ONYX Hospitality, one of the leading hospitality chains in Asia is entering the Indian market with the launch of a property in Punjab soon. It was in the year 2010, this Thailand based hospitality group embarked on a multi-brand expansion plan with four complementary brands – Saffron, Amari, Shama and OZO –for the different requirements of business and other travellers.
Started with 100 employees, today ONYX Group is one of Asia-Pacific’s leading brand with a portfolio that includes properties across Asia and more being rapidly developed over the next couple of years. They provide the perfect mix of business and leisure to our guests giving facilities from dedicated business centres to relaxing spas and lifestyle facilities
SE speaks to Peter Henley, President and Chief Executive Officer, ONYX Hospitality to know more about their plans
What hurdles are you facing setting up properties in India?
The hotel industry is sensitive to economic cycles and does face its highs and lows based on economic growth. Specific issues within India, like infrastructure, the high cost of land procurement and multiple licences accentuate the challenge of development. However, with the help of our local partners we are effectively dealing with this.
Where are you present across Asia with how many properties?
ONYX offers four brands: the luxury Saffron, the established Amari group of upscale properties, Shama, a leading boutique serviced apartment provider, and the all-new select service OZO. We have also been entrusted with operating many properties for owners who wish to retain their own flag under The Mosaic Collection. We have recently announced new projects in developing markets like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and more in China. We currently operate 37 hotels, with an inventory of above 6,000 rooms, and are further strengthening our reach in Asia and beyond that.
According to you, which is the best Onyx hotel in Asia and why?
As a CEO, being asked this question is a bit like being asked who your favourite relative is; so I must proceed with caution. Our new brand is exciting and fresh; it has been incredibly exciting to see it develop from a concept on paper to an operational model, now in Hong Kong, Colombo, Samui and most recently Pattaya. That said, our company has a long hospitality heritage and our established properties such as Amari Watergate, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year is a special place to me, not least of all because our office is located in the building and I walk daily through the lobby. Amari Watergate has evolved and following extensive renovations is fondly considered a favourite place to stay in Bangkok, especially in the Indian market.
Tell us something about the expansion plans in India and Asia? When will these properties be ready for launch?
We have a number of active discussions with owners and developers in India and hope to share more news in the near future. There are currently 13 properties in development: 5 Amari / 3 Shama/ 3 OZO/ 2 Mosaic Collections. 2015 will see the launch of new projects in Pattaya, Malaysia, China, Sri Lanka and few more
Where do you rate yourself and India in terms of the present position of the hotel industry?
Our widening portfolio and cost efficiency management has helped us to reinvest in our current properties and thereby gain margin progression, which resulted in double-digit profit growth. Looking ahead to the future, ONYX has a strategic plan to manage 81 hotels, resorts and serviced apartments by 2018.
Is the expansion because of the increase of tourists from abroad or an increasingly lavish lifestyle of people?
Given the business buoyancy and burgeoning hospitality industry in India, we are exploring a number of opportunities. It is estimated that maximum investments are expected to take place in Tier II towns, which show great potential as up-and-coming markets. The paradigm of Indian travellers has risen to a new height with an increase in spending power and a transition from middle class to upper middle class. As mentioned above, ONYX sees India as a market for potential growth along with the fact that Indian travellers are amongst our top three clientele for Thailand properties.
Which has a bigger market, business hotels or luxury hotels?
We see the business and leisure segments as complimentary to each other during different demand periods and our properties perform well across both segments. It is important to highlight that it’s not just luxury hotels that are performing well. Since developing our OZO brand concept in 2010, we have had a lot of interest from owners and developers who are attracted by the business model that OZO offers. People are looking for quality services and comforts at an affordable price. We know that this budget segment is becoming more and more popular.
Are service apartments posing a threat to business hotels?
The serviced apartment industry is on the rise these days. Preferences differ from individual to individual, whether they want the perks of a business hotel with good F&B services, dedicated business areas, and facilities for conferences and meetings or a serviced apartment with more personal space and privacy.
What do you think your group's biggest strength is?
As many of our competitors are big players both locally and internationally, being a Thai company is one of our greatest strengths. Thailand is considered to be one of the leading players in the hospitality industry. Building brand awareness and consistently delivering quality services is one of our main priorities as we expand to markets outside Thailand.
We pride ourselves with combining the expertise of a truly international executive team with the industry excellence. We adopt an open, approachable leadership style and recognise that property partners are the fundamental basis for any management company’s success. Their needs and concerns are our driving force.
Tell me something about your services and your approach towards small and medium businesses around Asia?
Amari (5 in development, 13 operating) is ONYX’s most established chain of hotels. Amari introduces guests to share an evolving modern Asia, creating memorable experiences that embody the spirit of local culture as well as enhancing the renowned traditions of Asian hospitality.
Shama (3 in development, 10 operating) is a leading provider of luxury boutique serviced apartments in Asia, operating a variety of properties across prime commercial and residential districts in gateway cities in the region.
OZO (3 in development, 4 operating) is particularly a result of the brand’s market appeal, cost effectiveness, stream-lined development and ROI.
Does Onyx have a franchise module? If yes, how does it work?
Our primary focus is to manage third-party hotels rather than investing directly into hospitality assets, though we do have a number of equity properties in our portfolio. Our investment would be in terms of setting up locally based management teams, our brands, technology and related infrastructure.