Friday, June 18, 2010

Room for new type of hotels

Kwek Leng Beng opens the door to new budget concept at launch of Studio M chain

A NEW kind of budget hotel is on the drawing board at Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, even as it officially opens its new studio-inspired chain here.

Chairman Kwek Leng Beng said at the launch of the firm's first Studio M outlet yesterday: 'I'm a developer, I always like to create something that is exciting, that nobody has had before.'

He said he intends to introduce a 'real budget, budget hotel' that 'nobody has seen', although there are no firm details yet.

The price of land will be one factor that will influence the firm's plans, but Mr Kwek believes the concept is sound.

'Budget property is lacking in Singapore,' he said, but 'the Government is helping by offering sites'. He added that ideal locations would be outside of the central area, unless the Government could give shorter leases with lower premiums for centrally located land sites.

The firm's main event yesterday was the launch of the Studio M Hotel in Robertson Quay. It is aimed at young travellers who want designer-type, quality accommodation at affordable prices.

There are 360 rooms, each about 22 sq m in size, with free wireless connectivity.

'This is not a five-star hotel,' Mr Kwek said, but it fills 'the gap between a good four-star and a budget hotel' and could be viewed as 'limited service, with a twist'.

The hotel has been operating since March 26 and has achieved over 80 per cent occupancy, said a statement from M&C Hotels yesterday. The $120 million development is charging opening rates of $160 for weekends and $180 for weekdays. Normal rates will begin at a minimum $200.

Mr Kwek has said in the past that he intends to take the Studio M Hotel set-up overseas, and plans are under way for an outlet in India, industry sources told The Straits Times.

Enquiries have already come in from the Middle East and China, said Mr Kwek, who is also keen to introduce the brand to New Zealand.

M&C Hotels runs about 30 hotels in New Zealand, saying 'this is a concept they've never seen', in reference to the studio apartment and hotel hybrid model.

Mr Kwek's outlook for the hospitality sector is positive but, while 'projection is a good guideline, it is not necessarily the gospel truth'.

A lot also depends on the way governments in Asia choose to address concerns surrounding overheating markets, he added. Doing too much 'could kill the recovery' and sometimes, when 'you press the button too hard, the engine might stall'.

He also said room rates should improve this year 'because we are still 18 per cent below the peak of 2008', adding that average room rates in Singapore are among 'the cheapest around', compared with those in Western countries and even in other parts of Asia.

Mr Kwek added that it was important to increase the length of time that guests stay. The average length of stay here is four days, and he hopes to increase this to 41/2 to five days at his hotels, a change that could bring significant economic benefits.

Source: Straits Times, 18 Jun 2010

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