Thai Billionaire Betting on Tourism Rebound Eyes Troubled Hotels

Asset World Corp., the property unit of Thailand’s richest man, plans to acquire distressed hotels, betting on a quick revival in tourism once the Southeast Asian nation reopens to foreign visitors.

More than 100 hotels are available for sale in Thailand currently and “the number is increasing by the day,” according to Stephan Vanden Auweele, chief hospitality group officer of the company, majority-owned by billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi’s TCC Group. It bought a hotel in tourist hotspot Pattaya this month and is on the lookout for more acquisitions, he said.

Tourism-reliant Thailand has gone without its millions of foreign visitors for a year, leaving its hotels and tourism businesses struggling to stay afloat. Some properties have closed down and may not reopen when international travels resume later this year, according to the Thai Hotels Association.

“The gap between buyers and sellers for projects, which are available for sale now, is closing. That means there’s more alignment on pricing today,” Vanden Auweele said in an interview Monday. “If the right products, right hotels come at the right price, we will definitely look at every opportunity.”

Asset World plans to convert the property it acquired in Pattaya into a branded hotel, Vanden Auweele said. The company can also acquire plots of land and properties from the private portfolio of Charoen’s TCC Group, he said.

The Thai tourism industry “will come back very quickly” once the country is fully reopened in October, according to Vanden Auweele. But some of the businesses that were facing problems before the pandemic won’t survive, he said.

“This situation is about cleaning up and maybe eliminating whoever was already not doing well before the crisis,” Vanden Auweele said. “If people weren’t making money then, should they still exist?”

Asset World has more than 50-billion baht worth of projects in its pipeline, and most of its previously announced projects are on track with three hotels scheduled to open this year, Vanden Auweele said. A project to build Thailand’s tallest tower is expected to break ground by the first quarter of 2023.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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