2019 brought with it signifi cant changes and challenges for our company as we closed our fl agship property for redevelopment, entered the second stage of our nine-year strategy for sustainableand profi table growth – Realising our Potential – and continued to sow the seeds for future success by making several considerable investments in people, property and new lines of business.
This included investing heavily in essential renovations of our longest-running properties in Thailand to enhance their competitive advantage, and also in making the diffi cult but necessary decision to disrupt ourselves and transform our operations by adopting a no lay-off policy at Dusit Thani Bangkok and investing in prime real estate and developing new projects for the hotel’s employees to run.
These signifi cant investments included the opening of Dusit Suites Hotel Ratchadamri Bangkok, our fi rst all-suites property in the heart of the city, our fi rst standalone restaurant concept, Baan Dusit Thani, and fi rst standalone spa concept, Namm, all of which are staffed by employees from Dusit Thani Bangkok. The substantial outlay on these projects, and also in retaining the hotel’s team, greatly impacted our bottom line, but each investment has been carefully considered with long-term value and maintaining brand presence in mind.
Further investing in the future, in mid-2019 we obtained the long-term lease of prime real estate in the city’s up-and-coming Chinatown district to develop ASAI Bangkok Chinatown – the fi rst hotel under our lean luxury ASAI Hotels brand – which is set to open in Q3 2020, signifying our entry into the fast-growing market of millennial, and millennial-minded, travellers.
As a demonstration of our commitment to pursue growth amidst challenging market conditions for our core hotel business, and to drive value while our new and recent investments are being established, we acquired Epicure Catering Company Limited, the leading provider of catering services to international schools in Thailand, bringing a quality and recurring source of revenue to our company, with the potential to scale regionally.
Seeking to tap into the fast-growing health and wellness food market, we also entered into a Joint-Venture Agreement with South Africa’s Real Foods Group, to bring its popular healthy fast-casual restaurant concept, Kauai, to Bangkok. The fi rst store subsequently opened at Virgin Active Fitness Club 101. The Joint Venture is also exploring retail opportunities for Kauai products throughout Southeast Asia.
Besides these strategic investments, we successfully diversifi ed our operations by launching Dusit Hospitality Services Co., Ltd. (DHS), an on-demand service provider delivering housekeeping, engineering, and banqueting solutions for businesses based in Bangkok – all staffed by experienced employees of Dusit Thani Bangkok. We also launched new short courses at Dusit Thani College to respond to industry trends and appeal to a broader swath of the population, and we began exploring how to restructure our investment in Dusit Hospitality Management College in the Philippines to lower the fi nancial impact on our company while still going ahead with its unique integrated concept.
We took a signifi cant stride forward in our property development business with the public launch of Dusit Central Park – our most signifi cant project to date – and began demolishing the original structure in line with our plans. Demonstrating the trust and confi dence our customers have in our brand, a large number of investors registered their interest in the residences by making down payments to qualify for the fi rst selection of rooms when we open our sales gallery. More than 20% of the project is currently under this registered interest.
In terms of core hotel business, despite the rocky global environment in 2019, we still maintained steady expansion with the opening of nine hotels and resorts – including three in the Philippines, three in China, one in Dubai, our fi rst in Qatar, and the aforementioned Dusit Suites Hotel Ratchadamri Bangkok.
At year-end, our portfolio comprised 307 properties operating under six brands across 14 countries (including 37 Dusit Hotels and Resorts and 270 Elite Havens luxury villas). And with more than 60 properties in the pipeline, representing more than 16,000 keys, we are now on course to open at least 10 –12 hotels per year in key destinations from 2020 to 2021, and approximately 10 hotels per year from 2022 to 2025.
With these solid foundations in place, we now head into 2020 in a strong position to deal with the signifi cant global headwinds we will face throughout the year. And by continuing to synergise our various lines of business and empower our people to anticipate and respond to shifting market conditions and the changing needs of guests and customers, we look forward to creating long-term value for all of our stakeholders by enhancing our capacity for revenue generation across all aspects of our business.
On behalf of everyone at Dusit International, I would like to thank all of our stakeholders, including our shareholders, customers, staff, communities and regulators, for your much-appreciated support. We are deeply grateful for your trust and confi dence in our vision to uniquely deliver Thai-inspired gracious hospitality to the world, and we are delighted to have you with us on our journey.