Samornpun Somnam, known more simply as Khun Tarn, was born, raised and educated at secondary school level right here on the island of Phuket. After leaving high school, Khun Tarn enrolled at Mahidol University International College in Bangkok where she studied Hotel Management; she came out of there with a Bachelor’s Degree in the subject. The final stage of her education took her to the top-ranking Swiss hospitality & tourism management school Les Roches, where she took, and passed, a one year Master’s degree in Hospitality Management. Today, Khun Tarn is Executive Director at one of Patong’s most popular and unique accommodations, The KEE Resort & Spa, where she mainly focuses on the Sales & Marketing side, and the day-to-day operation of the business.
Khun Tarn recently took some time out to speak to Phuketindex.com about The KEE Resort & Spa, and also tell us about the changes she has seen in her birth place since the inception of its tourism industry.
My ancestors were originally involved in the island’s tin mining industry, but when that came to an end the family became merchants selling goods such as fruits, snacks and local foods. More recently, my family took over a 3 star resort here in Patong called Patong Villa, this resort actually stood where the KEE Resort & Spa & KEE Plaza stands today. We ran this property for about 7 years before deciding to demolish it and build the new resort.
When and why did you decide to open The KEE Resort & Spa and KEE Plaza?
As I mentioned before, we ran Patong Villa for about 7 years and decided to pull it down to build The KEE. This decision was made because Phuket’s tourism industry was growing so rapidly, and we realized that to keep up with our competitors it was necessary to expand our property. However, it was not only the old resort that went; it was also our home, as this was located directly behind Patong Villa.
In addition, the whole plot of land where The KEE Resort & Spa & Plaza stands belongs to my grandmother; it is her wish to have all the family members working together as a team, and it was really her decision that we expand the property so that could happen. To acknowledge our appreciation for what she has done for us, the resort is named after her, and our logo is her thumb print.
Tell us some of the highlights of your property?
We have a very strong concept to the hotel which is ‘Modern Phuket’. As we’re a local family we wanted to keep the concept of how Phuket is in the hotel. However, we also wanted it to be modern and chic, so we have combined those two concepts together to give us what we have today.
We also have one very unique selling point to our resort, KEE Sky Lounge. We are the only resort in this area that has a sky lounge this high, and it is the only location that provides 360 degree views of Patong City.
Furthermore, we have a strategic location; we are located right in the heart of Patong, and we are the only resort that has direct access to Bangla Road, and we are only 5 minutes walk to Patong Beach.
You must have seen some big changes in Phuket over the years, in your opinion have these been for better or for worse?
I think that in terms of infrastructure we are trying to grow with the growing number of tourists, which is positive. However, in terms of development I think that they are lacking any kind of plan, there is clearly some overdevelopment which is unsustainable and this is negative for the island. We have also been using a lot of natural resources since the tourism industry took off, and I feel that nothing is being done to replace those.
If Phuket didn’t have a tourism industry what do you think would you be doing?
I actually love working in this field and have been interested in travel from a very young age. I also love seeing people and working with people, so I think that perhaps I would be a flight attendant, or a tour guide, but I think it would definitely be within the tourism industry somewhere and somehow.
Where is your favourite place in Phuket and why?
I love peaceful places so I would have to say Phuket Town as it is still vey peaceful and calming. It’s also a place which is so rich in culture which I also love.
What’s your role, as a business, with the local community?
With regards to our resort, we regularly sponsor and donate money and goods to the island’s underprivileged children, unfortunately, I see there is a big divide between the rich and the poor families here in Phuket, and therefore I feel it is important to help those who are not as privileged as others. We also take part in a lot of community activities such as replanting of the mangrove forests and beach cleaning, and we’re also a sponsor for the local Patong Hospital and donate money to them so they can buy any necessary medical equipment and supplies.
What do you believe makes Phuket the popular destination it is?
I think the main thing is Phuket’s unique local culture, I don’t believe that many places in the world have such a diverse culture like Phuket. Secondly, it has to be the beaches. Although I personally don’t feel the beaches have been taken care of and developed as they should have been, the feedback I get from tour operators is that Phuket is still one of the most popular beach destinations for tourists.
Do you believe that Phuket will continue to see growth/change?
I truly believe so. Now that the airport’s being expanded, I think that tourist numbers will continue to rise. However, although we will still see growth, I think that we will see a change in the market. We’re already seeing that many Singaporeans, who have been coming to Phuket for years, have changed their preferred destination, and I believe that we will continue to see changes like this as there are now more countries that are targeting the tourism industry more than they did before.
What does the future hold for you?
Right now we’re working on our second project, a new luxury resort named Keemala. Kee again after my grandmother and mala as it’s located in an area of Kamala. This is going to be a 5 star luxury resort with only 38 units. It is going to be very unique compared to other luxury hotels located in that area, and as we’re concerned about natural resources, although our location will be on a forested hill, we will be keeping virtually all the tress there are on the 18 rai plot of land.
The concept of this resort will focus on well-being and local culture combined together, and will feature only individual units which will be very unique in design. Readers will have to stay tuned to see how it will look in the future as it is planned that it will be finished in August 2015. But I can assure you it will be very different to anything else there is on the island.
Finally, for you personally, Phuket now or 25 years ago?
I personally would prefer 25 years ago. As I mentioned earlier, I love peace and quiet, now there are so many people moving to Phuket to live and work it’s getting overcrowded. I also think some areas are too overdeveloped and sometimes I think this has really damaged and spoilt the island.
The Kee resort & spa
152/1 Thaveewong rd., Patong Beach, Kathu, Phuket 83150 Thailand
P: +66 76-335-888 | Fax: +66 76-335 808 | W: www.thekeeresort.com | E: firstname.lastname@example.org