An oversupply of hotel rooms in Bangkok means travellers can stay in discounted luxury.

Thailand has had its share of upheaval. Last year, anti-government protesters barricaded roads and clashed with police. More recently, there were scuffles with Cambodia over the Angkor-period temple, Preah Vihear, in Isaan province – and a new government this week. And now Bangkok is in a battle of a very different kind – over hotel rooms.

“We’re in the middle of a price war,” says Vutravee Charuvatana, the sales manager of the Novotel Fenix Silom, a new 216-room hotel on Silom Road in the city’s riverside district that Accor categorises as four-star deluxe. “It’s all about supply and demand [of hotel rooms] and Bangkok is well oversupplied.”

The Novotel Fenix Silom’s rooms, which start at a compact 25 square metres, are contemporary and come with stylish accessories, including espresso machines. They are also a bargain- double rooms cost from 2109 baht ($62) a night. For an extra 1170 baht a night, you get access to the premium floor, with all-day tea and coffee, evening drinks and canapés, breakfast, internet, late check-out, local telephone calls and more.

According to the government-run Thai Hotels Association, at the end of last year, Bangkok had 64,365 ‘legal’ hotel rooms. Most five-star properties in Bangkok achieve 50 per cent occupancy, at best; during periods of political unrest, many hotels have dropped to 20 per cent occupancy.

Despite the oversupply of rooms and ongoing political instability hotels in Bangkok are opening like wildflowers. Another 3000 rooms in 10 hotels are set to flood the market this year, amid reports that the Thai government has stopped issuing licenses for new hotels to be built.

The Novotel Fenix Silom is one of six new Accor hotels that have opened in Bangkok in the past year: the others are two more Novotels, two Ibises and an All Seasons.

And there are more to come. The 174-room Hotel Muse Bangkok is set to open in September. It is one of Accor’s M Gallery hotels, which glorify Europe’s golden era of travel in the late 19th century.

In January, Accor will roll out the world’s first city-based Sofitel So on Bangkok’s Rama IV Road, opposite Lumpini Park, a fashionable rebranding of the five-star Sofitel category that will rival Starwood’s W hotels in design and style. Accor will also open a second Sofitel business hotel on Sukhumvit Road early next year and rebrand the 1980s Sofitel on Silom Road as a five star Pullman hotel.

“This time last year, everybody had written Bangkok off as a wasteland for tourism,” says Accor’s Sydney-based general manager of communications for the Asia Pacific, Peter Hook. “What a difference a few months make. We’ve seen a 43 per cent occupancy growth in the first quarter [of 2011] compared to 2010. I reckon there could be a room shortage in a few years.”

He’s not alone in this assessment. Starwood has also been busy opening new hotels in Bangkok, including a Four Points by Sheraton Sukhumvit situated on Sukhumvit Soi 15 this year, and St Regis Bangkok, Starwood’s ultra-deluxe brand, in April.

Also in Bangkok, Starwood will this year open an Aloft hotel, regarded as the budget sister of its hip W hotel brand, and a 403-room W on Sathorn Road. A second Four Points by Sheraton, which will be located next to the W, will open next year.

The Bangkok-based Anantara group, known for its smart beachside retreats and the lovely Anantara Golden Triangle resort on the Mekong in northern Thailand, has also been busy. Its latest city property is the Anantara Sathorn, a 425-room hotel that re-opened in January (the hotel was formerly known as the Heritage Sathorn), with double rooms from 2354 baht.

Although the hotel isn’t actually on Sathorn Road (it is located on Narathiwart Road, a good 10-minute walk away) it has a superb spa, a beautiful pool area and some of Bangkok’s best contemporary Thai food at its all-day diner, 100° East.

Anantara is rebranding and renovating the Marriott Resort & Spa on Bangkok’s main river, the Chao Phraya, which is set to open as an Anantara property at the end of this year.

At the upper end of the price scale, The Siam is scheduled to open at the end of the year. Set on a hectare of Chao Phraya frontage, this ultra-luxury hotel designed by Bill Bensley will have 39 art deco-inspired suites starting at a roomy 110 square metres and $US500 ($464) a night, making it the most expensive hotel in the city.

“The Siam will be completely different for Bangkok – it will fill a niche,” the hotel’s general manager, Jason Friedman, says. “I know people who [currently] come to Thailand but avoid Bangkok altogether because they feel there is nowhere exclusive enough to stay.”

Bangkok is unable to fill the hotel rooms it has, so why add more? “We cannot deny that the increase in the number of hotel openings will have a negative impact on yields in the short term,” a regional director of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Wayne Buckingham, says.

“However, despite [Bangkok’s] political and economic challenges, I certainly believe there is a market [for more rooms], particularly from outbound Chinese travellers. We estimate there will be 100 million outbound Chinese travellers by 2015, with Thailand a favourite destination.”

For now, staying in Bangkok is a bargain. A room at Accor’s new Novotel Ploenchit, a sleek 370-room tower well located at Phloen Chit Skytrain station, costs a little more than 2000 baht. Four Points by Sheraton Sukhumvit has a deal for about 3000 baht, with the added benefit of its Beer Vault, a sexy street-side pub with 48 brews from 12 countries, plus happy-hour Thai beers for 50 baht.

Want even cheaper? The just-opened All Seasons Victory Monument, a budget 162-room Accor hotel, has rooms from 1271 baht a night, including breakfast and internet access. The rooms are a squeeze at 20 square metres and the pool has only four chairs but the hotel is functional, has welcome features, such as rain showers and satellite television, and is located just steps from Sanam Pao Skytrain station.

Just as cheap is Accor’s new budget family hotel, the Ibis Riverfront, which flanks the Chao Phraya River. It has 266 rooms, most with river views, from 1287 baht a night.

Sleeping there

For Novotel, Ibis, All Seasons, M Gallery and Sofitel hotels, see

For St Regis, Four Points by Sheraton, W and Aloft hotels, see

For Anantara, see

For The Siam, see

This article appeared in the July 9, 2011 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald and Age newspapers.