The Mammoth Empire group, developer of The Loft duplex condo project and The Ara Couture bungalow in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, is building its first hotel in Subang Jaya. The 10-storey Empire Hotel, which is part of its latest mixed development project, Empire Subang, is scheduled to open in November. The group acquired the land for the development — located along the Federal Highway adjacent to Subang Parade — in mid-2006.
Empire Gallery & Hotel general manager Ng Yee Ming says business diversification is a natural process as the company has been involved in the property development business for over a decade. Empire Gallery & Hotel is the group’s hotel management division.
“In the hospitality industry, you get fast cash and the return is immediate. People come in and stay with us and pay by credit card or cash when they leave,” he tells City & Country.
Founded in 1997, the Mammoth Empire Group started off with residential developments and currently has projects in Seremban, Port Dickson and the Klang Valley. It also has a small-scale commercial project in Klang called Empire Galeri, consisting of a block of 8½-storey office tower, a carpark complex with food and beverage outlets at the top, as well as shop offices.
Empire Subang is a freehold mixed development with four components — Empire Hotel, Empire SoHo (consisting of small office home offices), Empire Tower (office suites) and Empire Gallery (a 5-storey shopping mall). Empire SoHo and Empire Tower are also scheduled to open in November, and the Gallery, in March next year.
The development is accessible via five highways — New Pantai Expressway, Kesas Highway, Federal Highway, Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong and the newly built Kelana-Subang Linkway.
Empire Tower comprises two 12-storey buildings with seven office suites on each floor. Each suite is sized from 1,227 to 3,561 sq ft. The developer will occupy half of Level 12 and the penthouse at Level 13 as its corporate offices. The rest of the units were all sold from RM500 psf when the project was launched in 2007.
For the Empire SoHo tower, Level 8 will be leased to a fitness and lifestyle centre. The remaining 210 units, with an average area of 542 sq ft, were fully sold from RM220,000 a unit. Meanwhile, the gross built-up of Empire Gallery is 600,000 sq ft, with 55% to 60% net lettable area.
Empire Hotel will have 198 rooms, with sizes ranging from 366 to 1,259 sq ft. It will also have retail shops. The hotel operates on the serviced suite concept, with the developer also acting as the hotel operator, providing management services to those who purchase the hotel rooms. The developer has kept two storeys for recurring income, while the rest of the hotel suites were sold at RM175,000 onwards.
Challenges and strategies
Being a new player in the hospitality industry, the group’s main challenge is to gain recognition from the market and industry players. Empire Gallery & Hotel’s Ng says the 4-star hotel is looking at attaining global recognition within the next two years.
Mammoth Empire plans to build two hotels, one in Jalan Maarof, Bangsar and another in Damansara, in the next three years.
“In terms of quality, we would like to get ISO certification as well as the food quality management standard in the next one to two years. This is our first hotel and while it will be difficult in the beginning, we want to show that we meet international standards even though we are a local chain.”
To ensure the hotel stands out from its competitors, Ng says the company is adopting the service model of global players such as Four Seasons Hotel and Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
Ng realises that getting the right people is vital. “If you have the wrong people, it will create problems.”
Empire Gallery & Hotel’s pre-opening office is currently manned by a small team of 11 staff, including Ng, though this will be beefed up by the time the hotel opens. “They are mainly from the hospitality industry. Most of them are from top-notch hotels such as Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, Westin and Sheraton with over 10 years of experience,” says Ng, who graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in the US. He has been in the hospitality industry for 17 years and joined Empire Gallery & Hotel in end-February this year.
Getting the right people is not enough; the most important element within a team is that members must share the same corporate values and move along together, Ng says. One of his core values in driving the company is being ethical.
“For me, the philosophy of the hotel is very simple... ethics, this is part of the core values in our business. It is not just being ethical to our customers, but also to our employees and suppliers.
“If you come to an organisation where they tell you that ethics is its core value, you will feel very safe. I want this message to drive the organisation,” says Ng.
The hotel is targeting regional and outstation business travellers from around the region such as Singapore, Thailand, Penang and Johor Baru. For weekends, Ng is looking at groups, such as Singaporeans on shopping trips, to fill up rooms.
This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 774, Sep 28-Oct 4, 2009.
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