Naza Group reinvents hotel business

She is only 23 and the youngest in the family, but with youth comes enthusiasm and fresh ideas. Nur Nadia SM Nasimuddin leads Naza Group’s hospitality division, and since coming on board not too long ago, has already drawn up a growth strategy for the group’s hotel business for the next five years.

One can expect to see Naza Group’s first five-star hotel up against the Kuala Lumpur skyline in the next three to five years. The group is already in the midst of identifying a suitable site. “We are looking for something which is at least two acres in size, suitable for a 250 to 300-room hotel,” says Nur Nadia, director of Naza Hotel Management.

Several sites have been proposed within the Golden Triangle, including a four to five-acre undeveloped site owned by the group near Jalan Tun Razak.

“We plan to build and manage the hotel on our own but we are open to joint ventures as well,” Nur Nadia says. Naza has appointed international consulting group Horwarth as its hotel consultant. “We are not looking to compete with the other luxury five-star hotels, which is why we are looking for that signature look that will make us stand apart from the rest.”

The hotel division’s aim is to eventually offer three categories — five-star hotels, affordable hotels and boutique hotels.Nur Nadia believes there is still a lot of room for growth in the hotel sector in Malaysia. Photo by Haris Hassan

First up on the agenda however, is a rebranding exercise and we will soon see a slew of aggressive awareness and marketing campaigns on Naza hotels. “Not many people know that Naza Group is also involved in the hospitality sector. The purpose of the rebranding is to make people more aware of Naza’s hotel business, to reintroduce our hotels and to take the hotel business to the next level,” says Nur Nadia.

The group currently owns and manages three standalone hotels, previously known simply as Naza Hotels. They have been renamed Naza Talyya Hotels as part of the rebranding exercise. The new name was inspired by an ancient Arabic/Greek word meaning  “blooming” or “blossoming” and will be the brand name for the group’s affordable hotels category.

The hotels, one each in Johor Baru, Melaka and Penang, recently underwent a RM18 million refurbishment and were upgraded to mid-range three-star hotels. According to Nur Nadia, the group is also looking to set up a Naza Talyya hotel in the Klang Valley soon.
“We want to focus on quality service and affordability for Naza Talyya Hotels since our facilities are limited. These are not big hotels as the number of rooms are around 120 to 130 per hotel.” Average occupancy for the hotels has been consistent at around 60% to 70% this year despite the market slowdown.

The Naza Talya Hotels’ contribution to group revenue is estimated to be around RM3 million to RM5 million annually from next year.

As for the boutique hotels, Nur Nadia is still mulling the concept it will take, but it will definitely offer the customer a luxurious and unique experience. “We want to see what’s not available here and from what I’ve seen overseas, there are a lot of things we can do. We are already in contact and exploring ideas with international interior designers, such as Philippe Starck,” who she says is one of her favourite designers.

“The boutique hotels will be limited to about 50 to 60 rooms. There are a number of so-called boutique hotels here but a boutique hotel has to be truly unique and extraordinary,” she says.

The group also holds the franchise to operate Howard Johnson Torrance and the Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Pedro, Los Angeles.

Nur Nadia believes there is still a lot of room for growth in the hotel sector in Malaysia considering the number of tourist arrivals, which has increased every year except this year due to the financial crisis and the H1N1 influenza pandemic. She also believes that the tourism sector in Malaysia has a huge potential waiting to be tapped.

“A hotel can do well despite the competitive environment if one emphasises value for money, quality service,” says Nur Nadia. The slowdown, she says, has not affected the Naza Talyya Hotels as seen from their average occupancy rates and they are well on their way to achieving their targets for the year.

“Our hotels are mainly frequented by regional travellers, so we are looking at expanding the international market next year,” she says. The five-star segment however was more affected, with occupancy down 20% overall so far this year. Even room rates have dropped.

The demands of achieving the hotel division’s goals will lie heavy on Nur Nadia’s young shoulders but idealistic as it may sound, she believes anything can be accomplished with real passion for the task.

“I’ve had a keen interest in the hospitality sector since young and like the rest of my siblings, was groomed by my late father to run the family business, so we were psychologically prepared for this,” she says. The Naza Talyya Hotel Hohor Baru.

The petite young lady is not without experience in the hospitality industry as she had a short stint as an intern at an established hotel in Kuala Lumpur. “I saw the hard work that goes on at the back end, which no one sees at the front end. But I knew it was what I wanted to do.”

It certainly makes her task easier when there is a supportive team with her. “As you know, Naza is run by siblings and we are all pretty young, so we are grateful to have a good team behind us,” she says.

Of course, there is also no lack of support and advice from her older siblings and even her mum who seldom holds back her pointers and ideas. Her late father, Tan Sri SM Nasimuddin SM Amin, the founder of Naza Group, passed away in May last year.

Nur Nadia’s brothers SM Nasarudin and SM Faisal are now joint group chairmen and CEOs while SM Faliq, who is a year older than her, is the managing director of Naza TTDI, the group’s property arm.

Nevertheless, the rebranding exercise was entirely her idea. She is convinced that people need to know that Naza’s hotel division is not there to play second fiddle to the group’s other businesses, and it’s time to tell people just how serious it is about expanding the business. We will certainly hear more from this young lady in the near future.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 780, Nov 9-15, 2009.

Looking for properties to buy or rent? With >150,000 exclusive listings, including undervalued properties, from vetted Pro Agents, you can now easily find the right property on Malaysia's leading property portal EdgeProp! You can also get free past transacted data and use our proprietary Edge Reference Price tool, to make an informed purchase.