Asia Pacific News Thailand Updates

One to Watch: Flight Centre’s BHMA hotel group

Rapid Asia expansion plans for boutique hotel group following Flight Centre Travel Group acquisition. 

Amid increasing consolidation across the hotel industry, a boutique operator can have particular appeal among event and meeting planners – especially since more and more delegates are demanding unique experiences and out-of-box venues. Enter Bespoke Hospitality Management Asia (BHMA) – a Thailand-based hotel management company, which currently manages 20 properties across the Kingdom, Australia and Vietnam.

The company’s brand portfolio includes X2 (Cross To), accessible five-star hotels and resorts; X2 Vibe, mid-scale lifestyle hotels and resorts targeting millennials; and Away Resorts and Villas, an ‘aspirational’ brand with a selection of luxury resorts and retreats.

BHMA was acquired by travel behemoth, Flight Centre Travel Group, in 2017 and is poised for significant expansion across Asia, with a further 20 hotels set to open in the next two years.

Following the opening of regional offices in Bangkok and Jakarta earlier this year, a series of executive appointments have also been made – including Peter Lucas as CEO, Harry Thaliwal as executive vice president of operations, and most recently, Paul Wilson as executive vice president of commercial, who will oversee sales, revenue, distribution and e-commerce for BHMA.

Paul Wilson oversees sales, revenue, distribution and e-commerce for ‘sexy and edgy’ BHMA brands

No stranger to the meetings and events industry, Wilson joins the group from Thailand’s largest hotel brand, Centara Hotels & Resorts, where he was in charge of 16 global offices, and the company’s revenue and distribution structure. Prior to this, he led national conference and incentive business for Australia-based hotel company, Mantra Group (which was recently acquired by AccorHotels).

We sat down with Wilson to find out more about BHMA, and why event planners should keep an eye on this fast-moving hotel group.

What opportunities and challenges do you see for BHMA in Asia.
We’re something new, we’re something niche – we’re sexy and edgy – something very different for Thailand, so I see a lot of opportunities here. People want new hotels, especially in tier-two and tier-three cities where we actually have density, so I don’t really see many challenges, there’s just pure upside, and we’ve received very positive feedback.

We’re looking to scale-up. We’re looking to build-up our revenue, performance and digital teams. We’re also looking at gateway cities – we’ve just signed two properties in Vietnam – and have our sights set for Singapore, Hong Kong and the Maldives.

Our vision is “make it happen”. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re fast and we’re nimble. That’s what sets us apart.

How do you plan to market BHMA brands to the MICE sector?
High-end incentives are a big focus for us. Incentives are all about gathering people together to drive communication and team work – we have a lot of aspirational product, such the X2 River Kwai Resort (main image), which houses 22 cabins and villas along the Kwai Noi River. We’re already seeing corporate incentive groups come through to get away, team-build and reflect.

This company can add value [to events] because we have something different to offer – we range from exclusive resorts with six villas, to 200-room hotels. The sky’s the limit.

X2 Chiang Mai Riverside Resort

BHMA has some very aggressive expansion plans across Asia. What are the advantages of being a ‘boutique’ player in Asia’s increasingly competitive hotel market?
There’s a lot of big players in the market, lots of cookie-cutter product. We’re very definitive. When we talk to new owners they love the X2 brand because it’s something different – largely based on experiences. Being a boutique player in Asia is a massive advantage because buyers are becoming more sophisticated. They want more out of their stay and that’s what the X2 brand does, thanks to its focus on design, food and beverage, and immersive experiences.

What does the BHMA acquisition mean for The Flight Centre Travel Group?
Flight Centre owns a number of DMC companies and subsidiaries, but has never really entered into the pure hotel space, so what this really means for the company is growth. Flight Centre powers Asia – we’re one of the top bookers for many hotels in Asia – so this move is all about expansion, building economies of density, and bringing something new.

BHMA is vertically integrated into Flight Centre, which gives us scale. We have 20 hotels in operation now, and we’re moving fast.

BHMA’s current operating portfolio includes:

X2 Kui Buri Resort
X2 Koh Samui Resort – All Spa Inclusive
X2 River Kwai Resort
X2 Khao Lak Anda Mani Resort
X2 Chiang Mai Riverside Resort
X2 Chiang Mai North Gate Villa
X2 Chiang Mai South Gate Villa
X2 Chiang Mai Nimman Villa
X2 Hua Hin LeBayburi Pranburi Villa
X2 Sydney Apartment

X2 Vibe Bangkok Sukhumvit Hotel
X2 Vibe Buriram Hotel
X2 Vibe Chiang Mai Decem Hotel
X2 Vibe Pattaya Seaphere Residence
X2 Vibe Viet Tri Hotel (NEW)
X2 Vibe Phuket Patong (NEW)

Away Chiang Mai Thapae Resort
Away Kanchanaburi Dheva Mantra Resort (NEW)
Away Koh Kood Resort
Away Chiang Mai Phucome Villa