Accor Asia Pacific chief Michael Issenberg and marketing boss Ray Stone will move to Singapore by year end. Yeoh Siew Hoon reports.
The announcement of Accor’s relocation of its Asia Pacific headquarters from Sydney to Asia came as no surprise.
With the rate the group was growing in the area, it was inevitable that its key executives needed to be close to the action. The group has 100 hotels under development in the area.
What was a surprise to some was that it wasn’t Hong Kong or Shanghai, given the company’s rapid expansion in China, but Singapore.
Accor Asia Pacific managing director, Michael Issenberg, who will move to Singapore by year end said that Singapore was chosen over Hong Kong or Shanghai because “we didn’t want to be too China-centric even though we have planned major growth in China, but our Shanghai office will be able to handle that”.
He added: “The timing of the move is significant because we have doubled our network of hotels in Asia in less than 10 years and we have a further 100 hotels under development or in advanced stages of planning across Asia, and Singapore is the perfect base to build and operate that network.”
He continued: “It is fair to say that until 2002 our progress in Asia had been relatively slow and so there was little impetus to move our headquarters from Sydney to Asia.
“In fact, the profit from our operations in Australia and the Pacific cancelled out the losses made in Asia. But since then, Asia has enjoyed a prolonged period of sustainable growth that was initially fueled by China’s economic growth but which quickly spread to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and now, of course, India.”
As part of the relocation, senior vice president-sales and marketing, Ray Stone, will also move to Singapore. Issenberg said there would no be job losses as a result of move.
Five to six staff will relocate from Bangkok while the rest will remain to focus on growth in Thailand and Indochina, and the Sydney office, HQ since the early 1990s, will take charge of the Pacific.
He said that the Singapore office would start off with 25 staff, and would double in two years’ time.
Singapore, he added, was also the birthplace of Accor – its first hotel in Asia opened in the city in 1982.
Asked if it was the cleaner air in Singapore which swayed the decision, Issenberg said, “I am afraid I have to leave personal considerations out of it.”
He also announced the first Ibis in Singapore, the 538-room Ibis Bencoolen Street, the largest Ibis in Asia/Pacific and the biggest outside Paris.
It is the group’s first new-build development in Singapore, costing S$145 million, and is being developed in partnership with LaSalle Investment Management. Land for the hotel is being leased from Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Issenberg said the hotel, opening in 2009, would be well-placed to take advantage of the growth in budget travel in Asia, fuelled by low cost carriers.
He said of the 7,200 new rooms approved in Singapore, only 10% are planned for the economy sector.
“This ignores the fact that more and more visitors are coming to Singapore in low cost carriers without business, let alone first class sections, and that travellers from the fastest growing markets such as China and India are more likely to be looking for quality three-star accommodation rather than five-star.”
He added: “Singapore now has its own budget airlines terminal and is increasingly attracting low cost carriers to hub via Singapore, so there is a definite need for economy-priced accommodation of Ibis standard.”
The average rate is being pitched at S$100-$100.
Ibis is in 38 countries with over 750 hotels and it is the fastest growing brand in the Accor network.