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Frasers Hospitality to grow footprint in Europe with Malmaison, Capri brands

The focus will be to grow Malmaison to a portfolio that gives economies of scale, says Mr Bakker.


FRASERS Hospitality is aiming to scale up its presence in Europe over the next three to five years by leveraging its Malmaison and Capri by Fraser brands.

The hospitality arm of Frasers Property Group is planning to ramp up the number of hotels under the Malmaison and Hotel du Vin brands to 50 properties in the United Kingdom and Ireland over the next three years, Guus Bakker, chief executive officer (Europe, Middle East & Africa) for Frasers Hospitality, told The Business Times.

Growth will come from Malmaison - which aims to serve up a unique and stylish experience to guests - starting with the Malmaison York in Edinburgh in 2020; Ireland has also been earmarked as a market well-suited to Malmaison.

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The elegant Hotel du Vin brand typically features smaller, distinctive properties, with a heavy focus on food and beverage. Finding the right property in the right location, as well as suitable staff amid the reduced number of prospective employees coming from other parts of Europe can be a challenge, he added.

Frasers Hospitality acquired the two brands, Malmaison and Hotel du Vin, in June 2015 through the purchase of the Malmaison Hotel du Vin (MHDV) group for 363.4 million pounds (S$626.7 million).

That purchase delivered 29 hotels across the two upscale boutique brands, allowing Frasers Hospitality to strengthen its foothold in Europe by effectively doubling its presence at the time to over 4,000 keys. Since then, Frasers Hospitality has grown the footprint of the two brands to 39 hotels (including five in the pipeline). Of the 39 properties, 20 are under the Malmaison banner and 19 under Hotel du Vin.

Frasers Hospitality's portfolio includes its serviced residences Fraser Suites, Fraser Place and Fraser Residence, as well as the contemporary serviced residences Modena by Fraser, and Capri by Fraser which caters to tech-savvy travellers.

"The focus will be to grow Malmaison to a portfolio that gives economies of scale," Mr Bakker said, highlighting that this will reap synergies as well as operational efficiencies. "We continue to look for new opportunities."

While there are no firm plans to bring the Malmaison brand of hotels to Asia at present, he reckons that this will be a viable market for Malmaison in time to come.

Even as uncertainties around Brexit loom, the UK has remained quite resilient, underpinned by domestic demand as well as the weaker pound which attracts tourists, he added.

Occupancies across Frasers Hospitality's 45 properties in the UK average about 85 per cent.

"London has kept up in all segments," Mr Bakker said. "The leisure market has increased."

While some companies are looking to scale back their business activities in London citing the ongoing geopolitical issues, Mr Bakker remains confident that corporate travellers will keep coming to one of the world's key financial hubs.

Meanwhile, the Capri and Fraser Suites brands will expand in the Middle East and Europe, with key gateway cities - such as Madrid, Zurich and Munich - seen as potential locations for the premium Fraser Suites.

Mr Bakker said the the group could take the Capri brand, "to major and secondary cities" in Western Europe.

"We would hope to to add another 10 (under Capri) in those countries where we already have a presence over the next three to five years."

In particular, the group is eyeing Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg as well as mulling over other cities in Germany, such as Munich, Cologne and Dusseldorf.

It presently has 10 Capri properties and seven more in the pipeline across these markets.

Most recently, the group launched the 154-room Fraser Suites Hamburg in May - its third property in Germany - while its fourth, Capri by Fraser, will open its doors in Leipzig in 2020. Frasers Hospitality presently has 57 properties in Europe and the UK, with eight more in the pipeline.

Amid increased competition in the hospitality sector - such as from the likes of Airbnb - Frasers Hospitality has been using some of its Capri properties to test-bed new technologies and serve up local experiences.

For instance, Capri by Fraser, China Square, in Singapore is beta testing an app that features round-the-clock concierge services via a chatbot, which will eventually be rolled out at other properties.

Other features in that property include smart control technology in the rooms, which can detect guest occupancy and use energy more effectively.