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[Interview] Real estate

Time to invest in luxury hotels in Korea: JLL executive

With K-pop, K-food and other Korean Wave fever running high in the pandemic, Korea is the top pick for investment

By Sep 28, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Hotels in Korea are emerging as top picks for hospitality property investment
Hotels in Korea are emerging as top picks for hospitality property investment

The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly hard on the hotel industry, exposing it as one of the most vulnerable to the crisis amid the global lockdown.

With the post-pandemic recovery simmering on the horizon, however, hospitality properties, especially luxury and lifestyle hotels in South Korea, are looming as good assets for investment, according to a JLL executive.

“Global investors are paying close attention to hotels in Korea. Given the ongoing Hallyu fever, including K-pop and K-food, the potential for foreign tourists visiting the capital and other parts of the country when the pandemic fear subsides is huge,” said Minjoon Kim, vice president of the hotel & hospitality group at JLL, in an interview with The Korea Economic Daily on Tuesday.

“Now is the time to invest in hotels in Korea.”

JLL, formerly known as Jones Lang LaSalle, runs a Seoul office solely in charge of hotel-related investment services to meet growing inquiries and advisory services from both Koreans and foreigners.

According to JLL, foreign investment in Korean hotels totaled $849 million in the first half, up 55% from a year earlier.

“The Korean hotel industry has grown to become the fourth-largest in Asia. Although the Korean hotel industry was among those hit hardest by the pandemic, it will swiftly recover once inbound tourism resumes,” he said.

The JLL executive said an increase in vaccination rates in Korea and a state policy to exclude vaccinated foreign tourists from self-quarantine measures will help boost the value of hotels in Seoul.

Korea’s hospitality sector began drawing keen interest from foreign investors with the sale of Seoul’s landmark Grand Hyatt Seoul in 2019 to a consortium led by Hong Kong-based investment PAG and Korea’s Inmark Asset Management at the “highest amount” for a hotel sale in Korea, he said.

JLL managed the sale of Grand Hyatt Seoul.

Minjoon Kim, vice president of the hotel & hospitality group at JLL
Minjoon Kim, vice president of the hotel & hospitality group at JLL

LUXURY & LIFESTYLE HOTELS

Kim picked luxury and lifestyle hotels as his favorites that stand to enjoy the full upside of the post-pandemic recovery for hospitality properties.

The total number of hotels has grown considerably with the rapid growth of business hotels in the 2010s, but the luxury hotel segment still has room to grow, according to the JLL executive.

“Dozens of luxury hotel brands have come up in New York and other major cities across the globe in recent years. Things won’t be much different in Korea. A number of global luxury hotel brands are known to be positively considering entering the Korean market,” he said.

In recent years, lifestyle hotels have become an increasingly popular choice among travelers across all age groups, by combining the personalized touches and high-quality service of a boutique hotel with the convenience and reliability of big hotel chains while operating at a premium price range.

Lifestyle hotels in Seoul that are set to emerge as hot spots include Andaz Seoul Gangnam, Mondrian Seoul Itaewon and Gravity Seoul Pangyo, Kim said.

Foreign property investors are particularly showing interest in posh districts such as Gangnam and Itaewon as well as Myeong-dong in central Seoul where foreign tourists frequent, according to JLL.

“The popularity of Hallyu or the Korean Wave has grown further in Russia, Latin America, China, Africa and the US amid the pandemic lockdown. Districts like Gangnam, Itaewon and Myeong-dong will likely be the top choice for investment once the lockdown is eased,” he said.

Seoul’s landmark hotel Grand Hyatt Seoul
Seoul’s landmark hotel Grand Hyatt Seoul

SPECIALIZED IN HOTEL BUSINESS ADVISORY

With offices in over 80 countries, JLL is one of the “Big Three” commercial real estate services companies, alongside Cushman & Wakefield and CBRE.

Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, JLL also provides investment management services to institutions and retail investors, including high-net-worth individuals worldwide.

In 2014, the organization shortened its name to JLL for marketing purposes, while the legal name remains Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.

According to Real Capital Analytics (RCA), JLL has advised investors on hotel and resort transactions worth $21 billion or 51% of all such deals in the Asia Pacific region since 2011.

With over 400 hotel business experts globally, JLL is specialized in hotel-related advisory services, including deal sourcing, branding and management of hospitality services, Kim said.

(Updated on Oct. 14 to broaden JLL’s interest to Korea, not just limiting to Seoul. Also fixed its client’s name to PAG from PGA in the ninth paragraph.)

Write to A-young Yoon at youngmoney@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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