“IT’S NICE TO BUILD A NEW RESORT AND INCLUDE ALL OF THE WESTIN FEATURES”
Would you like to tell us a little about yourself?
I am originally from New Zealand and have been working for Starwood for 17 years with the Westin and Sheraton brands, prior to hotels I gained my experience in the hospitality and airline industry. I started my career in hotels as a front office manager and then moved into the sales & marketing field, 8 years later after joining Sheraton I had my first position as a General Manager and have been in this role for over 10 years working in Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Thailand twice.
Did you train to work in the hospitality business?
No actually I have a Bachelor’s degree in Science and majored in Geology. However upon completion of my studies I was involved with managing restaurants and then the airline industry. I only expected to work in the industry a couple of years but I ended up working for much longer. After making the move into the hotel industry I studied a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Studies in Australia. I have always loved the hospitality industry and working with people, so decided to stay and focus on the skills I had already gained.
How long have you been involved with this project and what has your role been?
I have been involved since February 2009 when we started the majority of the pre opening work and implementing brand concepts and working with the architect, interior designer and construction team. To set up a Westin resort we have to ensure that the resort fits within our brand guidelines with facilities, interior design, fittings, fixtures and restaurant concepts. We also have to purchase all the hotel equipment, recruit and train the team and get them ready for an opening, plus develop sales & marketing strategies to open the hotel with.
What obstacles have you had to overcome with the new project like the Westin?
The main obstacles with this project have been to do with completing the construction and the physical layout of the resort. The resort is built over 39 rai of land on a steep hillside. In total we have 40 separate buildings on this site that all require their own septic systems, electrical and fire safety and back up power systems which has been technically challenging given our dramatic building site.
The fine tuning of details with a new project can also be quite time consuming and even more so when the resort is located on a steep hillside, but the views are well worth it! The recruitment of staff was relatively straight forward as Starwood is so well known and established here in Thailand, so the standard of applicants were high and we received a huge response.
What are the challenges of your hotel location?
The East coast of Phuket is still very undeveloped as far as hotels and resorts are concerned. However I think being located so close to Phuket town is a bonus, as it is relatively undiscovered but has so much history and culture which adds to its unique local character. Phuket town is certainly still developing but there great eclectic shops, cafes and restaurants located in original Sino Portuguese shop houses. The East coast has great access to the surrounding islands which is also perfect for day trips and cuts down on the travel time if you compare to travelling from the West Coast. As the resort is located on a steep hillside, all of our rooms, suites and villas offer stunning sea views which I never tire of, so I believe the benefi ts far outweigh any challenges.
What is your customer base?
Phuket has traditionally been popular with the Europeans, Russians and Australians as well as the regional Asian markets which have opened up even more due to direct flight access into Phuket. We are seeing, as is the rest of the world, a lot of growth out of the Chinese and Indian markets. We are lucky as Phuket is such a popular and well established tourist destination, as is Thailand.
How would you compare the opening of The Westin Siray Bay Resort & Spa Phuket to The Westin Auckland?
First of all The Westin Auckland was a corporate hotel and it was the fi rst Westin hotel in New Zealand so the majority of our staff did not have previous Starwood experience. Starwood has many systems and guest programs which we use, so we had to undertake a comprehensive training program to arm the team with the knowledge they needed to prepare for an opening. Here in Thailand most people are aware of our expectations and that of the brand and challenge has been more on the construction side and getting the project finished ready in time to open.
Can you tell us a bit about The Westin Siray Bay Resort & Spa Phuket?
Westin is a lifestyle brand and as such we focus on wellness and ensuring that our guests leave feeling better than when they arrived. We have many brand initiatives that focus on wellness of body, mind and spirit such as Superfoods RX which incorporates the nutrient dense foods and also pairs food together that are mutually beneficial like Cinnamon with Oatmeal as Cinnamon slows the release of sugar in the blood stream so keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
Westin is also renowned for the ‘Westin Heavenly Bed’ which incorporates layers and layers upon comfort, as well as the ‘Westin Heavenly Bath’ which are featured in all of our 261 rooms, suites and villas. All rooms are equipped with LCD televisions, WIFI, LAN and iPod docking stations. We have six restaurants and bars which are Prego our Italian restaurant, EEST which is Pan Asian cuisine and Seasonal Tastes which have open kitchens for an interactive dining experience and serves International cuisine.
We also have the first Heavenly Spa by Westin to open in Thailand which is a Westin branded spa so it gives our guests a cohesive hotel and spa experience, it has eight treatment rooms as well as suites with private spa, Jacuzzi and steam rooms. We also cater for families with children with our Westin Kids Club which put on daily activities to keep them occupied; many of them do not want to leave! The most spectacular thing about the resort is the view, you can see out to Phi Phi Island, Cape Panwa and Big Buddha on the hill, the sunsets are truly amazing.
What is next in terms of marketing for the resort?
Phuket town and the East Coast of Phuket has great potential to really broaden tourists travel experience in Phuket which only adds to the variety so we will continue to promote this area of the island. As we are the first Westin resort to open in Thailand we would like to communicate more about our brand and that Westin is truly a lifestyle brand and our goal is to create a feel good wellness experience to all of our guests so they leave feeling better than when they arrived.