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Pan Pacific CEO discusses expansion
July 20 2010

Patrick Imbardelli, president and CEO of Pan Pacific Hotels Group, discusses growth, target markets and infrastructure preparations. Read article. Read full transcript. Watch video highlights.

By Stacey Mieyal Higgins
News Editor-International

SYDNEY—Don’t call it a comeback.

The three hotels announced for the Australian market announced by Singapore-based Pan Pacific Hotels Group represent a relaunch for the company, according to Patrick Imbardelli, president and CEO.

Two Parkroyal hotels in Sydney and a Pan Pacific hotel in Perth mark the return of brands that previously had been in Australia.

Parkroyal is a homegrown Australia brand, Imbardelli said during an interview at the Australia, New Zealand & Pacific Hotel Industry Conference in Sydney. “We’re relaunching the brand, making it relevant for today in the Australian/New Zealand market, and we’re bringing Pan Pacific back,” he said.

The company committed more than AUD$200 million (US$177.9 million) to the assets, which bodes well for future Australian growth, Imbardelli said.

“If you’ve got the ability to deploy capital and own real estate, you show other owners that you’re committed to what you do,” he said. “In Australia, because we’ve now got two Parkroyals that we own and a Pan Pacific that we own, if we sit down with an owner and say, ‘Hey, we’d love to manage your asset,’ they know we’re committed to the brands.”

Pan Pacific plans to continue to use different operating models to drive growth.

“You have a lot more flexibility,” Imbardelli said. “The other thing is, in down cycles, you can take advantage of asset values. You can buy some good assets that maybe need some tender loving care at reasonable prices, and you just have a lot more flexibility.”

North America also represents a growth opportunity for the Pan Pacific brand, Imbardelli said. The company has four properties and is looking to add to the portfolio with the help of a new VP of development for the continent, Todd Wynne-Parry.

“And we’d like to get into the key gateway cities in particular: San Francisco, L.A., Chicago, New York,” Imbardelli said. “We’re already in Whistler, Vancouver and Seattle on the West Coast.”

China is a focus for both brands.

“In China, we want to expand both the Pan Pacific, where we have two hotels operating today and one under construction, and the Parkroyal brand, which we’ve got some really good irons in the fire and we’re going to be announcing some things shortly there,” Imbardelli said.

The company also is investing nearly SGD$300 million (US$218.4 million) to build a “representative” Parkroyal in Singapore.

“So our strategy again is to use our brands, use our system, use our people to drive value for the asset, and in some cases, we own the asset ourselves,” Imbardelli explained. “And we will deploy capital especially where we need to, where there’s cities or destinations with high barriers to entry. Where brands find it difficult to get in there, we have the ability to deploy capital in those markets.”

With all of this growth, the company is hiring a lot of outside people, he said.

“There’s no doubt that that is one of our biggest challenges,” Imbardelli said. “That’s why we also want to keep growth—I wouldn’t want to say ‘in check,’ because that’s controlling growth—but that’s why we talk internally about really taking it each step at a time. Because the worst thing you can say is, ‘Oh great. We’re opening up another 10 hotels this month, but there’s not enough people, not enough resources, you can’t do it properly.’”

Pan Pacific also is focused on creating a company culture as the portfolio moves from more than 30 hotels to the 50-hotel range. The vision is: great people, great brands, great hotels and great relationships.

“… Our values are a little bit different,” Imbardelli said. “We tell a little bit of a story in each one. We’re going to have some fun, but we’re always going to improve at what we do. We’re going to be part of our community, and we’re going to respect being part of that.  We’re going to have a can-do attitude, and we’re going to collaborate, and they go on.

“So, it was formed by a lot of the people. I guess I took a little bit of ownership for it and said, ‘As the leader of the group, that resonates with me more than that.’ But what we didn’t get into was wordsmithing.”

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