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Far East gears up to go regional

Sunday, November 1, 2009 - 18:56

PROPERTY giant Far East Organization is spending $25 million to refurbish and re-badge its mid-range hotels and residences into a new brand that can be expanded overseas.

A range of the firm's local properties is being grouped under the name Village Hotels & Residences, which will give the firm a launch pad for expansion.

Three hotels - Albert Court Village Hotel, Changi Village Hotel and Landmark Village Hotel or the former Golden Landmark Hotel - and four residences aimed at long-stay guests make up the new brand so far.

Far East said the Village brand will offer guests a local experience.

It has commissioned its own Village Walking Guide, which highlights interesting attractions near the hotels, said the firm's director of hospitality operations, Mr Raphael Saw.

The aim is to expand the made-in-Singapore brand to 15 properties around the region over the next five years.

Far East's hospitality unit - it has six hotels and 11 serviced residences - has kept largely to the Singapore market, where branding is not necessarily crucial, market observers reckon.

But making a mark overseas requires grouping hotels and residences around a brand name that can be promoted.

Far East, Singapore's largest private property developer, hatched the branding plan about two years ago and has spent about $12.5 million on refurbishing the properties, service training and other operations.

A similar sum will be laid out over the next three years to strengthen the brand's presence, said executive director Chia Boon Kuah.

The Village hotels are mid-range and aimed at business and leisure travellers.

The hotels have average room rates of about $140 to $160 a day but the rates should rise as demand increases, said Mr Chia.

Far East has a serviced residence property in Kuala Lumpur, where it will establish the Village brand next.

Village properties in China, Indonesia and Vietnam are also on the cards.

Mr Chia said the firm will be keen on cities with about three to five million people, which would include Surabaya and Medan in Indonesia.

'There are a lot of opportunities in China and we could go in now if we want to,' he said.

In going regional, he said its 'first preference is through management contracts'.

'If we are offered an equity stake, we will consider it.'

While it does not rule out new-builds or purchases, these are not part of the plans for now.

Far East also plans to brand its high-end hotels and residences with the same goal of overseas expansion in mind, said Mr Saw.

Its high-end hotels include Orchard Parade Hotel and The Quincy Hotel.



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