STRAIGHT TALK: THE MAN BEHIND MANTRA

STRAIGHT TALK: THE MAN BEHIND MANTRA

BOB East has been with Mantra Group (ASX:MTR) since 2006 and has seen the company grow from 41 properties to more than 116 properties in that time.

With locations across Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia and with more than 11,000 rooms under management, the business has forged itself as one of the city's largest companies.

The CEO talks to Gold Coast Business News about the challenges and highlights of his career, the progress of overseas expansion plans and the reasoning behind recent acquisitions.

What are three key leadership strengths you bring to Mantra Group?

It's always hard to identify what attributes resonate with a team. I can certainly boast passion as a core attribute. I'm also very trusting of my executives which I think has been a key factor of our success. Finally I think communication style is of paramount importance.

What have been some of the biggest challenges Mantra Group and yourself have faced over the past five years and how did you overcome these?

Transitioning the business from a private company to a public listed company was a major milestone. This required us to evaluate every aspect of the business and align our strategies with a broad range of institutional and private investors. Also the financial crisis in 2009 was an interesting time for all industries and we were not exempt from some of the challenges. 

What have been some of the biggest highlights of your career?

Creating the Mantra Group with my team. It's not often you get to create a brand, introduce it to the market and align the product, service standards and culture. It's been a joyous experience.   

How are Mantra's overseas expansion plans progressing?

This week we have announced another wonderful 260 room Mantra property in Nusa Dua, Bali. We now have both Mantra and Peppers brands represented in Indonesia and we have a healthy list of prospects that we are working on. In NZ we have just opened a new 280-room property in Christchurch and we are seeking both resort and CBD properties in that market as well. We continue to look for suitable properties in Singapore and Hong Kong as well. 

Why did Mantra acquire the Outrigger assets earlier this year? Were they on your shopping list for some time?

Yes, they have been on the list for some time. The properties are an ideal fit for the Mantra and Peppers brands. The products are located in our key target locations and cater for leisure and conference and incentive guests with large scale properties and fully integrated food and beverage and function room options. It's an ideal acquisition for our business.

Has the leisure market improved as a percentage of Mantra's business?

We continue to put on both CBD hotels catering for the corporate market as well as resort properties catering for domestic and international leisure travellers. At present we are acquiring resorts and hotels at a similar rate and we are very comfortable with this portfolio approach to acquisitions.

Has there been any decline in business stays due to the downturn in the resources sector?

Overall the properties are performing better and have not been impacted by the resources sector. Having stated this, there has been a downturn in Darwin and Perth and less significantly so in Brisbane. This is obviously due to the downturn in the resources sector, however the Sydney and Melbourne markets have performed incredibly well which serves as a counter balance to this event.

What makes the Gold Coast a great place to do business?

The Gold Coast is the best place in the world to operate a hotel business. We have amazing talent in this area and we appreciate tourism as a vital element of our existence. There's nowhere I'd rather live and work.

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