The city’s aspiration to be the regional base for global companies hit jackpot in the hotel sector last week, when Accor announced Singapore as its new Asian headquarters.
With Accor, Singapore can lay claim to having more of the world’s largest hotel chains based in the city than any other Asian city. The list includes Starwood Hotels & Resorts, InterContinental Hotels Group, Hilton International, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International and Millennium & Copthorne Hotels.
Accor Asia-Pacific managing director, Mr Michael Issenberg, said Singapore had become the “de facto financial hub” for the Asia-Pacific hotel industry.
More hotel projects, be they in Vietnam, China or India, are being financed out of Singapore. Key hotel markets are also within a six-hour flight time radius of Singapore.
Mr Issenberg said: “We moved our development office to Singapore late last year because so many of our finance and business partners are located here or have a significant presence here. It has become the de facto financial hub for the hotel development sector and with the country’s commitment to building such a positive and nurturing environment for business, it didn’t take too much persuasion for us to decide to relocate here.”
Mr Issenberg and key Accor executives including senior vice-president sales & marketing Asia-Pacific, Mr Ray Stone, will relocate to the Singapore office, which will have about 25 staff by year-end and 50 staff within two years.
Accor’s Asia-Pacific headquarters is now in Sydney, because the then Accor Asia Pacific Corp was a public company based in Sydney. It is now fully owned by Accor Paris. Until 1993, profit from Accor operations in Australia and the Pacific cancelled out losses made in Asia. That changed as Accor grew in Asia, based on Accor Paris’ new directive on Asian expansion. In fact, Accor has just crossed the line where it has more hotels operating in Asia (156), than it has in Australia and the Pacific (150).
And the Asian expansion is only continuing, with a further 100 Accor hotels under development or in advanced stages of planning across Asia. In contrast, the number of hotel rooms under construction across Australia overall has decreased to the lowest level since 2003, according to Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels’ National Hotel Development Register. High land prices, spiralling construction costs and better returns from alternative uses such as residential and commercial space had kept developers out, it said.
Accor’s Sydney office will look after the Pacific’s operations. Bangkok, with 75 staff will continue to oversee Thailand/Indochina operations, and Shanghai with 50 staff will oversee China and is expected to be larger than Bangkok within three to five years, Mr Issenberg said.
Accor’s Singapore headquarters move is twinned with the announcement of a S$145 million (US$96 million), 538-room Ibis Bencoolen Street, its largest hotel project in Singapore and the largest Ibis outside Paris.
Accor has a 30 per cent stake in the property, with the rest held by LaSalle Investment Management, which also has an office in Singapore. The land is leased from Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Ibis Bencoolen Street is Accor’s third hotel in Singapore, after the Grand Mercure Roxy and Novotel Clarke Quay.
Agents can expect rates of S$100 to S$110 when it opens in early-2009.
Mr Issenberg said there was “an urgent need” for quality, affordable accommodation in Singapore with the city’s growing status as Asia-Pacific tourism hub and with its authorities predicting 17 million arrivals by 2017.
Mr Issenberg said: “There are many hotel projects in the pipeline in Singapore, but of the 7,200 rooms committed, only 10 per cent of this supply is in the economy segment, while 43 per cent is committed to the mid-tier sector and close to 50 per cent to the upper-tier sector.
“This ignores the fact that more and more visitors are coming to Singapore in low-cost carriers without business-, let alone first-class sections, and that travellers from the fastest growing markets such as China and India are more likely to be looking for quality international three-star accommodation rather than five-star.”
Meanwhile, Singapore has won the rights to host the Formula One Grand Prix for five years starting from September 2008, with an option to extend by another five years. The race, a night street race through a 5.2km circuit covering many of Singapore’s landmarks such as the old City Hall and new icons such as the Singapore Flyer, is expected to pump some S$100 million in revenue into the tourism sector.
Some 80,000 spectators and more than 500 million viewers worldwide are expected to watch the event.