Our new series, The Knowledge, takes a look at hospitality companies in the headlines. It kicks off with hotel group Swissôtel.
What is it?
Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts is a Swiss company that operates five-star hotels across the globe. Founded in 1980 by SwissAir and Nestlé, it was acquired by Raffles Holdings in 2001, after which the portfolios of both Swissôtel and Raffles were merged to form Raffles International.
In 2005 the company was acquired by private investment firm Colony Capital, which owns 100% direct equity interest. In May 2006 Colony Capital together with Kingdom Hotels, a group part-owned by Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal, bought Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and combined those assets with Raffles. The resulting Fairmont Raffles Hotels International includes 120 hotels in 23 countries under four brands - Fairmont, Raffles, Swissôtel and Delta (which was recently sold to a Canadian investment management company). Corporate offices for Swissôtel are located in Zürich and the company is headed by managing director Meinhard Huck.
Who are its rivals?
The main competitors are Hyatt, InterContinental and Le Meridien, but the group says it sets itself apart from these global brands through its unique Swiss identity. It prides itself on combining the Swiss touch with modern, contemporary design as well as having a neutral, sensitive approach to local markets and cultures.
Swissôtel has an aggressive expansion strategy and is focusing this primarily on the emerging markets of eastern Europe and China. In China, the group currently has hotels in Shanghai, Foshan and Kunshan in the pipeline, while new properties in Germany, Cyprus and Ukraine are also being developed. Swissôtel's most recently announced new development is a 200-bedroom hotel in Novosibirsk, Russia, which is scheduled to open in 2009.
Swissôtel operates 25 hotels in main gateway destinations in 15 countries across five continents. A further 15 properties are currently under development and include hotels in central and eastern Europe as well as China and Asia Pacific. The group manages the majority of its properties but also owns, leases and franchises a small number of its hotels. Its turnover for 2007 so far is $750m (£360m).
View from the top
Managing direcor, Meinhard Huck
On being taken over by Colony Capital
"We are now part of an organisation where we have a bigger drive to develop Swissôtel as an individual brand. There are major benefits to us as a company, as we no longer have issues about sustaining the business, which we had when we were owned by SwissAir. Within Fairmont Raffles Hotels International we have the support we need to grow consistently."
"We have aggressive expansion plans, with 15 properties currently in the pipeline, and we are looking at many more."
On the UK
"Until now, we're a fairly unknown brand in the UK, but we do hope to change this in the future. We would like to open a second hotel in London and possibly expand into other key cities such as Manchester or Edinburgh."
By Kerstin Kühn