International travel has yet to resume in much of the Asia Pacific as borders have remained closed. But some hotel groups and companies in the region have been busy either renovating old properties or building new ones, to prepare for a tourism restart, hopefully by the end of 2021.

This year alone has seen many resorts, hotels and other tourism properties around the region opening their doors to domestic tourists. A handful have also launched online – without publishing any booking dates or options – just so that they can build their brand and get their name out in the market first.

A lot of the new openings are in China (where the latest Universal Studios theme park has also opened in Beijing), but Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are also popular destinations for developers.

Hotel groups like Banyan Tree, Anantara, Kimpton, Four Seasons, Hyatt and IHG have launched a handful of properties, ranging from luxury and boutique resorts to business and mid-range leisure hotels.

In Malaysia, only a handful have launched in the past one-and-a-half years, including debuts from One & Only (at Desaru Coast, Johor) and Park Inn by Radisson (Putrajaya).

One upcoming launch comes from The Standard brand from the United States. It will open its first property in Thailand – The Standard, Hua Hin – on Dec 1.

This will be followed by The Standard, Bangkok Mahanakhon, its flagship hotel in Asia, and The Standard, Ibiza (Spain) some time next year.

“This has been a time of unprecedented crisis for the hospitality industry, and the millions of people around the world who work in the sector.

“Amid such challenges, we are incredibly grateful that we continue to be able to delight our guests, serve our communities and create new opportunities for our team members by building landmark hotels around the world,” said The Standard CEO Amar Lalvani during a virtual conference recently.

While the hotel in Hua Hin is beautiful and dreamy, it is the Asia flagship hotel that is getting a lot of attention. It is housed in the 78-storey King Power Mahanakhon Building in the Thai capital, an architectural wonder that was opened in 2016.

In his address, Lalvani stated that although many businesses had suffered tremendously during the pandemic, the tourism industry in the US has seen a strong comeback over the past few months.

“The economy was so bad that it was hard for many of us to see how we could get out of that situation. Thankfully, our US portfolio has seen a rapid growth mainly because of the large domestic market, as well as loose travel restrictions.

“New York hotels overall have seen great momentum since the summer break began, so much so that the market share has actually exceeded its 2019 numbers,” he shared.

Lalvani also noted some of the challenges that the company and many other tourism-related companies in the US have faced during the pandemic. Besides the US-China trade issues, labour shortage is also a big problem.

“Because of travel restrictions, we are facing a labour shortage in the US, as well as in Europe, and this is worrying. Also, since Brexit happened, tourism in the EU and Britain have not been able to bounce back as strong as we have,” he revealed.

Lalvani added that business travel has not rebounded much either, and this is actually where most hotels – especially city hotels – get a bulk of their revenue from. This is a concern in the Asia Pacific region too, especially in places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia, where MICE (meeting, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) tourism is a large contributor to the overall tourism numbers each year.

But, seeing the rapid tourism rebound in the US – and to an extent, China – does give us hope that things will start to pick up for us too, if not in the next few months then at least in the first quarter of 2022.

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