Hong Kong investors pick up St Andrews resort hotel in sign of growing appetite for Scottish properties

By Cheryl Arcibalcheryl.arcibal@scmp.com / https://www.scmp.com/business/article/3042445/hong-kong-investors-pick-st-andrews-resort-hotel-sign-growing-appetite?utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=contentexchange&utm_source=EdgeProp | December 26, 2019 10:53 AM SGT
Hong Kong-based investors have been quietly buying up properties in Scotland, channelling their capital away from home amid months of anti-government protests. A luxury hotel in golf resort at St Andrews is the latest addition to the statistics.
The seller, California-based real estate investment group Kennedy Wilson, owned the property for more than four years following its 32.4 million-pound deal in August 2014. The 211-room hotel is located about 12 minutes' car drive from the Old Course at St Andrews, which hosts the 150th Open in July 2021.
This year, investors from Hong Kong have poured US$82 million into Scottish real estate such as flats, offices, hotels and seniors housing, according to data compiled by Real Capital Analytics involving transactions worth at least 5 million euros through December 16. The volume has surpassed the US$29 million sum recorded in 2018.
Glasgow-born Ronald Tham of Lai Sun group believes that Scotland will become more popular among foreign tourists. Photo: Handout
A combination of pull and push factors could explain the trend. The current slump in the number of tourists in Hong Kong has prompted hotel operators and investors in the city to deploy their funds elsewhere, and the growing wealth among Asia's super-rich has increased demand for luxury travels in top-notch locations.
Overseas buyers are attracted to Scotland's quality or life, value for money and good schools and universities, according to property consultancy Savills. Prime properties in the capital, as well as golf properties, castles, and homes in waterside locations attract a particularly high proportion of buyers from abroad, it said.
For Lai Sun Development, the Fairmont St. Andrews represents its first foray in the UK outside London. The group owned three properties known on Leadenhall Street in London, which it bought in 2015. The group also owns the Ocean Park Marriott Hotel in Hong Kong and the Caravelle Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
Tham, who was born in Glasgow, said the group is betting on a bigger number of local and foreign tourists in Scotland as wealth grows and more people discover its attractions. The hotel's largest group of visitors are locals, while Americans are its biggest foreign guests. Chinese guests are still a small portion, but is likely to grow, he added.
"There are some Chinese visitors, but not that much, and there's hardly any [guests] from Asia at the moment," he added. "So we can see quite a big potential from the international visitors segment, especially from countries that have a fast-developing traveller market."
Scotland received some 15.5 million overnight tourism trips in 2018, a 3 per cent increase over 2017. Among them were 3.5 million foreign visitors, according to the tourism board data.
"St Andrews is one of Scotland's iconic locations, known as the home of golf," said Jamie Macnab, a director at Savills Edinburgh. Golfers from all over the world want to play the Old Course, and many fall in love with the historic coastal university town and dream of buying a home here."
This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.