreat for the nobility. With time, the sleepy fishing village has transformed into a popular seaside destination without losing its old-world charm. Today, Hua Hin is a favorite weekend escape for residents of Bangkok who have been waiting for exactly what The Standard promises to offer: a stylish and vibrant beachfront resort. One that respects Hua Hin’s understated Thai elegance and appreciation of the history and local setting and combines it with a global sensibility and a bit of fun.
The Standard, Bangkok Mahankhon will be the Asia flagship for the Standard brand. Opening in 2022, the hotel is already a landmark, housed in the King Power Mahanakhon Building, a 78-story mixed use building that is one of the tallest in Thailand. Centrally located in the CBD between Sathorn and Silom, the hotel will reflect the dynamic energy of the Thai capital. With 155 rooms, penthouse, a terrace pool, fitness center, meeting rooms and a dynamic variety of food, drink and nightlife venues, from The Parlor to the Tea Room and renowned Standard Grill, as well as Thailand’s first outpost of the acclaimed Mott 32 restaurant.
The property is designed by Spanish artist-designer Jaime Hayon’s Hayon Studio, in collaboration with The Standard’s award-winning in-house design team, this breath-taking new addition to the Standard portfolio will sit proudly alongside the brand’s award-winning vibrant US and European urban flagships, The Standard, High Line, and Standard, London and in perfect counterpoint to our waterside retreats The Standard, Maldives, The Standard, Miami, and the forthcoming The Standard, Hua Hin and The Standard, Ibiza.
“The metropolitan vibe Bangkok is best known for perfectly matches our proposition as one of the most innovative travel-related brands. With King Power Mahanakhon being one of the most impressive developments in the region, we are honored and extremely excited to partner with the King Power Group to bring The Standard to this incredibly vibrant project in the heart of the City of Angels,” he added.