Banyan Tree expands its options

At a time when COVID has limited several brands’ growth opportunities, Singapore-based Banyan Tree Group has chosen to respond to the crisis by launching new brands and exploring potential for conversion opportunities in resort destinations and emerging second-tier locations. Aiming to double its global footprint by 2025 to 100 properties across the world, the brand will introduce Garrya, HOMM and Folio and extend its two existing brands — Veya and Escape.

“COVID has given the travel industry an opportunity to reinvent ourselves for the better. This means offering diverse experiences for evolving traveler needs and also adopting a customer-centric, agile approach,” Renyung Ho, senior vice president, Brand HQ of Banyan Tree Group, told HOTELS in January.

Garrya Xi’an Lintong in China

The expanded, multi-brand system will not only help strengthen their stronghold in the lifestyle sector in Asia, it will also diversify their offerings to the new-age traveler. Four Garrya and two HOMM properties have been signed in Asia and there are more in the pipeline.

“Different requirements and guidelines have been set for different brands,” Ho added. “Besides management deals, the midscale brands are available for franchise. For the all-new concepts such as the Banyan Tree Escape and Banyan Tree Veya, we essentially dive-deep into conceptualization and start with our own development.”

The global footprint across all brands, for which Accor has a 5% stake, continues to grow, with 45 new hotels and resorts under design and construction in the pipeline, along with 54 operating hotels in 15 countries as of December 2021. Management agreements for all brands have been signed around the world, including in Benin, Mexico, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Thailand, China and Vietnam.

Emerging markets

The group takes pride in anchoring emerging destinations and shaping their growth and sustainable development. “Historically we have leveraged strong brand appeal to draw travelers to these destinations and we continue to build on this same strategy in the realm of leisure travel,” Ho said. “Additionally, even though COVID has dampened travel volume, we are confident the demand for leisure and lifestyle travel endures and as such, the demand trajectory for secondary or emerging locations.”

The group, which has a firm foothold in Asia, is noticing a lot of traction in Thailand, Asia and Japan. “We are doubling down on markets near our existing operating footprint. We will obviously continue expanding as well throughout Asia, which is our stronghold,” Ho said.

Banyan Tree is planning around 20 openings in the next 12 to 18 months in seven countries, of which a third will be under the Banyan Tree brand and its extensions Veya and Escape, another third under its existing brand Angsana and a third of the newer brands. “Of these openings, three will be in frontier countries where we have not yet opened,” she added. “We now operate across 23 countries and are proudly global while strongly rooted in Asia. Last year, we planted new flags in the Middle East, Europe and Africa. We are growing selectively and strategically.”

The cost of developing the new projects is always balanced with the potential revenue to ensure each investment has a significant return. “The development costs depend on the locations and destinations, the number of keys, the infrastructure and resources available, etc,” Ho said.

Conversion opportunities

Since its inception in 1994, Banyan Tree has emphasized on sustainability and seeks to create long-term value for all its stakeholders and destinations. Although the pandemic brought its own share of challenges for the hotel industry, it has increased conversion opportunities in resort destinations.

“Conversion opportunities were strongly considered during development process, as this is the most sustainable method for expanding Banyan Tree Group’s portfolio, and in this time also presents the most opportunities. Our HOMM brand, for example, is comprised entirely of conversion opportunities, with HOMM Bliss Southbeach Patong as our first location in Phuket, Thailand which opened in December 2021,” Ho explained.

Some of their upcoming locations, however, will be new builds, with consideration of the local environment the number one priority during construction. For example, the Escape brand will be “built into’ the existing community — built around trees and water systems — to avoid disrupting the ecosystem as little as possible.

Focus on sustainability

Since the brand was founded in 1994, it is known for adopting sustainable methods and has also received recognition for its commitment to environmental protection and community development through its Banyan Tree Global Foundation. The brand’s founding ethos of “embracing environment, empowering people” will be woven into tis ecosystem of brands through the proprietary “Stay for Good” program.

“All properties contribute to our Global Foundation, which aligns to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We have signature initiatives every property pledges to undertake, spanning climate action, resource use, biodiversity, cultural heritage, health and wellbeing,” Ho said.

HOMM Bliss Southbeach Patong Phuket, Thailand

To ensure resources are being conserved, waste, water and energy best practices are audited by Earth Check. While single use plastic is used, the group ensures local resources are used in their properties. For instance, the upcoming Escape resort will be constructed using upcycled pier Ulin wood, aka ironwood, which grows in the Kalimantan region of Indonesia and was previously used in boat piers and fishing boat decks.

“The hardwood’s innate resistance to insects and wood borers made it a choice material for bridges, docks and maritime structures, therefore a perfect natural element for our resort,” Ho said.

Stay for Good initiative

The “Stay for Good” program is how Banyan Tree envisions “good growth” to look like. Currently implemented at 54 properties, the program is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to engage guests, associates and communities in support of people, planet, peace, prosperity and partnership.

“We are not a large company in hospitality by any means and our aspiration is to be an exemplar in our industry. We definitely see competitors and collaborators alike in the industry embracing the same mindset, which is only a good thing. The more brands and leaders who feel and see the urgency to act, the better for this and the next generations,” Ho said.

Among its many achievements as part of the initiative, the group has removed 50.5 tonnes of waste in 2020 amid the pandemic and launched a Post COVID Wellbeing Drive, under which 16 new Wellbeing Sanctuaries have been launched across the group in 2021.

Multi-brand strategy

Eventually, what will set apart these new brands is execution and brand trust. As a founder-driven company known for their origins in regeneration and wellbeing, Banyan Tree stands out, Ho added.

“We are fiercely independent and while many companies have grown through acquiring brands, we have built these from within with our commitment to meeting customer needs and creating exceptional experiences,” she said. “Our ability to execute against our multi-brand strategy with our unique service culture and attention to design and detail will be the differentiation.”