Dusit International’s new brand ASAI Hotels will be marketed to the Asia/Pacific’s millennial traveler population, but the company aspires to expand the brand farther afield in due time.
BANGKOK—Executives with Dusit International’s new brand ASAI Hotels are confident they’ve found the right formula to attract millennials, first in Asia and then across the globe.
Siradej Donavanik, managing director of ASAI Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary of Thai operations and development group Dusit International, said there’s an opportunity in that geography and demographic.
“The competitive landscape in this segment is still quite fragmented in Asia, mainly dominated by private owners,” Donavanik said. “In this sense, ASAI will have a first-mover advantage of being part of an established hotel company. We are the first Asian-inspired brand to open in this segment.
“We are targeting to aggressively grow all over Asia, while also keeping our eyes open in the West.”
ASAI’s amenities include large, communal, mixed-use lobbies, small rooms approximately 161 square feet in size, design that reflects each hotel’s locality, showers instead of baths and restaurant concepts devised by local chefs.
The brand launch also confirmed ASAI’s debut asset, the ASAI Chatuchak, which will open in the first quarter of 2019 in the Chatuchak Market area of Bangkok, Dusit’s home market.
The brand hopes to have 10 assets announced by the end of 2018. Apart from the Bangkok hotel, five other properties have been confirmed: a second hotel in Bangkok; another in Myanmar’s capital city Yangon; and three in Cebu City, the fifth-largest city in The Philippines.
ASAI assets will have different models, be they owned, joint ventures or management agreements, he said.
Donavanik said the number of millennials travelers continues to increase, thus the time is right to begin a millennial hotel brand.
“Making over 190 million trips per year, millennials alone account for 20% of international tourist arrivals,” Donavanik said. “This figure is expected to rise to nearly 300 million by 2020, so now is the perfect time to launch a brand that caters to this fast-growing market.”
Right time in Asia
Paul King, CEO of Bangkok-based hotel consultancy Hotel IQ, said that the timing of Dusit’s ASAI launch is appropriate given changing travel demographics.
“The millennial uprising is very real,” King said. “It coincides with a lot of trends in the industry, the age of the (Asian) market and how (Asians) book their hotels. They are more interested in something a little more (boutique-like). Brand loyalty is very diminished, and people tend to be a little more brave in their hotel choices.”
King said millennial travelers in Asia are more likely to take risks with hotels and brands they do not know as long as that risk is mitigated with good reviews from peers.
“Many guests will stay in a property they have never heard of if there are good ratings and management,” he said. “I cannot underestimate the importance they place on sites such as TripAdvisor. This is massive here. They would rather do this than stay in a tried-and-tested brand.”
With the importance of online travelers and online ratings to Asian millennial travelers, hotel companies are rethinking how they introduce new brands, King said.
“The established chains have a difficult decision,” he said. “Is this just the way it is, or should we do something of our own, perhaps disguise it a little from the (parent) brand?”
Donavanik said ASAI properties will feature compact rooms, emphasizing quality beds and high-pressure rain showers. The hotels will also include large communal areas with restaurants featuring local, sustainable menus. Other amenities include kiosks for self-check-in and exclusive online tourism guides.
The Chinese traveler is very much on the minds of ASAI executives, Donavanik said, along with older travelers that might be “millennial-minded.”
“China currently accounts for almost 30% of inbound travelers to Thailand, including a whopping nine million visitors last year, so this is certainly a big market for us,” Donavanik said.
Founded in 1948 by Thanpuying Chanut Piyaoui—who at the age of 93 currently remains the firm’s honorary chairwoman—Dusit has four additional brands that range from midscale to luxury: Dusit Thani, DusitD2, Dusit Princess and Dusit Devarana.
Together, those four brands currently have 27 assets, but Dusit’s future looks even stronger as the company’s pipeline has another 50 hotels.
Those pipeline properties will allow the company to spread its wings in such markets as Bhutan, China, Indonesia, Kenya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.