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Interview with Glenn de Souza, VP Operations Asia & Middle East at Best Western

This week, Travel Daily chats with Glenn de Souza, Best Western’s Vice President of International Operation, Asia & Middle East, about his company’s expansion across the region…

1)    What is your current portfolio in Asia, and what are your main areas of development?

Currently we have 135 hotels and resorts operating Asia and the Middle East (not including Australasia), but with a pipeline of more than 70 hotels we expect to increase this to more than 200 properties in the coming years.

We see big opportunities across the Asia Pacific region, with a strong focus on expanding in ASEAN countries and the Middle East. Already this year we have opened new hotels in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. We have also signed management agreements for several new properties, including our first projects in Myanmar and Sri Lanka. It’s an incredibly exciting time for Best Western in Asia.

2)    What are your plans for the ASEAN region?

Clearly the ASEAN region holds huge potential for an international hotelier. We are already seeing a surge in international arrivals to ASEAN countries, and much of this is being driven by intra-regional travel. This trend will only increase following the onset of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

In response to this, Best Western is developing new hotels in key locations across the region. As I mentioned, we recently signed our first hotels in Myanmar (both Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw), as well as adding new hotels in Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. But our strongest portfolio growth will be in Indonesia, where we are planning to expand from five hotels today to more than 20 by 2015.

3)    Why Indonesia, and which areas of the country will you focus on?

Indonesia is seeing strong growth, driven by an increasingly affluent domestic market. The proliferation of low-cost air routes across the country is really driving demand for convenient and affordable accommodation across the archipelago, and that’s where Best Western can really provide a service.

Currently we are present in Bali and Jakarta, and we recently launched our first property in Semarang. And it’s these fast-emerging second tier cities that will really drive demand. We also plan to launch the Best Western brand in cities like Banjarmasin, Pontianak, Samarinda and Bogor. We also have firm plans to expand in Jakarta, with at least four new hotels in the capital.

4)    Best Western now has several brands. Which are most popular in the Asian market?

We now offer the classic midscale BEST WESTERN product, along with our upscale BEST WESTERN PLUS and luxury BEST WESTERN PREMIER products. Of course these can be tailored to suit the needs of each market, but we do see several regional preferences. In the Middle East for example, the PLUS and PREMIER products tend to be very popular. Both of our hotels in Saudi Arabia are under the BEST WESTERN PLUS banner, while we have a BEST WESTERN PREMIER in Muscat and a PLUS in Bahrain. The PREMIER product will also soon be introduced to Iraq, with two luxury hotels in Erbil.

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