Thailand tops hotel investment poll

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Thailand was voted the most attractive nation in Southeast Asia for investment in the hospitality industry at the Asia Pacific Hotel Investment Conference, thanks to the country's strong infrastructure and ongoing tourism boom.

Myanmar was ranked second, followed by Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The vote session via mobile phone was part of the two-day forum in Bangkok, which started yesterday. About 200 hotel executives and property owners across the Asia-Pacific region joined in the vote. Kevin Beauvais, co-founder and chief executive officer of Zinc/InVision Hospitality, based in Bangkok, was not surprised by the result. He said Thailand had remained more attractive for hospitality investment than other countries in the region, even as new countries like Myanmar emerge.

Its competitive edge over rivals comes from its stronger infrastructure such as airport facilities and ground transport. Its performance will be much improved by the big investment on basic infrastructure initiated recently by the government, he said.

The tourism boom is a key component. The number of foreign tourists is expected to increase to 24 million this year, a mammoth leap from 3 million 15 years ago.

However, Beauvais said the government should not focus only on attracting "quality" tourists. The mass tourist market should be promoted as well because there is a large supply of hotel rooms across the country to serve them. Chanin Donavanik, managing director and CEO of Dusit International, agreed that the investment climate, especially laws, for the hospitality industry in Thailand helped persuade foreign players to invest here.

In Bangkok alone, there are more than 100,000 rooms to serve tourists, while overall, hotels in Thailand outnumber those in Vietnam and Indonesia.

At present, most foreign investors come from Asian economies such as Hong Kong and Singapore. Their presence underscores that they understand Asian culture more than their Western peers, making it easier for all to work together.

Given the rising inflow of foreign tourists, Chanin urged the government to ensure sufficient facilities and services. These include airports, immigration, safety and hygiene.

Chanin said 2013 was expected to be the best year for the hospitality business since the 2004 tsunami. The baht's appreciation has not hurt the industry so far because the market does not rely only on the US dollar. It has kept a balance of other foreign currencies.

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