Hotel Investment Challenges in the Mekong

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Mekong Tourism Forum 2016 hotel investment panel comprising hoteliers (left to right) Vishal Daga, Rory Hunter, James Kaplan, Victor Pang, Sokun Chanpreda.

Mekong Tourism Forum 2016 panel comprising hoteliers (left to right) Vishal Daga, Rory Hunter, James Kaplan, Victor Pang, and Sokun Chanpreda, explored hotel investment challenges in the Mekong.

A panel discussion on “Hotel Investment in the GMS” at the Mekong Tourism Investment Summit, July 7, explored a wide range of topics including human resource development, energy, and water. The Summit followed the previous day’s Mekong Tourism Forum 2016.

The panellists were Vishal Daga, Director of Development at Six Senses Resorts & Spa; James Kaplan, Senior VP of Development at Minor Group; Victor Pang, VP of Development (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos & Myanmar) at Accor Hotels; Sokun Chanpreda, CEO of HMD Asia; and Rory Hunter, CEO of Song Saa Resort. The discussion was moderated by HVS VP Paola Omelli-Bock.

Hotel Investment in Human Resources

On human resource development Mr Kaplan downplayed the threat of the sharing economy, e.g. AirBnB. Training and retaining good people was a bigger challenge for the hospitality industry.

“As an economy grows and diversifies, other careers become more attractive,” he said.

Mr Kaplan added that larger hotel chains often failed to leverage the capacity for staff to travel, live, and work overseas as part of their careers.

Mr Pang said Accor offered no-obligation training to locals.

“It’s better to train someone and they leave than not train them and they stay,” he quipped.

Staff members who feel cared for are more loyal, he added. Small things such as air-conditioning, food, and beverages in the staff room make a huge difference.

Mr Daga agreed. At Six Senses employees were “hosts”.

“Happy hosts lead to happy guests,” he said. Treat them right.

Hotel Investment in Energy & Water

Localised sources of energy via solar micro-grids offer both a good business case and a social good, according to Mr Hunter. At Song Saa resort he is planning to invest in a one-hectare photovoltaic field which will not only power his property but offer the local community reliable clean energy at lower rates than the centralized alternative.

“Water is the new oil,” Mr Kaplan said in response to a delegate’s question about waste management.

Modern hotels are quite good at treating and recycling water and making use of grey water, he said. While policy and regulation is up to governments, the bottom line for investing in such practices is showing promise.

Independent hoteliers were the biggest problem due to a combination of inexperience and limited start-up finance, Mr Chanpreda said.

While modern waste water treatments systems pay for themselves in the long run, they are expensive to set up.

Mr Hunter is optimistic that technology will solve the world’s water problems. As renewable energy gets cheaper desalination will become more economic, he said.

The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) welcomes contributions from experts and writers on the topics featured in this article, including hotel investment. Click here to discover more about our contributor program.

Presentations from Mekong Tourism Forum 2016 are available for download here.

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