Although Khun Sawai Sombat is 60 years old, his strength, agility, and bright personality is similar to that of a much younger man. He is noble, intelligent, courageous and adroit when it comes to the things that he loves and one of the things he loves the most is his work, and his work journey has been a very interesting one, taking him from the very bottom to the very top of the hotel industry. Khun Sawai is a role model for the coming generation of hotel workers, and they should learn from him what it takes to succeed in an industry which is pretty much the backbone of Thailand.
Khun Sawai has seen many people come and go in Thailand’s hotel management circle, which he has been in since the country’s tourism industry took off. However, unlike others Khun Sawai still stands tall in this circle after much success at some of Bangkok and Phuket’s top hotels. Today, Khun Sawai is Corporate General Manager (CGM) of S.T.P. Group Management Co., Ltd. – the management company behind the popular Laflora Resort Patong and The Naka Phuket, Phuket’s latest pool villa resort, which with its outstanding design and architecture is taking Phuket’s tourism industry to another level.
A Bell Boy who dreamt of becoming a GM
Khun Sawai started his long and successful journey within the Front Office Department of a hotel in Bangkok, a role he initially took because he wanted converse in English with the city’s growing number of foreign tourists. However, after a while he came to realize that working in a hotel gave him a lot more opportunities than simply learning English, it was job in which he could progress, in fact, it was an industry in which he wanted to spend the rest of his life.
“I started working as a bell boy, but after a while I wanted to try more. I would ask others for help in teaching me to learn new things regarding the industry and waited patiently for an opportunity to come up to progress from the bell boy position. I would come to work early in the morning and leave later than other workers, and in the end my dedication paid off, I was moved from the Front Office Department into the Management Department. So my next mission was aiming even higher. Yes, I wanted to be a hotel manager.
“However, to reach that goal I knew it was essential for me to go abroad to work and gain more experience. Even in the early days there were a lot of Thai GMs who had an international level profile, and I desperately wanted the same. I saved money from my salary and service charges until I had enough to go away to study, my personal choice was to go to Germany, where I worked and studied for 3 years, and had one of the best experiences of my life. It was then time for me to return to Bangkok, and when I did, I was overwhelmed by the amount of work offers I received. I am very grateful to the hotels that have employed me, both past and present; they have helped shape me into the GM I am today.”
“So my next mission was aiming even higher. Yes, I wanted to be a hotel manager”
A veteran GM on a new era of competition
It was more than 20 years ago that Khun Sawai started working in Phuket’s hotel industry, he started as the Reception Manager of Holiday Inn Patong, then moved on to Thavorn Palm Beach Resort where he was Deputy General Manager, and later he took on the position of Acting General Manager of Laflora Resort Patong.
“In the early days of Phuket’s tourism industry, the hotels, which were all quite big, focused mainly on service excellence, whereby staff had to act according to and as if they were following a rule book. However, gradually this started to change; we realized that each and every tourist had different tastes, needs and behaviours and we had to adapt for each and every one of them. This time also saw the beginning of the boutique hotel era, this period saw new hotels open which focused more on selling their unique style and great location. Although these hotels were a lot smaller than the norm, they were still able to offer the same full amenities like the other larger ones. This was urgently needed, as the island’s growing number of tourists was getting fed up with being amongst the crowds at the larger hotels.
“With regards to service, I came to relaise the importance of asking the guests questions about our service, and I had to ensure that my staff would question our guests so that we would satisfy their every need, and also improve our service. I also started to get all the staff to treat our guests as friends or family rather than customers, something which I believe has a great impact on the staff and customer relationship. The old school textbook method of how staff dealt with customers went out of the window; we were now using a method based on customer and staff interaction alone, a method which our guests found so much more impressive. I introduced this method to Laflora Resort Patong and it was successful immediately, and our guests showed great appreciation and satisfaction to it.”
“The old school textbook method of how staff dealt with customers went out of the window; we were now using a method based on customer and staff interaction alone”
Only luxury is not enough, style is also important
Nakalay Beach is located between Kalim and Kamala, and is only 4km away from Patong. The area is quiet, has its own exclusive beach, has both the sea and mountains as a backdrop, is surrounded by nature and is the perfect location for a unique island hideaway named “The Naka Phuket”, a 94 pool villa resort set on the slope of a hill, and which offers stunning panoramic views of the Andaman Sea.
With such a large scale and unique project what are the challenges faced by the resort’s GM, and what plans does he put in place to ensure that the project is driven in the required direction managerially?
Khun Sawai answers “I am very grateful and lucky to be working with S.T.P. Group Management Co.,Ltd. – They are Phuket residents who have many years experience doing business here, they have a very sharp vision of what they want to achieve, and they have given me the opportunity to follow this through, which I am confident I can do. When S.T.P occupied this land and planned to create a pool villa resort, which focuses only on the hi-end market, we all knew that if we encounter problems we will not be able to do as our competitors do and drop our prices due to the high value of the project. If there is no interest in the resort then maybe someday we have to cut the prices by offering promotions, but it is not something we want or feel we will need to do.
“We hired Thailand’s most talented designer and architect Khun Duangrit Bunnag to completely design and style the resort, and what he has produced, and what we are offering here at The Naka Phuket is something very valuable; we are presenting the ultimate in architecturally designed pool villas, which leave traditional pool villas in Phuket way behind.
“We know that the level of luxury we offer here is only sought by a unique group of tourists, but we know there is a group who wants it, and we are the only resort on the island that can cater for them. This group understand why there is a high cost involved in staying here, because this is not simply a resort, it is an artist’s masterpiece which offers those who stay here a unique lifestyle. Yes, this is a new level of customer for Phuket and we need this new group in order to create a new market to shake up the island’s tourism industry and economy. We believe that the majority of this group will come from Australia, Russia, China, Japan and some countries in Europe.”
“because this is not simply a resort, it is an artist’s masterpiece which offers those who stay here a unique lifestyle”
Float in a glass room!
The Naka Phuket features simplistic matchbox form villas, strategically and cleverly placed in a complex natural environment, which cantilever out from the mountainside, giving guests a sense of floating in the air among the resorts well established trees, a feeling which is further enhanced by floor to ceiling wraparound walls of glass, and bedrooms which hang no less that 6ft from the ground below.
The simplistic and minimalist villas use only raw cement and natural woods throughout and from the secluded living spaces, hidden among trees and sheltered with simple stone walls; guests can enjoy endless 180 degree panoramas of the Andaman Sea.
Living arrangements are centered on the generous and inviting private infinity pool and relaxing sundeck– both designed for undisturbed relaxation. Each NAKA villa has spacious, superbly appointed air-conditioned bedrooms with king size beds, bathroom with bathtub and shower, and generous living and dining spaces. And with 46 inch flat screen LED television, DVD, HD movie jukebox, and high speed internet access, guests can remain connected and informed!
If you want to experience a very new and unique side to Phuket, booking a stay at The Naka Phuket is an absolute must, and we can guarantee you will not be in the slightest bit disappointed that you did!
“a feeling which is further enhanced by floor to ceiling wraparound walls of glass, and bedrooms which hang no less that 6ft from the ground below”
The Naka Phuket
1/18, 1/20 Moo 6, Tambol Kamala, Amphur Kathu, Phuket 83150
Tel : +66 (0) 76 337 999 Fax : +66 (0) 76 337 990
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Website : www.thenakaphuket.com