This week, Travel Daily Asia discusses SALA Hospitality Group’s expansion plans with thew Thai hospitality company’s Group’s Director of Business Development, Nicolas Reschke…
Q) What is SALA’s current strategy in terms of portfolio and brand expansion? And how well is this progressing?
SALA Hospitality Group is focused on expanding our two brands: SALA Resorts and Spas, and sala boutique. Both brands incorporate core SALA values of friendly, personal service and warm Thai hospitality. SALA Resorts and Spas are luxurious, five-star, full-service pool villa beach resorts, located in the world-class island destinations of Phuket and Koh Samui. Each resort and spa follows the core brand principle of “personal and private”. sala boutique consists of smaller, more subtle properties, located in the culturally significant Thai cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya, as well as an exclusive seven-room mountain top resort in Khao Yai. sala boutique’s core brand principle is “intimate and indulgent”.
New properties are currently under development for both brands. SALA Resorts and Spas will open its third property, SALA Samui Chaweng Beach in January 2018. Phase one will consist of 52 luxurious beachfront pool villa suites and pool villas. Phase two, opening later in 2018, will consist of 83 additional rooms, pool villas and pool suites. A fourth SALA Resort and Spa in Thailand is under development and will be announced later this year. Meanwhile, sala boutique also has an exciting fifth project under development, due to be announced by the end of the year.
Q) Where do the majority of SALA’s guests come from, and are you seeing strong growth from any particular country or region? Also, how is the Thai domestic market performing?
The traditional long-haul markets in Europe, particularly the UK and Germany, as well as Australia, remain strong and important. Emerging markets are led by China of course, and we are also seeing increases from the US, France, Israel and the Middle East. The domestic Thai market is critically important to us, particularly at our sala boutique properties of sala Khaoyai, sala Ayutthaya and sala lanna Chiang Mai. SALA Phuket also receives strong domestic support, due in part to inexpensive flights from the Thai capital.
Q) SALA already operates SALA Samui Choengmon Beach Resort on Koh Samui. Why has the group chosen to open a second property in the same location, and how will the two properties differentiate?
Actually this will be our third property on Koh Samui – SALA Hospitality Group also owns the Six Senses Samui Resort. The simple answer as to why we are opening another resort on the island is because it is booming. Occupancies, average room rates, and financial performance are high, and we believe this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. In terms of differentiation, we actually don’t want to differentiate too much. SALA Samui Choengmon Beach is one of the most successful resorts on the island.
Our intention is for SALA Samui Chaweng Beach to continue and extend this success. Obviously the locations are different. Choengmon Beach is quieter than Chaweng Beach which is significantly larger with more activities and nightlife nearby. Another exciting difference is that SALA Samui Chaweng Beach will have two new sea view room categories; Pool Suite Sea View and Pool Suite Partial Sea View. Also, the two SALA Resorts have been designed by two different architects. The pool villa beach resort concept is the same, but the designs are very different.
Q) A number of international hospitality brands operate in Thailand. As a homegrown hospitality brand, how does SALA set itself apart from the competition?
SALA Hospitality Group owns and operates all of the hotels under both of our brands. That means we self-manage all of our SALA-branded properties. This creates a wonderfully unique and highly efficient operational environment. Rather than the typical, often dysfunctional, triangular relationship between 1) the owner, 2) the operating company and 3) the onsite hotel management team, SALA Hospitality Group actually is the owner/operator/manager. Monthly board meetings therefore involve three or four of the senior team sitting around a breakfast table with the owner every month. This efficient company structure allows decisions to be made quickly and actions to be taken decisively on most major issues.
Intriguing and unique designs also play a key part in all of our projects. SALA Phuket showcases indigenous Phuket Sino-Portuguese architecture, while sala Ayutthaya incorporates the wonderful red brick designs found at many of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in the city. sala rattanakosin Bangkok, a lovingly restored old shophouse building, retains the “old town” feel of the Grand Palace neighbourhood. Our award-winning food and beverage offerings also set us apart from the competition. Our executive chefs and culinary teams have won numerous awards, and our restaurants are recognized as some of the finest dining experiences in the country.
Q) What major developments and/or activities can we expect from SALA in the next 6-12 months?
SALA Samui Chaweng Beach phase one will open in January 2018 and an additional SALA Resort and Spa property, as well as another sala boutique property will be announced in the next few months. We have also recently re-launched our website, which now offers much more responsiveness and mobility. We introduced a live chat function for all destinations to increase the level of services for our guests. We find this function very helpful, in particular for potential guests that have not decided on their stay and have questions they would like to ask in a casual way by chatting to our staff.