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Thailand Struggles to Articulate Its Gaming Strategy

Alan Woinski
February 13th, 2024 at 7:17 AM EST

Bangkok streets at night with neon signs.

Skift Take

A 60 member House committee in Thailand that is tasked with considering the possibility of developing Thailand’s first legal casinos continues to have trouble completing the task at hand.

Sunday was the second day of the Chinese New Year holiday period and, as expected, arrivals into Macau accelerated from about 121,000 on Saturday to 163,427 on the second day. The Macao Government Tourism Office expects days three and four to be the busiest. 200,976 of the first two days visitors have come from mainland China, which is not surprising. Another 61,582 have come from Hong Kong.

According to the recent Construction Pipeline Trend Report from Lodging Econometrics, the hotel construction pipeline in the Asia Pacific excluding China closed 2023’s fourth quarter with a record-high 1,977 projects and 402,156 rooms.

Hotel Construction Pipeline in Asia Pacific (Excluding China) Q4 2023

Pipeline StageProjectsRooms
Total Pipeline922212,607
Scheduled to Start34265,079
Early Planning713124,470
Upper Upscale37083,083

Countries in APEC Region with Largest Pipelines Q4 2023


Cities with Largest Construction Pipelines in Asia Pacific Q4 2023

Kuala Lumpur3610,736

Asia Pacific New Hotels Opening Forecast

YearNew HotelsRooms

Accor announced the Te Arikinui Pullman Auckland Airport Hotel as the newest member of its portfolio. This is the first five star hotel to open at the Auckland Airport precinct, set only 100 meters from the front entrance of the international terminal. The name Te Arikinui is gifted to the hotel by Kiingi Tuheitia Pootatau Te Wherowhero VII, the Maaori King. The hotel is shaped by the design concept, Sea to Sky. Accommodations total 311 guestrooms while the Te Kaahu restaurant and the rooms are designed to embrace understated luxury within a space that offers simplicity, comfort and light. Other features of the hotel include a gymnasium, the Tooera and Kootare meeting rooms located on the 9th floor, and the Kuriri Café and Eatery in the lobby. Te Arikinui is the third Pullman hotel to open in Aotearoa, New Zealand, joining another 18 Pullman hotels across Australia and the Pacific. The hotel is jointly owned by Auckland Airport and Tainui Group Holdings.

Crystalbrook Collection has been appointed to manage the $130 million new build, luxe hotel in the heart of Adelaide City. Crystalbrook Sam is set to open its doors in 2026 in South Australia. The hotel is the brainchild of Samaras Group and will have over 200 guest rooms over 13 levels. The lobby will be adorned with communal spaces fostering connection and relaxation, and there will be a rooftop Eleme Spa and Bath House offering vistas of the city’s skyline. Ghassan Aboud is the owner of Crystalbrook Collection and he highlighted that Crystalbrook Sam will be the group’s eighth property they manage in Australia, operating close to 2,000 rooms including those under development. The hotel will include a restaurant and bar, various meeting spaces and a Wellness Center. Construction is set to begin in the third quarter of 2024.

A 60 member House committee in Thailand that is tasked with considering the possibility of developing Thailand’s first legal casinos continues to have trouble completing the task at hand. They have requested an additional four months to finalize its findings. The initial 120 day period was set to expire later this month but they have asked for 120 days more. Supposedly there are disagreements over what restrictions should be applied to local Thai players should one or more casino resort developments proceed and whether the government or private sector should take the lead in such developments. The former Prime Minister had his own committee which also could not get the job done. This is the one that was formed after Thailand appointed the Pheu Thai Party’s Srettha Thavisin as PM in August. Supposedly the current committee is favoring the Singapore model of Integrated Resort Development, pretty easy to figure that out given it is the most successful two IR model in the world. As to whether this will work with five, along with having the casinos occupy only 5% of the total floor space, that is what they should be arguing about, not how they will allow locals to gamble. Singapore, Macau, and the Philippines are the three most successful IR markets in the world with Singapore being the only true IR only market. The worst markets are the Foreigners-Only ones of Vietnam and South Korea. It really should not take years and that many people in a committee to figure out how to legalize this and make sure it is successful.

Sri Lanka Tourism Minister Harin Fernando said three of the four potential parties shortlisted to buy Hotel Developers Lanka Ltd, the owner of the five-star Hilton Colombo, are Indian companies. Fernando also revealed plans for the sale of the Grand Hyatt, which is currently under Government ownership, with two Indian companies among the shortlisted contenders. He also disclosed the filing of an application for an exclusive Ritz-Carlton hotel in Arugambay, the imminent opening of an InterContinental hotel, as well as the debut of the ITC Colombo by the end of this month. The Galadari Hotel is undergoing extensive refurbishment and is slated to be rebranded as Radisson Blu. Sri Lanka’s government should send a fruit basket to the government of Maldives thanking them for their generous gift of Indian tourism.

Oyo Hotels’ management and investors must be watching the IPO of Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels, realizing if they had their ducks in a row that it could have been them instead of seeing their IPO plans delayed over and over again. Oyo’s lead bankers and senior executives recently met with officials at Securities and Exchange Board of India to provide an update on the company’s business, trying to expedite its IPO approval. Oyo told them they partially prepaid $200 million of their outstanding term loan B from its books and an update on their business P&L. The Oyo representatives offered to work closely to clear all Sebi queries in a timely manner, saying the capital market conditions are conducive to go public. Oyo first filed preliminary documents to start the process of an IPO in September 2021 and has had a real tough time getting anywhere with Sebi. They have already reduced the amount they intend to raise. At the same time Oyo said they are now profitable and is paying down debt. One would think at this point their investors would be suggesting they explore a sale of the company with the current frothy sentiment for Indian hotel companies.

YTL Hospitality Real Estate Investment Trust’s acquisition of the Syuen Hotel in Ipoh, Perak will help the group capitalize on the anticipated resurgence in Malaysia’s tourism activities. AmInvestment Bank said they view this acquisition positively, especially due to its strategic location and variable rental agreement plan for the property. YTL-REIT is acquiring the Syuen Hotel from Syuen Hotel Bhd for RM55 million. The hotel will be renovated and reopened under the AC Hotels by Marriott brand.

Alan Woinski
February 13th, 2024 at 7:17 AM EST

Companies: Accor, AC Hotels by Marriott, Crystalbrook Collection, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, IHG Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International, OYO Hotels, Pullman, Radisson

Locations: Australia, Bangkok, China, India, Indonesia, Jakarta, Japan, Kuala Lumpur, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Melbourne, New Zealand, Phuket, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam

Photo credit: View of nightlife in China Town with neon light in Bangkok Thailand. Adobe Stock / Charnsitr

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