Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tune Hotels to give tourism a boost

Tune Hotels to give tourism a boost

PETALING JAYA: A gap in the range of tourism facilities will be filled when Tune Hotels.Com sets up a chain of no-frills hotels in the country and, later, at the rest of AirAsia Bhd’s destinations.

While Tune Hotels will develop some of the hotels, it will also franchise its brand and expertise to property owners from whom it has started to receive offers.

“We have about 10 hotels on the table now for us to do deals,” said Tune Hotels major shareholder Datuk Tony Fernandes, who is also a major shareholder of AirAsia.

Datuk Tony Fernandes“Once you’ve got the model right, you could be rolling it out like McDonald’s,” he told StarBiz yesterday.

The group’s first hotel, currently being refurbished, is located in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpur. It is scheduled to open in March next year.

Tune Hotels’ strategy is to locate its hotels in the centre of cities or on tourist belts of resorts, not miles away where land costs may be lower. The offers on Fernandes’ table include properties on well-located sites in cities and resorts.

“You’d be surprised how many property owners want to convert their office buildings into a hotel to get a higher yield,” he said.

The Tune Hotels will have same attributes – good location, no frills like gymnasiums or swimming pools and chic, clean rooms in a safe environment. Hence, tourists will know what to expect even if they are booked in a Tune Hotel in a town they’ve not visited before.

The hotels will also have the same rate structure as AirAsia, that is, starting from RM9.99 for certain off-peak periods. The average room rate will, however, be closer to RM60 a night.

Recalling the inspiration for the concept, Fernandes said he was in Singapore where he was to check into a budget hotel. “That’s our culture,” he said. But, budget hotels were fully booked, “and I ended up in the Ritz Carlton,” he added.

“So I was in this big room and I thought I could do exactly the same thing I did in AirAsia – take away the frills and pass the cost savings to the customer,” he said.

AirAsia has developed into the region’s largest low-cost carrier (LCC). It followed that the LCC Terminal in Sepang is “way, way ahead of (Singapore’s) Changi airport,” he added.

“A low-cost carrier is one part of the equation in the tourism sector. Budget hotels are another,” he added.

With a thriving LCC hub in Sepang, it would be a boon to the industry if passing tourists could be convinced to stay for two or three days. “Singapore has done that very effectively,” he said.

AirAsia is bringing travellers to its hub in Sepang from Bangkok and they are not just Thais but also tourists from Europe. Tune Hotels will also play a role in ensuring that there are ample, affordable rooms that meet their standards.

The next thing that was needed was open skies to Singapore where AirAsia could tap the tremendous connectivity there for international tourists, he added.

News Source : STAR

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