Holiday Villa Hotels and Resorts celebrated its 25th anniversary recently and, in the understated style of this company, the event was marked with a private "yee sang" (raw fish tossing) lunch for the media and a separate one for staff.
"We just wanted to celebrate the milestone with our media friends, supporters and our loyal staff," said Datin Mavis Masri Azman, Holiday Villa's Managing Director/CEO (pictured below left), when asked why it didn't want to make a bigger splash.
Indeed, for the past quarter of a decade, with Mavis and her husband, Dato" Azman Shah Dato' Seri Haron (now Holiday Villa chairman), at the helm this Malaysian-grown brand has been quietly but steadily expanding its wings across the globe. From one resort in Cherating, Pahang, it has grown to 32 hotels and resorts, with more in the pipeline.
Holiday Villa was founded in 1987 by Alangka-Suka Hotels and Resorts Bhd, a subsidiary of public listed business conglomerate, Advance Synergy. Its first hotel with 50 rooms and apartments – Holiday Villa Cherating (pictured above) in the east coast state of Pahang - was built on 2.3 acres of land fronting the South China Sea. The resort has since expanded to 134 rooms including 12 pool villas.
Its next property was in Langkawi in 1992 with a 258-room resort spread over 13 acres in the tourist belt of Pantai Cenang. Then came its first overseas foray into London five years after when it bought the former Pavilion Hotel in Leinster Gardens, near Bayswater, and transformed it into the 100-room Holiday Villa London (pictured below).
From there, the company expanded to Sudan (Khartoum), Qatar (Doha), Saudi Arabia (Madinah), Cambodia (Phnom Penh), Vietnam, Indonesia (two in Bali), China and France (Paris)
Of the 32 hotels and resorts under the Holiday Villa umbrella, 21 are in operations and 11 are due to open within the next three years. Coming online are six more properties in Malaysia, one each in Bahrain and Sihanoukville (Cambodia) and three in China. Its total estimated inventory is 6,900 rooms and suites.
The hotels are managed through various business arrangements – owned and managed, direct management services contracts, joint ventures or license/strategic alliance, the latter similar to a franchise with marketing support.
Mavis said that one key reason Holiday Villa has been able to expand at a good pace and been able to compete with foreign brands was the strong team it's built. She believes in empowering staff and giving them "freedom to make good their creativity, but at the same time making high demand on accountability".
"Through the years Holiday Villa has also kept the core elements of its character, personality and style. These are the finer aspects that distinguish one company from another, and creates a competitive advantage," Mavis added.
The group is known for affordability, warm Malaysian hospitality and a wide choice of properties to suti all budgets.
"We offer value for money in our resorts, business hotels and service apartments. All are infused with Malaysian hospitality with Malaysians heading our overseas properties in Bali, London, Qatar, Shenzhen and Phnom Penh," said Kenneth de Silva, Holiday Villa's general manager for business development & special projects (pictured right).
All the hotels, except for China, have a halal Malaysian restaurant, serving some of the best-known dishes of the country.
Another plus factor is the hotels' location such as on famous beaches in Malaysia and Bali, and near famous landmarks like London's Hyde Park and Paris' Galeries Lafayette.
Adopting a wide range of marketing strategies has helped too. Apart from the corporate sales and marketing office in its Kuala Lumpur headquarters, the group has a corporate sales/marketing office in Singapore, and international sales offices in Shenzhen, London, Paris Bali and the Middle East.
The group's corporate website offers real time reservations and confirmations, apart from promotional offers. Launched in December 2008, it is in six languages – English, Indonesia, Mandarin, Arabic, French and German.
Riding on the social media rage, the group is also using Facebook and Twitter to engage with its customers (read story). it also has an app for the iPhone and iPod.
"The social media approach supports our traditional marketing, which is through sales calls and participation in selected trade shows such as ITB Berlin, ASEAN Tourism Forum and World Travel Mart in London," added de Silva.
He said the goal was to "develop more properties in current markets and look for new markets to grow our portfolio."
In China where its properties are mainly in secondary cities such as Shenzhen, Chenzhou (Hunan), Kaifeng (Henan) and Sanya (Hainan), plans are to expand to Beijing and Shanghai.
"Nearer home we are looking at Thailand and Singapore. Our long-time wish to have a hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur will be realised when the Holiday Villa Kuala Lumpur City Centre opens within the next year."
The group is unfazed by talks of impending global economic downtrend or the Eurozone crisis. Its hotels have not been affected and are enjoying healthy occupancy, between 80-90 percent.
"Our expansion is ongoing and on track. In fact, we have exceeded our forecast of between 25-30 hotels in 25 years. We'll keep going to where there are opportunities," said de Silva.