Peter Henley, CEO of Amari, on the changing profile of the Indian travellers and the group's plans for the Asia-Pacific
“The profile of the Indian traveller has changed,” observes Peter Henley. “It has changed from big groups, where you saw one gentleman waving a flag, to FITs (frequent and independent travellers). Now we increasingly see professional couples, with one or two children, who book through the Internet.” A sort of transition from large packed-itinerary groups to smaller and more intimate groups looking for a weekend or slightly longer getaway.
The president and CEO of Amari, which at present operates 11 hotels in Thailand, was in town recently to speak about the group's expansion plans for the Asia-Pacific region, India included in a major way.
Peter Henley is a hospitality industry veteran. His role in it has kept changing, though. Prior to Amari, Henley was with Morgan Stanley Properties U.K., where he was overseeing operations in Europe, the Asia-Pacific and America. Previous notable stints include those with Raffles Holdings and Holiday Inn Worldwide. Everything totalling up to an industry experience of over two decades.
While management is something Henley has been doing for a while, it was Law that he started his career with, having gotten his Law degree from University College, London, and following it up with an MBA. Stints in the legal field include working with Bowater Industries and Greensted & Winch, to name a few. How did he end up running hotels instead of waging courtroom battles?
“It was an accident more than anything else. I joined Holiday Inn as their in-house lawyer. Later, a whole bunch of management people left, and I moved from law to management,” recalls Henley.
“Nowadays people just want a hotel they can relax in and settle down during their stay, probably enjoy the spa,” says Henley.
Recession years have taken a toll on most businesses, the travel industry particularly. Recent years have been the years of the budget traveller. Has the economic downturn, in any way, affected expansion plans?
“The growth graph normally goes up for seven years, comes down for seven and goes up for seven years again. This time (during recession) it has been longer, the period being nine years. But we've done pretty well compared to our competitors. In fact, in 2009 occupancy has increased, though rates have been a concern,” says Henley. “Now we can take a much larger view of the industry. In 2009 we had a whole new bunch of people joining. In 2010, the focus will be on systems and processes. And in 2011 we'll be ready when the industry is poised for substantial growth.”
By 2018, Amari plans to add 40 more properties, covering India, the Middle East, China, Vietnam and Indonesia, to name a few. The company's plans for India are expected to be announced by April, with Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and Goa likely to figure prominently.
Rates are likely to be fixed in the upper mid-level segment.