Mon, Jul 14, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Asiaworld joins InterContinental

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

Asiaworld Plaza Hotel (環亞飯店) is slated to be renamed Holiday Inn Asiaworld Taipei (假日大飯店環亞台北) at the end of the year, after UK-based InterContinental Hotel Group PLC took over the hotel's management last year, an executive of the hotel said yesterday.

"Asiaworld Plaza Hotel is expected to officially change its name in the last quarter of this year," said Monica Feng (范慧齡), public relations manager of the hotel.

She added that in September of last year, the two parties signed a management contract handing the the day-to-day operation of the hotel over to InterContinental, while Asiaworld Group (亞世集團) still retained ownership.

Established in 1983 on the crossroads of Tunhwa N Road and Nanking E Road in downtown Taipei, the hotel is fully an Asiaworld Group investment.

Feng refused to elaborate on the financial details of the deal.

InterContinental Hotel Group currently oversees more than 3,300 hotels in nearly 100 countries and territories globally. Under its umbrella are several renowned brands including Inter-Continental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites.

The alliance should be a boon for Asiaworld, which is burdened with a reputation for dated decor and financial difficulties.

"This is a good news for Asiaworld, as we know the company has been in trouble for a while," said Chen Lieh (陳烈), general secretary of International Tourist Hotel Association of Taipei (台北觀光旅館公會).

"This transition will make the firm more stable and restore some employees' confidence," he said.

MASSIVE DEBTS

In 2001, local Chinese-language media reported that the cash-strapped Asiaworld Group was unable to make interest payments on two massive debts: NT$400 million owed to the Chung Shing Com-mercial Bank (中興銀行) and over NT$500 million to Asia Pacific Bank (亞太商銀). The crisis forced the hotel to delay paying salaries to employees for several months.

"Most staff are very happy about the move ? at least no further salary payment problems have occurred after the alliance was formed," Feng added.

According to Feng, the company resumed regular monthly payments no later than the third quarter of last year.

The new management is expected to bring in international standards and a bright outlook.

"Banking on InterContinental's [management] experience and worldwide connections, the hotel is expected to have a chance to be reborn," Feng said.

In addition to Japanese leisure travelers that account for nearly half of Asiaworld's customers, the hotel plans to attract more business travelers from Western countries and China in the future.

"The hotel is now undergoing a refurbishment and the project should be complete by year's end," Feng added.

In an effort to meet business travelers' demand, Asiaworld plans to transfer some of its guest rooms into conference rooms after installing facilities such as projectors, microphones and speakers.

"InterContinental has 55 hotel partners in China, and we hope visitors who stay in these hotels can also choose us when they come to Taipei," Feng said.

According to the Tourism Bureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Asiaworld Plaza Hotel reported sales last year of NT$784 million, a 51 percent drop over the NT$1.06 billion sales the previous year.

Its annual average occupancy rate last year was 40.95 percent, down from the 62.25 percent the previous year.

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