Thursday, March 2, 2017

Kuala Lumpur up next for citizenM's expansion in Asia

A citizenM hotel will open in Kuala Lumpur in the second quarter of next year, a South-east Asian breakthrough for the brand's expansion in Asia through its partnership with Hong Kong-based Artyzen Hospitality Group.

The 198-key property is located in the city’s fashionable hub, Bukit Bintang, and will showcase to the region the hallmarks of a brand that made the industry sit up when it debuted a decade ago.

Brainchild of founder Rattan Chadha, these hallmarks feature the living room lobby concept with ultra-modern designer furniture, contemporary art collections, innovative technology that allows guests to customise their room experience including lighting, temperature and movies on TV, and the 24/7 canteenM offering quality local food.

Above all, the brand was one of, if not, the first to understand the ethos of a new generation of travellers – the mobile citizens (both in physical mobility and technology where it got its name from) – and ushered in a whole new style of ‘affordable luxury’.

The Kuala Lumpur hotel is owned by Cornerstone Partners Group, which picked citizenM to leverage “the expertise of a global, trend-setting hospitality company, combined with strong local market knowledge”, said Mizi Rahim, director of Pinnacle Supreme, the subsidiary of Cornerstone that signed the management contract with Artyzen.

It will be the third citizenM to open in Asia. The first, Taipei Northgate, another management contract, will open in Q2 this year, followed by citizenM Shanghai Hongqiao in 2Q2018, which is owned by Shun Tak Holdings, Artyzen’s parent company.

Till now, citizenM owns and operates all its hotels in Europe and North America and has been growing roughly one hotel a year in the past 10 years. It operates three hotels in its home base, the Netherlands (two in Amsterdam and one in Rotterdam), three in London, one in Glasgow, two in Paris and one in New York.

But it is rapidly expanding now, with Asia and North America as prime target regions. A second hotel is being built in New York, scheduled for opening early next year, while a hotel each in Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston have been confirmed, said Robin Chadha, the founder's son who is chief marketing officer of the company.

In Europe, two other hotels been confirmed in Paris – one in the city centre and the other in Gare de Lyon – and the company is starting to look into other markets such as Switzerland and Italy, he said.

In Asia, Artyzen seeks to grow its South-east Asia presence in gateway cities such as Singapore, Jakarta, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, said Artyzen’s president, Robbert van der Maas.

Management contracts seems the preferred model in Asia, Chadha said. “Having management contracts of course brings different complexities than if you were the owner of the hotel yourself, but it’s a fantastic way to expand quickly,” said Chadha, when asked if the company was leaning more towards management in the future. He added citizenM would invest or co-invest in hotels if the right opportunity comes along.

“We’re lucky to have Artyzen as partner as they have experienced people here and know the local landscape. They manage the full business here in Asia while we support them in sharing our concepts. We’re based in Europe and have predominantly European people working for us who might relate to the North American culture but not to the Asian sensitivities, so it’s better to have a local partner on the ground who understands the culture, the red tape and other business ways of doing things. Plus, every market in Asia is different,” said Chadha.

When asked if there’s a need to orientate the brand to Asian needs, he said: “There will be some changes, but ever so slightly, for example, F&B or giving amenities such as slippers/bathrobe. There were talks of changing the room design but we said no.

“So unless it’s a cultural no-no, we’re sticking to our guns because we’re bringing something new to the market.”

-TTG Asia.

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