Jul. 19—Outrigger Hotels and Resorts is expanding to Thailand with the acquisition of three premier beach resorts that had been shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Outrigger Hospitality Group announced today.
The company bought the Manathai Hotels & Resorts brand under which the three resorts operated and will refresh, rebrand and reopen the southern Thailand luxury boutique resorts by year's end.
"As a Hawaii-born company that has served the state for 70-plus years, we remain deeply committed to this market and its residents, " Jeff Wagoner, president and CEO of Outrigger Hospitality Group, said in a statement.
"Continuing to grow and diversify Outrigger's portfolio here in Hawaii and beyond enables us to be a stronger global company that is more resilient to various social and economic fluctuations, " he said. "This expansion of Outrigger into Thailand brings both brand awareness and a new customer base to all of our resorts."
Outrigger said the former Manathai resorts were three of the "most sought-after beach locations in Asia."
They will be rebranded as the Outrigger Koh Samui Beach Resort, Outrigger Kaho Lak Beach Resort and Phuket Manathai by Outrigger.
Outrigger said its mission is to be the premier beach resort brand in the world.
While locally owned and operated by the Kelley family, the Outrigger chain had acquired a resort in Mauritius and two in Fiji that Outrigger continues to own.
In 2016, Outrigger Hotels and Resorts was sold to Outrigger Hospitality Group, a privately held company which is an affiliate of Denver-based KSL Capital Partners LLC. It owns 25 Hawaii properties : eight hotels, 16 condominiums and one timeshare.
One local analyst sees the company's expansion into Southeast Asia as positive for Hawaii.
By renovating its two resorts on Waikiki Beach and expanding to other markets, the KSL affiliate could bolster business at its Hawaii hotels and resorts, said Keith Vieira, principal at KV & Associates, Hospitality Consulting.
"They've tried to expand the brand in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, " Vieira said. "They have a strong presence with the U.S. travel agent because they're a well-known leisure brand in the Pacific. There are only eight hotels on the beach in Waikiki, and they have two of them. They have a strong reputation."
While the acquisition might have little impact on a maid or a front desk worker, the expansion could give young managers and supervisors opportunities for international work where they can learn more about hospitality and global travelers, Vieira said. "So I think this it's a win-win all around."
KSL is also investing in renovations to its Hawaii hotels, Vieira said.
The Outrigger Resort brands are upscale resort properties, which include the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort and the Outrigger Waikiki Reef Beach Resort.
The Reef is undergoing an $80 million transformation, said Outrigger Hospitality Group spokeswoman Monica Salter. The renovation of all the rooms is complete, and the second phase, encompassing public spaces, is next.
More international visitors to Thailand might help with occupancy rates in Hawaii, Vieira said. A Chinese visitor to Thailand, for example, might be more inclined to stay at an Outrigger hotel in Hawaii, he said.
They can't "compete with the Marriotts' and the Hiltons' global frequent traveler programs, but expansion is a way to get their brand out, " he said.
Hawaii residents considering a trip to Thailand also may be inclined to stay at an Outrigger resort.
"People trust the Outrigger brand, and they know that when you stay at an Outrigger, you get local culture with world-class hospitality, " Salter said. "So no matter where an Outrigger property is located, our goal is to ensure that our guests feel the sense of place for the destination and for our hosts (all of our employees ) that they feel proud of their culture, sharing their culture with their guests."
Kekoa McClellan, spokesman for the American Hotel & Lodging Association, said, "Any time a local brand does well ... we want to celebrate it. ... AHLA applauds their acquisition."
After KSL's acquisition of the Outrigger, McClellan said, the company was able to provide the largest raise in its 70-year history.
Correction : Keith Vieira said Outrigger can't "compete with the Marriotts' and the Hiltons' global frequent traveler programs, but expansion is a way to get their brand out." An earlier version of this story ommited mention of the global frequent traveler programs.