The year 2020 was one of the most challenging years in our history as a company. But as I reflect on 12 months of unprecedented change across all sectors, I am heartened to see how our global teams united to protect the welfare of all our stakeholders, maintain the sustainability of our operations, and effectively reshape our strategy to position our company for maximum value creation in the new normal.
Focused on three key areas – Resilience, Recovery, and Reshaping – our strategic response to the pandemic’s impact on our business included taking a deep dive into our customer journeys, product offerings, and daily operations and processes, and updating, reimagining and retooling where necessary for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. Ultimately, our mission was to balance the safety needs of employees, guests and customers with modified strategic direction for long-term success.
While saving costs was central to building financial resilience in 2020, to further mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our business – particularly the 2Q20 temporary closure of Dusit Hotels and Resorts worldwide following country-specific government directives – we placed the creation of new short- and long-term revenue streams at the heart of our recovery.
Our immediate response included pivoting our hotel operations to generate ancillary revenue via food delivery and other services. We also introduced new guest experiences and attractive travel packages that would stimulate demand and drive occupancy and higher RevPAR at our properties when they began reopening from 3Q20 onwards.
Our considerate approach to recovery was suitably demonstrated at Dusit Thani Maldives, which leveraged the opening of international borders to achieve its highest revenue on record. Further positive results were demonstrated in the UAE, which also reopened to international travellers in 3Q20, and China, which saw a robust rebound in the domestic market.
While Guam remained closed to international tourism, we maintained steady revenue in the destination by working with the local government to provide officially sanctioned quarantine accommodation for all incoming passengers.
In other destinations, we marketed exclusively to domestic travellers, and our strategy to offer convenience, experience and value, rather than discounting, succeeded in driving occupancy with maximum revenue generation.
While hotel business was significantly impacted overall in 2020, quarterly results did indicate positive recovery – with total revenue of THB 1,031 million in 4Q20, compared to THB 424 million in 2Q20 and THB 643 million in 3Q20.
We also saw positive trends in food business during this time. In Q3 2020, following our ongoing strategy for concentric diversification, our wholly-owned subsidiary Epicure Catering, Thailand’s premier caterer to the educational sector, completed the acquisition of The Caterers, Vietnam’s leading caterer for international schools, to bring a further steady flow of revenue to our company. The expansion of fast-casual restaurant chain KAUAI (which opened a further three grab-and-go outlets in Bangkok), also bolstered our food business.
Our hospitality education business, meanwhile, also demonstrated good recovery from 3Q20 onwards. This was enhanced by the re-opening of Dusit Thani College and Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Culinary School, as well as the strategic restructuring of education business in the Philippines.
Despite the challenging business climate, throughout 2020 we also continued our sustainable global expansion by opening seven new properties – dusitD2 Salwa Doha (March), Dusit Beach Resort Guam (June), Dusit Thani Wellness Resort Suzhou (July), ASAI Bangkok Chinatown (September), Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore (December) – our first in the Lion City, and 2 White Label hotels – bringing an additional 1,861 hotel rooms into our portfolio. We also signed to manage two upcoming hotel projects in India and Japan, and three in China.
Our wholly-owned subsidiary, Elite Havens, Asia’s market leader in luxury villa rentals, also expanded its presence by signing to manage selected properties in India.
At year-end, our property portfolio comprised 339 properties (43 hotels and 296 villas, representing 11,394 keys in total) operating under six brands across 15 countries. With more than 40 projects in the pipeline, at least five hotels and resorts are slated to open in 2021 across China, Greece, Oman, and Thailand.
Also in 2021, we will revisit investment plans which were paused in 2020 to preserve financial liquidity. These include, amongst others, a joint venture to develop and manage hospitality properties in the Philippines with major Filipino infrastructure holding company Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), and the expansion of Elite Havens into Australia.
As the speed of recovery for travel and tourism is tied both to the distribution of vaccines globally and the subsequent opening of borders to international tourists, it is clear that 2021 will be another challenging year for the hospitality sector. While regional markets may return by 3Q21, international travel is not expected to start picking up until 4Q21.
With this in mind, we will continue to innovate our way ahead, and renew our products and services to meet guests and customers’ shifting demands and stimulate all available markets. We will also continue to reshape and transform our organisation to limit redundancy, enhance efficiency, further reduce costs group-wide, and apply the lessons we learned in 2020 to emerge stronger.
Alongside our strategy for balance, expansion and diversification, chief among our efforts will be reimagining our services to include four new pillars of Dusit Graciousness – Personalised Service, Well-Being, Locality, and Sustainability. We will also work closely with tourism agencies to develop procedures and stay models designed to expedite the opening of borders to inoculated travellers in each of our destinations.
As ever, in all of our endeavours, the health and safety of our guests, customers, employees and communities will always come first. And we will do everything we can to maintain guest and customer confidence, and ensure we are ready for maximum revenue generation when the regional and international markets return.
On behalf of everyone at Dusit International, I would like to thank our employees, shareholders, guests, customers, valued members of our communities, and all other stakeholders, for your continued support. Your trust and confidence in the resilience of our company is greatly appreciated by us all.