The Regent Group plans to roll out a new investment amid the tourism slowdown by offering a small luxury hotel in Cha-Am to attract wealthy individuals in the country while waiting for international guests to return.

Unlike other hotel developers that have frozen new projects, in the third quarter this year The Regent plans to launch a new VALA Hua Hin by Nu Chapter Hotel, worth 1.2 billion baht on a 24-rai plot in the same location as its flagship hotel — The Regent Cha Am Beach Resort — in Phetchaburi province.  Piyaman Tejapaibul, The Regent Group managing director, said because this 97-room project started before the pandemic and has almost finished construction, the group decided to stay the course.

The main target audience has shifted from Asian customers to local guests who want luxury stays within driving distance as foreign travel is limited.  Room rates could top out at 8,000 to 12,000 baht per night as the hotel is planning to apply for membership to the chain Small Luxury Hotels of the World, hoping to expand its global marketing network for the future when inbound arrivals are allowed in the post-Covid-19 recovery.

Mrs Piyaman, a former Tourism Council of Thailand president, said the worst crisis in the group’s 36 years of operation has brought some adjustments.  The group’s flagship hotel on Cha-Am beach never had to set specific targets previously as it became a well-known property for locals, she said. The domestic market for The Regent Cha Am made up about 70%.

But as competition intensified in recent years, particularly from hotels in Hua Hin, it renovated some parts of the hotel into a 74-room family wing that combines outdoor activities in a new organic farm zone for children, designed for people looking for experiences other than beach recreation.

The new strategy coincided with the emergence of the pandemic, which prompted local travellers to stick to excursions in their home country.  “We saw the negative signs indicating an economic slowdown since last year, and tried to revamp our strategy to focus on niche markets,” said Mrs Piyaman.  She believes her experience in hospitality will see the group through the down cycle and tourism in the country will definitely return to normal.

“All tourism businesses have felt the impact differently. For hotel operators, at least we still have properties as assets,” said Mrs Piyaman. “But most tour operators face more difficulties as they depend largely on revenues from services.”  However, even though the group has a 500-rai plot in Cha Am, and another office building, Regent House, on Ratchadamri Road, it has to be cautious about any large investment or renovation during the pandemic as cash flow is weak, she said.