Face-to-Face: Peter Henley, President & CEO, Amari Colours & Rhythms
Q1: Amari is currently undergoing a major brand overhaul. Can you tell us a little about the thinking behind this, and what has the response been so far?
Amari has been a proud Thai brand for many years, but we realised that we needed to inject some fresh thinking into the company. There is a huge interest in Thai hospitality right now, and we felt it was the right time to capitalise on this strength by expanding our brand internationally. Our high services standards were already well established; we just needed to bring our product in line. We wanted to create a new contemporary feeling for Amari hotels; with more colour and softer edges - hence the ‘Colours & Rhythms’ suffix, which has replaced the previous ‘Hotels & Resorts’. We also want to be viewed as modern company, so we will be making a huge investment in technology over the next two years.
So far the response from the Thai market has been good, but we also want to be considered as an Asian company. We believe that our new philosophy fits into the ‘modern Asian’ cultural context - we represent the new generation of Thais who have a regional and international perspective on life.
Q2: In terms of your international expansion, which markets are you looking at moving into?
For the first time in the company’s history we have a development team which is actively investigating potential new Amari projects both in Thailand and abroad. We are planning to increase our portfolio from 11 to 51 hotels by 2018, which means opening five new properties every year. Of the new developments, 90% will be outside Thailand, but all will be within the Asian/Indian Ocean region. We are looking at markets such as Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Mauritius and the Seychelles, as well as the Middle East, China, Indonesia and elsewhere. We have set aside a budget of US$44.1 million to do this, which will be invested in a mix of development, HR and IT.
Q3: Will your expansion plans continue to focus on the current Amari product offering, or will you look to diversify into other areas of hospitality?
We are already planning our first serviced residence properties in Bangkok, and our new Hua Hin development will feature a mix of hotel rooms and condos. The serviced residence concept is proving to be a strong growth segment in Asia, and we will be looking to develop this further. Guangzhou and Jakarta are being considered as the potential international markets for Amari serviced residences, although we are unable to confirm specific details at this time.
Q4: You mentioned an investment in human resources. Have you needed to invest in new talent to develop these expansion plans?
In terms of hotel staff we have managed to keep hold of all of our existing staff during the past year, despite the economic pressures. Unlike other companies we haven’t laid off any staff, nor have we needed to offer leave without pay, and we have continued to pay bonuses. We are also working with Thai universities to offer internships and placements at our hotels. In terms of our international growth, we have developed a team with a wealth of experience from across the Asia hospitality sector, including Shangri-La, One&Only and Six Senses.
Q5: You arrived at Amari following the departure of the Kurt Rufli, who had been with Amari since the company’s launch. Was there a period of upheaval following this change, and did you encounter any resistance to your ideas?
The response has been extremely positive. All Amari staff have been consulted and informed of the changes. We met with GMs to identify Amari’s key strengths before formulating the new brand concept, and regularly meet with staff to obtain feedback. Actually in the past 12 months staff turnover has been down on previous years.