Fri, Jul 20, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Holiday Inn back in town

COMING SOON Holiday Inn, which withdrew from the local market a year ago, hosted a special preview of its four-star Holiday Inn East Taipei in Shenkeng Township

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Holiday Inn, one of the brands owned by the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), returned to the local market yesterday with a soft opening of its Taipei hotel.

Holiday Inn, which withdrew from the local market a year ago, hosted a special preview yesterday of its four-star Holiday Inn East Taipei (台北深坑假日飯店), located in Shenkeng Township (深坑), Taipei County. The facility, formerly known as Plaza Believue (麗園會館), was bought by hotel developer Sam Chang (張善良) in March. Chang is the hotel's new chairman.

Renovation is in progress and the formal launch is scheduled for December.

LOCATION ADVANTAGES

In response to skepticism over the company's decision to operate an international hotel outside of Taipei City, IHG said the location held geographical advantages. It also expressed confidence that its rates would attract customers.

It doesn't matter "whether a location is good or not. It depends on your market segmentation ... This is an excellent location because Taipei 101 is quite accessible and the main business center is only 10 minutes away," Edmond Ip (葉海華), chief operating officer in charge of IHG's Greater China region, told the Taipei Times yesterday.

Xinyi and Nangang districts, Taipei Zoo and the Maokong cable car system are all easily accessible from the location, Ip said, adding that the combination of attractions and room rates as low as NT$2,750 (US$83) per night would draw both business and leisure travelers.

The company said the mid-scale hotel with 252 guest rooms is Taipei County's largest.

Chang, president and chief executive of the New York-based McSam Hotel Group LLC, acquired the Shenkeng facility for NT$1.15 billion and has invested NT$200 million on refurbishment.

Chang was confident that the hotels room rates would be highly competitive. By comparison, the Grand Hyatt Taipei in Xinyi District charges more than NT$7,000 per night.

"My strategy has been to offer customers the best services and comfortable rooms at the lowest prices," he said during a separate interview.

`KING OF NEW YORK'

Born in Taipei, Chang and his family moved to Japan when he was 10 and migrated to the US when he was 17. The 46-year-old businessman controls 23 hotels, or 3,500 rooms, mostly in the US.

His firm is now constructing 27 hotels in New York, he said.

Dubbed the "new king of New York" by South China Morning Post in a report published in January, Chang started expanding his hotel development business to Taiwan and China two years ago.

Chang operated one hotel in China's Shenyang in Liaoning Province, and in October will open a second facility in Dalian, in the same province.

In Taiwan, the Shenkeng hotel is Chang's second project, following the launch of a small Taipei business hotel more than a year ago.

"I plan to invest in 10 more hotels in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung over the next five years. Half of these will be acquisitions and the other half will be new constructions," he said, adding that the local market has great potential.

"If direct links with China are made possible, [visitors to] Taipei alone could support at least 100 hotels," Chang said.

Ip agreed with Chang's forecast. As incomes in key visitor countries increase, Asian nations, including Taiwan, will experience a boom in tourism, he said.

IHG expects to introduce three other brands -- InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn Express -- to the local market and is in talks with potential investors, Ip said.

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