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Marion Walsh-Hédouin, VP Communication & Public Relations for Minor Hotel Group

A graduate of the University of West London, Marion Walsh-Hédouin began her career as Public Relations manager at Restaurant Alain Ducasse. After holding the position of director of Communications for InterContinental Grand Stanford, she joined Minor Hotel Group in 2006. She was group director of PR for Anantara and group director of PR and Communications for Minor Hotel Group, prior to her current position as vice president Communications & Public Relations in 2013.

What makes up the portfolio of Minor Hotel Group? How did it evolve recently?

We have a portfolio of 135 hotels, representing more than 17,000 accommodations, distributed throughout 22 countries worldwide. Our network is divided among six distinct brands, that cover the mid-, upscale and luxury segments: Oaks Hotels & Resorts with fifty or so hotels, Avani with 13 hotels, Tivoli with 6 hotels, Anantara with 35 hotels, Per Aquum with 3 hotels and Elawana Collection with 9 hotels. During 2015, we continued to expand our presence with a series of openings and acquisitions under our different brands, particularly at the new international destinations.

What is your strategy in terms of development?

We are trying to develop on markets that correspond to our brands better. For the brand Anantara, for example, whose identity is based on the experience of travel and the destination, we will open a second hotel in Oman. With 115 rooms it will be the property located at the highest altitude in the Middle East. We have a long term vision for our development; our goal is not just to invest in order to sell a few years later. This is precisely what we did in Sri Lanka where we made our first investment in 2007 before the political conflict. We thus maintained our strategy in the country based on the principle that the context would change, and today we are about to open the first Anantara hotel in the destination. A second property is also scheduled for the brand in spring 2016.

In the past you developed partnerships with international hotel groups. Is this still a part of your development strategy?

We adopted a strategy associating ourselves with major international hotel groups as we did with Marriott International for example. But we are no longer doing that: we decided to focus our strategy on developing our own brands, while our brand portfolio covers a fairly wide range of products. Each investment we make in a hotel is with an aim hanging our brands on them, except with the renown of the previous brand is too great. In Africa, for example, we entered a partnership with the group Sun Hotels International, with the acquisition of shares in several of their properties in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Zambia. They will all be converted and operated under our own brands. We adopted the same strategy in Mozambique in association with the Cheik d'Abu Dhabi to take over two properties in the country. We nonetheless doe not exclude the possibility of signing other joint-venture contracts with other global players.

This year you made your foray into Latin America and Europe by taking over the Tivoli portfolio. What are your goals on the two continents?

In 2015, we bought a portfolio of six Tivoli hotels, two of which are located in Brazil and four in Portugal. We also own the brand in Brazil and are currently considering its takeover in Portugal, where it is up for sale. It has allowed us to open doors in Europe and Latin American and to observe what opportunities exist in the two regions, with en eye to taking them over. Initially our development focused on Portugal and Brazil.

On which types of market do you wish to develop?

While we have many resorts in our network, we also hope to open hotels in major international cities. This is what we did int the Middle East and Thailand, where we will open an Avani hotel in Bangkok in 2016. This is a new-build property that will host one of the biggest exhibitions in the capital, allowing us to develop on the MICE segment. Our strategy is to have city properties as places to stay and also leisure hotels.

What management methods to you prefer for growth?

We use all methods of management in our development. 40% of out properties are operated under management contracts, we are committed to several joint ventures and own several of our hotels. When we enter a new destination, we start by associating ourselves with local actors who know the market until we have gained enough experience to develop a hotel alone.

With wellness playing such an important role in the identity of your products, how do you perceive the evolution of the sector?

Wellness is a sector that continues to grow internationally and where demand is growing stronger. This is the case in the Middle East where clients are more inclined to seek adapted offers. At Minor Hotel Group, we increased our strength in this area this year, partly with the launch of the  Balance program at our Per Aquum hotels.

What else is underway?

Several major developments were realized in 2015. We opened the first Avani hotel in Vietnam in February 2015 and we launched the construction of 15 private Anantara properties in Phuket that will be put up for sale starting at six million dollars. We also bought the African group Cheli & Peacock and plan to convert all its hotels into our Elawana Collection. This collection will thus have a network of 14 lodges in Kenya and Tanzania. Finally we will open a fourth hotel under the brand Per Aquum à Zanzibar, in 2016.

Also read:

  • Minor Hotel Group opens a second address in Dubai
  • Minor Hotel Group: Varying pleasures for better investment

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