Banyan Tree ties up with AccorHotels: 6 things about home-grown hospitality brand

French hospitality giant AccorHotels and Singapore's Banyan Tree Holdings unveiled a $24-million collaboration that could see the French firm own up to 10 per cent of the Singapore-listed company. PHOTO: BANYAN TREE
French hospitality giant AccorHotels and Singapore's Banyan Tree Holdings unveiled a $24-million collaboration that could see the French firm own up to 10 per cent of the Singapore-listed company. PHOTO: BANYAN TREEPHOTO: BANYAN TREE

SINGAPORE - French hospitality giant AccorHotels and Singapore's Banyan Tree Holdings unveiled a $24-million collaboration that could see the French firm own up to 10 per cent of the Singapore-listed company.

Banyan Tree has grown since the 1990s to become an internationally acclaimed luxury hotel group.

But the home-grown brand, nurtured by executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping, 64, and wife Claire Chiang, 65, grew its roots in the region.

Here are six things you should know about Banyan Tree.

1. Accidental hotelier


Formerly a journalist, Ho Kwon Ping, 64, was thrust into heading the family business when his father suffered a stroke in 1981. PHOTO: ST

Mr Ho, formerly a journalist, was thrust into heading the family business when his father suffered a stroke in 1981.

His late father Ho Rih Hwa was a well-known businessman and was appointed ambassador to several countries.

His mother Li Lienfung was prominent in the literary and arts arena, and a columnist for both The Straits Times and Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao.

Mr Ho Kwon Ping took over Wah Chang, which had interests spanning agri-business and infrastructure construction.

Dissatisfied with being a sub-contractor, he sought to build his own brand.

In his own words: "Hospitality was the vehicle."

2. Falling into the resort business


Banyan Tree Bintan Banyan Pool Villa entrance. PHOTO: BANYAN TREE

Mr Ho built his first resort almost by accident. He recounted in an interview that he and his wife had come across a piece of land that used to be a tin mine in Phuket in 1984.

But they bought the land without realising how polluted it was, and had to undertake a massive clean-up.

Once rehabilitated however, it became Laguna Phuket, their first property.

From then on, they built resort after resort, and Banyan Tree was born in 1994.

3. Why Banyan Tree


Banyan Tree Double Pool Villa in Phuket. PHOTO: BANYAN TREE

The couple wanted a name that evoked something exotic, but not too stereotypical, like "palm". They also thought the name should be culturally rich and be linked to the environment.

There was also a personal, and romantic, significance to the name.

The couple lived in a fishing village called Banyan Tree Bay in Hong Kong's Lama island when they first got married.

Not only are their resorts named after a tree, but so are their children's names too.

Daughter Ren Yung's name means banyan in Chinese; son Ren Hua's name means birch, and Ren Chun is named after the yellow cedar.

4. Global company

The firm has four brands: Banyan Tree and Angsana, and the newly established Cassia and Dhawa.

Cassia offers serviced apartments, while Dhawa is a brand of casual, contemporary hotels launched in 2015.

Banyan Tree has 43 hotels and resorts, 64 spas, 77 retail galleries and three golf courses in 28 countries, with 15 hotels and resorts under construction and a further 22 being developed.

5. Ups and downs

Being a global company means that it is subject to the forces of global economics and nature.

Banyan Tree expanded rapidly, but has weathered some storms along the way.

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami struck nine of the 20 resorts Banyan Tree had at the time. Last year was also tough, as Banyan Tree suffered a net loss of $27.5 million, although revenue rose 13 per cent to $370.7 million.

Mr Ho attributed this to a "perfect storm" of unfavourable events.

Early this year, he announced a major restructuring that cut 12 per cent of its 1,400-plus workforce.

He said it was in preparation for a "relatively prolonged" recession.

6. Banyan Tree in Singapore

Despite having properties all over the world, the brand returned home only in 2011.

There is only one Banyan Tree spa in Singapore, located at Marina Bay Sands. Its signature Royal Banyan treatment costs upwards of $500, according to its website.