Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi, established in 2013. Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi, established in 2013.

After 66 years of operating more than half of its portfolio in Thailand, Dusit International is aggressively expanding into Africa, China and the Middle East. Hotelier speaks to COO David Shackleton and SVP MEA, Thierry Douin, to find out what has taken the Thai operator so long

Dusit International was established back in 1948 by honorary chairperson Thanpuying Chanut Piyaoui with the opening of her first hotel, the ‘Princess’, in Bangkok; but it took another 53 years for the Thai company to reach the Middle East.

That said, the small operator did pip many of the bigger chains to the post when it entered Dubai in 2001 with the now slightly weather-worn Dusit Thani Dubai. This was followed in 2007 with Pearl Coast Premier Hotel Apartments, Dubai, and the franchised Dusit Residence Serviced Apartments at Dubai Marina.

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Just last year, Dusit expanded its UAE presence with Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi, which chief operating officer David Shackleton says “has been trading well”.

Having plodded along for 12 years in this fast-moving region with a handful of properties, while more and more international chains have sprung up left, right and centre, the company last year suddenly woke up to a realisation: that it needed to grow in the Middle East.

And so in March 2013, Thierry Douin was appointed as senior vice president for the MEA region. The French national oversees operations from the Dubai office, while two of his colleagues look after development.

With five operating hotels in the region already, comprising the four UAE properties and Dusit Thani LakeView Cairo, things are starting to gather pace with a sixth hotel on track for a quarter two 2015 opening in Qatar – the 192-key Dusit Residence Doha.

Additionally, new brand to the region DusitD2 is being negotiated for two sites in Doha, Shackleton confirms.
“We are currently negotiating a DusitD2 property near the new airport and one in West Bay. Not everyone gets over the finish line but we have established relationships with the owners and have sites in mind,” he says.

DusitD2, a brand that launched in 2006 with the opening of DusitD2 Chiang Mai, Thailand, is profiled by the company as ‘a contemporary hotel and resort brand whose distinctive combination of cutting-edge design, high-tech connectivity and efficient, modern convenience reflects the needs and desires of today’s new generation traveller’.

“It’s an upscale brand but not quite five-star; four-and-a-half,” explains Shackleton, who is careful not to use the term ‘lifestyle’, but admits “you got it!” when I mention the trend.

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