Wednesday 22 November 2017

Singapore room rates top in Asia as island state booms

Hotel chains are flocking to Singapore
Hotel chains are flocking to Singapore

Pooja Thakur

Mamoru Kohda, who scouts the globe for properties for Japan's Daisho, began looking for a hotel in Singapore in early 2013. Within a year, the property investor and developer had acquired the newly opened Westin in the island-state's financial district for a record price.

"Singapore's hospitality market will continuously grow, supported by tourists and corporate travellers," said Kohda, a director at Daisho Development Singapore in Brisbane, Australia. He travels the world seeking assets for the company, which has more than $1.5bnin property holdings.

Singapore is attracting hotel chains such as Accor and the InterContinental Hotels Group, which are both adding new properties in the island-state, where the average daily hotel room rate is the highest in Asia. Accor will open its Sofitel brand in the business district next month and its first Ibis Styles brand in Singapore in 2016, while InterContinental opened its Holiday Inn Express in the city's nightlife hub of Clarke Quay in March.

Investors are gravitating to Singapore because of a record number of leisure and corporate visitors and a scarcity of properties to buy. Tourist arrivals in Southeast Asia's biggest financial centre are forecast to hit a record and daily room rates exceed those in Tokyo and Hong Kong, cities with among the highest hotel rates in the region.

Eleven hotels valued at S$2.45bn($1.95bn) were sold in Singapore last year, four times the total in 2012, according to deals tracked by property broker Savills.

"We are seeing some pretty aggressive bidding just to get into Singapore," said Robert McIntosh, executive director at broker CBRE's Asia-Pacific hotel business in the island-state. "Some of the landmark iconic properties, which are extremely well sought after, aren't driven just by income, but by long-term capital gains."

Visitor arrivals in the city off the tip of Malaysia are forecast to grow as much as 8pc to a record 16.8 million this year from 2013, while revenue may climb by as much as 5pc to S$24.6bn, the Singapore Tourism Board forecasts.

Singapore accounted for 16pc of a record 143 deals valued at $13.4 billion in the Asia-Pacific region last year, according to CBRE. That's an increase in hotel sales from a 6.8pc share of deals in Asia in 2012, CBRE data showed.

The island-state attracted a record 15.5 million visitors and business travellers in 2013, according to the tourism board, with events such as Formula One's night races with concerts featuring singers such as Rihanna and Justin Bieber, and attractions including a S$1bn downtown park with a flower dome of plants from around the world that opened in 2012.

Singapore retained its position as the world's leading place to hold conferences in the latest global rankings by the Brussels-based Union of International Associations. Events included SkyBridge Capital's inaugural Asian hedge fund conference in 2012, modelled on the company's popular SkyBridge Alternatives Conference in Las Vegas.

The Marina Bay Sands, a four-year-old resort, retail and restaurant complex, dominates the city's skyline, and houses a casino built by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp at a cost of $6bn. Resorts World Sentosa, built by Genting Singapore Plc for S$7bn in 2010, houses Southeast Asia's only Universal Studios theme park.

"Singapore is a very strong market and one of our top markets in Asia," said Michael Issenberg, Accor's chairman for the Asia-Pacific region. "Demand is high as Singapore does a great job with the conferences, leisure and corporate sector and a lot of airline business, it's got a good mix."

The average daily hotel room rate in Singapore was $206 in 2013, near the record $209 set in 2012, according to Cushman & Wakefield. That compares with $166 in Tokyo and $185 in Hong Kong, according to the broker.

Tokyo-based Daisho in December bought the 305-room Westin within the Marina Bay business area from a fund owned by BlackRock Inc for about S$468 million, or a record S$1.5m per room, according to CBRE.

"Since the hotel is brand new, we considered some price premium," Kohda said. "The area is developing very quickly and has a very strong pool of office tenants so we thought that the hotel has more potential to grow."

Daisho has developed overseas projects including the 510- room hotel managed by Hilton Group Inc in Kuala Lumpur and the Park Hyatt Sydney hotel that it refurbished in 2012, according to the company.

There were no hotel transactions reported in the quarter ended in March because of the gap between buyers and sellers' expectations on price, according to CBRE.

The broker tracked 13 hotel transactions in Singapore last year, five of which sold for more than S$1m per room, the most number of deals struck above that price, data from the property broker showed.

Revenue per available room or revpar an industry measure of occupancy and rate in Singapore may increase by 3pc annually through 2016 for hotels across all lodging categories, Standard Chartered Plc said in a note to clients on March 10.

Growth will be driven by arrivals and tourist spending increases of as much as 10pc per annum as global economic conditions and corporate spending improves, according to the report.

Singapore's revpar declined 1.4pc last year amid an increase in supply, said Akshay Kulkarni, regional director of hospitality for South and Southeast Asia at Cushman in Singapore. The revpar rose 0.9pc to S$214.10 in January, according to the latest data from the Singapore Tourism Board.

Among properties bought by foreign investors was the 308-room Grand Park Orchard and its shopping mall along Orchard Road, Singapore's prime shopping belt. It was acquired for S$1.5m per room by Chinese steel tycoon Du Shuanghua through his Singapore-based company Bright Ruby Resources, Knight Frank said.

"Interest is still very strong for Singapore assets," said Julien Naouri, associate director of hotels for Asia Pacific at Savills.

"It's a very transparent market and more and more investors from China are wanting to put some money here and hospitality is one of the asset classes they are familiar with."

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