Inside Dream Hotel Group's worldwide development binge

The Chatwal Lodge, Bethel, N.Y.

Dream Hotel Group is rocketing through 2017 with nine new hotels openings planned across the world.

All of Dream Hotel Group's brands are represented in the development: Dream, Time, The Chatwal and Unscripted. (The company said it is stepping aside, for now, from developing the Night brand.) Jay Stein, CEO of Dream Hotel Group, said the company is working with independent development partners to build $750 million in new development projects, adding 6,990 new rooms to the company’s portfolio and representing a 229-percent growth increase for Dream from 2016 to 2020.

The full list of new properties from Dream Hotel Group is as follows:

  • Dream Oceanami Villas & Spa in Long Hai Beach, Vietnam, developed by Beegreen Group, opening fall 2017
  • Unscripted Cocobay Danang in Danang, Vietnam, developed by Empire Group, opening 2017
  • The Chatwal Lodge in Bethel, N.Y., developed by Dream Hotel Group, opening 2018
  • Unscripted Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, developed by Newstream Hotels & Resorts, opening 2019
  • Unscripted Dominican Republic, opening 2019
  • The Time Dominican Republic, opening 2019
  • The Chatwal Maaga Maldives, developed by Mohamed Manik and Alpha Kinam Holdings, opening 2019
  • Dream Gasveli Maldives, developed by Mohamed Manik and Alpha Kinam Holdings, opening 2020
  • Dream Delhi, developed by Asrani Inn & Resorts, opening 2019
Guestroom at the Dream Oceanami Villas & Spa in Long Hai Beach, Vietnam. 

Trading Places

The development surge sees the company going in a number of new directions, first and foremost taking its urban Chatwal concept and inserting it into a rural setting with the Chatwal Lodge. Located in Bethel, N.Y., Stein said the property gave Dream the opportunity to step out of its comfort zone.

“To take an existing property like the Chatwal New York and do it in a lodge setting, very high end and open for all four seasons, we were ready for that,” Stein said.

The company is spending an estimated $40 million to $50 million on building The Chatwal Lodge, which will include banquet facilities and high-end luxury homes. Dream Hotel Group is behind this particular development, but Stein said this is not true for any of the other properties in its pipeline. While historically everything Dream Hotel Group owned it also managed, and vice versa, Stein said the company switched gears four years ago in order to kick-start expansion plans.

“We took the lead on the Dream Dallas as well, which we announced last year, but going forward 90 [percent] to 95 percent of new developments will be handled by other developers,” Stein said. “As a result, we will be taking on some sliver equity going forward.”

Stein said the company is limiting this equity to properties within the U.S.

Company chairman Sant Singh Chatwal spent much of his life building hotels and restaurants around the world, with five of the company’s incoming hotels are located in Asia. Chatwal said his experience in the region dates back as far as 32 years ago when he first opened a restaurant in Hong Kong. Now, Dream Hotel Group has appointed an entire corporate team in Asia, giving it a ground-floor view of the market that it can’t get from its headquarters in New York.

“Because we know the market, because we know local operators and [food-and-beverage] operators, this gives us a great deal of contact over there,” Chatwal said. “We still own a property in Bangkok, and I opened that a decade ago. That’s why we are bullish about Asia.”

Exterior of the Dream Oceanami Villas & Spa in Long Hai Beach, Vietnam.

Partners First

Chatwal’s mention of F&B was purposeful; Dream Hotel Group's newest hotels are placing great emphasis on the restaurant aspect of hospitality. “My background is in F&B,” he said. “I know a lot about the F&B business from opening restaurants in the '90s, and our strength is that we are heavily focused on F&B, on a luxury level, in a way that much of the industry is not.”

According to Stein, the luxury lifestyle segment remains wide open for innovation. While many luxury products are present in markets throughout the world, Stein said none of them have been able to tap into the “hip” mainstream culture that midscale hotels have been able to capture, which often means making concessions.

“If you want to do luxury in the urban market and aim for the untapped market, you aren’t going to be able to offer 800-square-foot rooms in New York, charging $2,200 a night, and make it work,” Stein said. “Dial it back, maybe 350-400 square feet, with rates around several hundred to $1,000. Existing luxury hotels are not in the lifestyle, the modern area the way that many of ours are, and there is a market for this that is growing very quickly.”

Chatwal said that this development strategy is poised to pay off because of the relationship focus Dream Hotel Group has with guests, partners and employees. 

“This is a people business,” Chatwal said. “You have to look after them very well. We see a unique opportunity in our future developments, but these things only happen if you develop great relationships.”