Swiss-Belhotel International Chairman and President, Gavin Faull

In the 22nd edition of the HM Industry Leaders Forum, HM invited leading hoteliers, tourism professionals and suppliers across Asia Pacific and the world to their insights into the hotel landscape and their outlook for the year ahead.

Here, Swiss-Belhotel International Chairman and President, Gavin Faull, reflects on a period of expansion and new initiatives at the global hospitality company, and highlights the importance of investing in people to rise to future challenges.

Coming out of a period of stagnation, 2023 proved to be a period of expansion and new initiatives. With the backing of a private equity investor in Indonesia; with the setting up of a joint venture management arm associated with a REIT opportunity in Malaysia; with the signing of an alliance in China with the China Tourism Group; with the acquisition of the minority shares in Swiss-Belhotel International the Middle East giving Swiss-Belhotel International 100% holding; Swiss-Belhotel International Group is in an acquisition mood. The group is looking for new opportunities both from a hotel management aspect to a corporate and investment opportunity which will see Swiss-Belhotel International well placed to expand into Australia, Europe, China, Japan and Africa. This will result in substantial growth in the next five years.

In 2023, we had seven hotel openings across Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, and four major projects across these regions.

This growth of course challenges our resources and has resulted in the employment of key executives in Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Offices have been opened in Kuala Lumpur, Beijing and further management hubs in other countries are being planned.

The tight knit team of 15 executive directors, group executives and vice presidents were taken on an off-site strategy development exercise in the rural location of Taranaki, New Zealand, on a 400-hectare dairy farm, which was an interesting experience of an environmental farming operation as well as a learning conference centre on the farm where Swiss-Belhotel International team discussed strategy for the future. Presentations by world famous ex-All Blacks Sir John Kirwan on mental health management and world-renowned Distinguished Professor Sir Richard Faull from the Auckland Medical School on brain management were hugely informative and impressive. The hotel industry is a people management business, and these workshops were very enlightening and provided in people motivation.

Brand development is key to the expansion of Swiss-Belhotel International. With 16 brands – and the newly developed Maua brand based on the New Zealand Maori Heritage of the owners has had an exciting impact in the hotel industry. With our first opening of Maua Nusa Penida, Bali Indonesia this property alone has won over six regional and international awards. This special eco-friendly resort product will be expanded to 10 more exclusive resort locations in the next two years.

2024 will be exciting, building on the platform of 2023 success. Our expansion into Africa with two operations in Nairobi, Kenya and the beginning of a five-star project in Zanzibar, Tanzania is our first move into the African continent. New openings in Kuantan, Malacca, Kula Lumpur in Malaysia; New projects in Japan – again our first foray into the special market of Japan; a new lease operation in Brisbane, Australia; new openings in West Java, Surabaya, Papua and Lombok in Indonesia; new projects in Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown New Zealand and the restarting of four signed projects in Vietnam all point to exciting developments.

The uncertainty of the geopolitical situations globally, the challenge of staff retention and recruitment arising from the Covid era and the pressure on inflation and capital are the on-going challenges we are facing. But as a group with our unique focus of our passion and professionalism and associates career development programme will help us meet these challenges.

China is now opening up and with our key alliance with China Tourism Group (CTG) and the growth of Chinese tourism in Bali, Malaysia, Vietnam and New Zealand we are well placed with our key connections to meet the demands and requirements of this huge tourism source.