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Onyx is using its cutting edge to carve out a bigger chunk of the hotel scene

Peter Henley

Peter Henley, President & CEO of Onyx Hospitality Group, talks to Sydney & Sharon Paulden in Bangkok

Onyx is a name that will become more and more familiar as its 10-year plan unfolds. Dating from  2008, when the group had 18 properties, the aim was for Onyx to own and/or manage a total of 51 hotels in 9 destinations in Asia.
'However', says Peter Henley, apparently with some surprise, 'we have reached the figure of 34 already!'

So, either Peter can look forward to some easy years, or the targets have be adjusted upwards.
Peter is President and CEO of Onyx Hospitality Group, a family-owned company in Thailand. Its HQ is in the Amari Watergate Hotel in what can currently be regarded as its flagship property.

Peter admits that the group is now aiming higher than the original plan, even including its target to triple group profits. 'When I joined Onyx in 2008', he says, 'I followed a man who had been CEO for over 30 years. He handed me an enterprise without debts, with a good reputation globally and with money in the bank. My immediate brief from the board was to expand.

'We cheated a little', he says with a smile,'because we identified serviced apartments as a growing sector and we were fortunate enough to be able to buy the brand Shama, which immediately increased our numbers.'

Onyx has now created the hotel brand Ozo and is on its way to introducing a totally new brand called Saffron.

Remarkably, Peter describes Amari as 4.5 star, Ozo as 3.5 and 'Saffron', he says, 'will be 5-star and more'.

The idea of the extra half a star seems to derive from Peter's desire to provide that much more than the guests might expect. In talking about the Ozo brand, for example, he says: 'Guests get a 5-star sleep in a 4-star room at 3-star prices'. 'Amari' he suggests,'is a functional 5-star hotel without unnecessary frills'.

The first Amari to be located outside SE Asia is opening at the end of 2012 in Doha. Onyx will see new properties arising at the rate of about six per year in Asia and West Australia. It is easy to see how Onyx is likely to increase its profitability. The Amari Watergate is built on land that was originally the family home. And the Thai family's construction company built it.

ITCM, in Bangkok for TTG Asia's IT&CMA exhibition, was given a showround of this Bangkok hotel by David Barrett. He joined the group in August 2012 as Executive Director, Events. He is well known in the MICE sector, as he was for many years a kingpin in the influential Asian Group Diethelm Events.

Amari Watergate
His enthusiasm on the other side of the fence appears boundless. Amari Watergate is one of the top five conference hotels in Bangkok and has just spent about US$10m on a major refurbishment.

It has 568 rooms, with over 100 on Executive floors served by their own Lounge and breakfast room. The Watergate Ballroom can cater for a reception for 1,200 guests and there is a range of different meeting spaces that can create as many as 26 different configurations. The hotel has a separate lower ground floor entrance and lobby dedicated to the welcome of larger groups.

Although located in the heart of Bangkok, David points out that there are 26 golf courses within an hour's drive - especially with the assistance of police escorts to help speed a group through the traffic.

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