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Banyan Tree: the tree reaches out its branches

In one decade, the Asian brand succeeded in imposing a unique style, using its prestigious spa brands as powerful independent marketing tools. This strategy made an important contribution to the growth of its reach. 2007 is a turning point for Banyan Tree Group in which it declines and adapt its concept under all new latitudes.

The Banyan Tree is a tropical tree known for its grace and strength. Moreover, in Asian culture it is synonymous with the sanctuary. Under its leaves is traditionally a place for recharging one’s batteries. The emblem was thus obvious for this upscale chain that positioned itself directly as an important luxury brand. At its origins are a young journalist named Ho Kwon Ping and his wife Claire Chiang. Adventurers avid for new experiences, the two set up house in the mid 70s on a fishing island off Hong Kong. The name of their village: Yung Shue Wan, which means Banyan Tree Bay! Nearly twenty years later, in exactly 1994, they opened the first Asian-branded resort & spa in Phuket, Thailand. Today the property is still the flagship of the brand, which now boasts ten hotels between Asia and the Middle East.Finally, the chain recently innovated once again with the launch of its concept of Private Collection. The idea involves no less than giving luxury time-share an allnew dimension. Through an entry fee of 120,000 dollars (and an annual contribution of 3,000 dollars), membership to this new Private Collection offers the lifeteime right to stay 7 to 10 nights a year at one of the chain’s properties. To this may be added complementary advantages, ranging from access to sports facilities at the hotels and special rates at the brand’s spas and restaurants. The formula tested successfully in Hong Kong’s and Japan’s markets. So well so that it is opening up to French and European investors. “In just one week I was contacted by dozens of investors seduced by the formula,” confirms André Labouri, the group’s representative in France. It must be added that there is one very important little detail in the contract: membership may be transferred, sold or willed to a third party at any time. At the moment five hotels are concerned by the formula (Phuket, Bintan in Indonesia, in the Maldives, Seychelles and in the Chinese Yunnan). To these may be added villas bought by the group in Southern Europe (one in Provence and two in Tuscany) as well as luxury apartments in London... while waiting for Paris, Barcelona and New York. “The club is open to individuals for their private holidays, but we shall also open to corporations that wish to use memberships to reward their best employees or clients,” explains André Labouri. This should boost marketing visibility for the brand among upscale leisure and business clientele.Each resort tries to be fit with its environment. The villas are built using wood and other local materials, out of both a concern for authenticity and reflection of local cultures, and a will to preserve the natural landscape. The sites are organized in such a way as to infringe as little as possible upon the tropical forest. There is a desire for osmosis with the vegetation. In short, an effort is made to create rooms that appear to be a cozy prolongation of the jungle and not just a simple additional element.But one of the strong, innovative axes used by Banyan Tree to impose its identity is above all its “Banyan Tree Spas” concept: havens of wellbeing set up in the heart of veritable tropical gardens. It is a brand in and of its own that is independent of the hotels themselves. Thus, Banyan Tree spas may be found within the hotels of other brands (25 in all, 6 in the group’s resorts and 19 independent structures). Better still: a partnership was signed not long ago with the cruise operator “The World” to equip part of its fleet. Pushing the refinement to a further extreme, the Banyan Tree Spa Academy was born in 2001 in order to push the underlying concept of the two brands in the area further. The Academy specially trains therapists to use the well-being techniques (massages and products that encourage human contact over technology...) that are specific to the brand. This is also where new procedures are constantly developed.Also with a name inspired by a tropical tree, Angsana resort & spa opened in 2000 as the twin brand of the Banyan Tree to specifically address business travelers and families with young children. Positioned on the “lifestyle” segment, Angsana cultivates a holistic spirit and environmental concern down to the last detail. In 2003, a new cousin was born, Colours of Angsana, which focuses on smaller boutique hotels in the most exotic destinations. Like Banyan Tree, Angsana has its own spa brand that places the emphasis on techniques using aromatherapy.All these brands are grouped under the banner of the Banyan Tree Group, which manages and/or owns a total of 21 resorts and hotels and 58 spas to which may be added annexed activities: 68 shopping malls and two golf courses. Each resort has between 50 and 100 rooms. In all, the group accumulated more than 300 awards for its properties and spas. The result of such service: the rate policy of the different brands is systematically aligned with the highest market prices in the area where they are located.Driven by a strong concept that has proved itself, the Asian group is not short on ambition in terms of development. Twenty or so openings are scheduled in the three years to come. It deployed or will deploy properties this year in Bahrain, the Arab Emirates and in Hainan in China through the Banyan Tree brand, and in the Maldives and Dubai via Angsana Resorts. 2008 will be the year for expansion to Mexico, Barbados, Marrakech, Bali, Pylos in Greece, Cromwell in England and Sri Lanka with one brand or the other. Other key destinations such as Chiang Mai in Thailand or Abu Dhabi are in the pipeline for 2009... More than any other, the Gulf region is at the center of Banyan Tree’s attention and the brand seems decided to leave its native jungle to succumb to the call of the desert. After the recent opening of the luxury property in Bahrain, its first noteworthy incursion into the Middle East, three other hotels under the Banyan Tree brand and six Angsana resorts will open in the zone within two years. For the group this also represents an opportunity to develop a new architectural signature combining together the opulence of Arabian palaces and contemporary Asian design.In keeping with the times, the group also cultivates one of the most developed Corporate social responsibility angles. The group’s social responsibility is developed around the Green Imperative Fund (GIF). Present in all the properties of the group’s two brands, the idea involves collecting two dollars for each night sold (the client may refuse). This money is used directly to finance environmental and social projects in countries where Banyan Tree is located. These range from a fund to help preserve elephants in Bangkok to the preservation of marine ecosystems in the Maldives. The group also invested a great deal in helping rebuild areas hit full force by the tsunami, and educa ting the most destitute local populations.Finally, the chain recently innovated once again with the launch of its concept of Private Collection. The idea involves no less than giving luxury time-share an allnew dimension. Through an entry fee of 120,000 dollars (and an annual contribution of 3,000 dollars), membership to this new Private Collection offers the lifeteime right to stay 7 to 10 nights a year at one of the chain’s properties. To this may be added complementary advantages, ranging from access to sports facilities at the hotels and special rates at the brand’s spas and restaurants. The formula tested successfully in Hong Kong’s and Japan’s markets. So well so that it is opening up to French and European investors. “In just one week I was contacted by dozens of investors seduced by the formula,” confirms André Labouri, the group’s representative in France. It must be added that there is one very important little detail in the contract: membership may be transferred, sold or willed to a third party at any time. At the moment five hotels are concerned by the formula (Phuket, Bintan in Indonesia, in the Maldives, Seychelles and in the Chinese Yunnan). To these may be added villas bought by the group in Southern Europe (one in Provence and two in Tuscany) as well as luxury apartments in London... while waiting for Paris, Barcelona and New York. “The club is open to individuals for their private holidays, but we shall also open to corporations that wish to use memberships to reward their best employees or clients,” explains André Labouri. This should boost marketing visibility for the brand among upscale leisure and business clientele.

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