Mon, Jul 01, 2019 - Page 15 News List

Avani Samui presents seaside hideaway

Avani Hotels & Resorts has expanded its portfolio in Thailand with the launch of Avani+ Samui on the southern coast of Koh Samui. The resort aims to double its number of Asian guests, as European tourists’ travel budgets are shrinking amid an economic slowdown. The resort’s French manager Cindy Delhomel discussed her strategy and challenges in an interview with ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Crystal Hsu in Koh Samui on Tuesday

Avani+ Samui resort manager Cindy Delhomel poses at a swing chair in the hotel’s lobby in Thailand on Tuesday.

Photo: Crystal Hsu, Taipei Times

Taipei Times: Minor Hotels, which operates 520 hotels in 52 countries, already has a strong presence in Thailand. Why did it add a new resort on Koh Samui in December last year? What is Avani+ Samui’s strategy to compete against international brands such as Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, St Regis and W Hotels on the island?

Cindy Delhomel: The group took over this property on Samui two-and-a-half years ago and spent one year extending the site and renovating facilities. The business was not working for the previous owners.

Although Minor Hotels already has three properties under the sister brand of Anantara on other parts of Samui, it believes there is still room for growth. While Anantara features local touches and culture, Avani places more emphasis on friendly service carried out in a casual way. We are targeting a different clientele from that of other well-established hotels.

The main difference is Avani’s relatively remote and quiet location that is the pure spirit of Samui, while most other hotels are located in the North. Avani is designed as a seaside hideaway, only steps away from untouched Taling Ngam Bay.

The resort has 58 guestrooms with daily room rates of 3,500 to 25,000 baht [US$114.26 to US$816.14], relatively affordable compared with other luxury brands. We offer free longtail boat rides to smaller islands nearby. Flexibility of the service is another strength, and we do not have check-in or check-out times. Our chief chef Kien Wagner and his health-conscious cuisines further help Avani Samui to stand out. The chef goes to the market daily to pick out the freshest fruit, vegetables, herbs and just-caught fish. Unlike other hotels, we don’t have frozen fish and 70 percent of our menu is based on local products.

TT: Would you share Avani’s financial performance thus far and its business goals?

Delhomel: Occupancy rates have averaged at 35 percent since the opening. We are aiming at 40 percent in the first year and 60 percent next year. That is doable for a mid-sized resort on this side of the island. It takes time to build up popularity and the facility is gaining positive feedback.

We are looking at a 70 percent occupancy in the peak season in August. We already have 60 percent of reservations on the book for the month. Daily room rates stand at 4,700 baht right now, slightly behind our target. We hope they will rise to 6,000 to 6,500 baht next year.

Europeans contribute 70 percent of our clientele, while Asian travelers account for the remaining 30 percent.

This year is challenging on both sides. Brexit in the UK and the “yellow vest” movement in France have weakened travel demand, while Germans travel less to Samui. Chinese tourists visit Vietnam more these days, which might have links with the US-China trade dispute.

Currently, demand is weaker than supply.

TT: What are you going to do to cope with the trend?

Delhomel: A diversified clientele would help and ease seasonality. The busiest time for us starts from Christmas, January and February, because it is wintertime in Europe. Vacationers prefer warmer places.

Samui remains a very strong European market, although Asian travelers are on the rise. The second busiest time is from mid-July until the end of August. This is the summer holiday in Europe, when people begin to travel. In between, there are shorter seasons, like Japan’s Golden Week and the Chinese New Year.

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