Operating a hotel is very different to working in medicine. What made you decide to move into the hospitality industry? My family is a hotelier family. My dad built his first hotel even before I was born. When I was young, I spent quite some time in my dad’s second hotel which is not far from my house. I played under the hotel reception desk, and ran up and down the hotel staircase, plugging in and out many long cables of the old fashioned telephone operator machine to connect the outside calls to the guestrooms, and then watched the long paper roll being punched by the incoming telex signal – that’s my old good days.
I spent about ten years in my medical profession – four years as clinician and hospital administrator, and another six years in public health administration and planning, with a year for my Master Degree in Health Planning in Heidelberg, Germany in between. After ten years of public services, I felt that I’d like a new business challenge.
Since I worked the last several years in planning and administration, not as a specialist, running business is not so different from what I had done. I and my wife also started our own small business while I joined the hotel as executive director. It’s nice to run the business mostly by your own hands. I learned a lot from our own business before I was assigned to take care of the hotel as its Managing Director two years ago.
In 2008 you oversaw a major renovation of the hotel worth more than B500 million. Have you always had a clear vision of how you would like to develop the hotel?
We knew that Bangkok would be a major hub in Southeast Asia, and we are confident that the charms of Bangkok and Thailand’s famous hospitality will continue to bring in a lot of demand for hotel services. Our location is also certainly an advantage; Bangkok is the Venice of the East so the beauty of the waterways is a unique feature of the city.
What are your hotel’s highlights? The hotel is situated in quite a big plot of land, 5.5 acres, with 250m. of river frontage. We are on the Eastern side of the river so our guests can enjoy the great sunset views every evening, either from their guestrooms or from our famous riverside terrace restaurant and bar. The hotel is well enclosed for the privacy of our guests, but we are just a short walk from the biggest Night Bazaar in Asia, Asiatique the Riverfront. We offer regular shuttle boat services to Saphan Taksin BTS station so our guests can get to anywhere in downtown Bangkok very easily.
Have occupancy levels this year been favourable?
This year is favourable so far and much better than last year, when we had the floods. We are expecting 70-80 per cent occupancy for this coming high season (October-February).
With new hotels opening in Bangkok every month competition for guests is fierce. What strategies are you implementing to ensure that your hotel remains successful?
The new supply of hotel rooms is mainly from Sukhumvit, Rachaprasong area. Because of the scarcity of riverside land and many building restrictions imposed by New Building Codes, the supply of luxury riverside hotels has still not increased, so we are quite better off than downtown hotels in this regard.
We just celebrated our 25th anniversary last year, so we are still 25 years young and still have a lot of energy to move ahead. We will start building a state of the art convention hall next year and will have it ready for late 2015. We just reopened our newly renovated executive club floors with eight beautifully renovated terrace suites, where our guests can have a BBQ dinner in the luxurious comfort of their own suites.
For the riverside industry as a whole, luxury riverside hotels and major riverside attractions are now working together to provide a smooth service platform for guests of each hotel so they can move easily between each place. I am sure that with this closer collaboration, the riverside hotel industry will gain momentum and command prime attention from both the leisure and MICE market.
Want to know more about Ramada Plaza Menam Riverside Bangkok? You can read the full interview with Dr. Pichai Tangsin in the features section of thebigchilli.com