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When hoteliers emerge from 2020, the business will be hard

Thaiger

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OPINION

Is it time re-imagine the guest relationship?

Globally, more than a hundred million travel and hospitality jobs will be lost in 2020 due to Covid-19. Here in Phuket, where I moved in 1988 as the opening general manager at Amanpuri, we have seen as many as 60,000 job losses in the hotel sector alone, which accounts for 86,000 registered rooms, and at this moment there is no light at the end of the tunnel, nor any date for Phuket-bound International flights on the horizon.

More than four months have passed with no local infections on Phuket. Yet passenger arrivals have plunged and there are no imminent signs of recovery, despite the country opening up to domestic air travel and guests from Bangkok becoming our “weekend warriors”.

Thailand deserves high praise for its decisive actions in late March that successfully managed the spread of Covid-19 yet in closing the kingdom to all non-resident foreigners, Phuket island now finds itself at an inflexion point as local demand cannot stem the dramatic losses on Phuket, nor reverse the rapidly escalating financial and social crisis, especially in the tourist town like Patong, Kata and Karon, etc.

From the very earliest days at Amanresorts, founder Adrian Zecha schooled us to make guests feel as relaxed as if they were staying in the home of a friend, which built an experience that wasn’t purely transactional, and I feel we took this even further at Trisara.

Over 30 years dealing with guests on Phuket, it’s clear that our is a business built on meaningful human connections, and as travellers start to move again in 2021 we have a unique opportunity to reconsider a few cookie cutter policies that annoy guests.

Its time to get our staff back to work, for restaurants and tourist business to reopen so that Phuket can breathe again.

As President of the Phuket Hotels Association, our 78 members to prepare for the inevitable return of international arrivals. After several aborted plans, the Thai government is considering ‘green bridges’ or “bubbles” that may allow entry to foreigners from countries or regions with little or no Covid-19 infections, hopefully from countries such as New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, China and Australia.

However, It’s going to be a very slow climb back to any reasonable numbers – thus a buyer’s market for years and those hotels that create even more special experiences, and soften some of the policies born in the 1990’s when it was a seller’s market, will emerge with greater guest experiences and social media will spread these in a positive way.

With this in mind, I propose we offer a new “Guest Bill of Rights”.

• Frontline staff needs to be empowered to make more decisions, such as giving guests reasonable refunds or credit when they complain about an actual mistake. We all know felt the irritation as the last impression at check-out, with your flight take-off time looming, as the reception staff disappears to ask an invisible manager about removing an erroneous charge for that Toblerone you didn’t eat.

• Overcharging for cookie-cutter minibars is over. We can and should customise the minibar with healthy (and not so healthy, this is a holiday after all) options including authentic, hygienic and plastic-free packaged local treats. Guests would buy more too, as mini bars are mostly poor investments. My favourite is the totally free local mini bar at The Greenwich, Robert De Niro’s hotel in New York.

• No more ‘nickel and diming’ on the hotel bill. We owe it to our guests to stop profiting off necessary conveniences like bottled water with breakfast, Internet and hotel laundry.

• Goodbye to 50% or even 100% room charges for late check-outs. Let’s be better at allocating rooms. There should always be a private space for guests who arrive before 2 pm and if hotels are not 100% full, guests should be able to leave after midday without being whacked with a half-day charge.

• Breakfast should be included, full stop, and let breakfast finish late. Since there is nothing more luxurious than a long, relaxed breakfast on a holiday, guests should not have to rush down to their first meal of the day simply because the chef wants to start prepping for lunch at 10 am.

• We can and must protect our fragile Island, the planet at the same time. Drinking water should be in glass bottles, plentiful and complimentary. There must be a unilateral end to plastic shampoo bottles and laundered garments shrouded in cling plastic have to go. In Phuket, we challenged our member hotels to remove plastic water bottles in 2018, which resulted in a reduction of six million plastic bottles from our landfills.

Our industry’s humble beginnings offer valuable lessons for any hotel’s future success. What was not optional for a medieval innkeeper should guide the 21st-century hotelier: buy local, being support for our local communities, engagement with and protection of the local environment.

Are you checking in?

About the author – Anthony C.J. Lark

• Founding and existing President of The Phuket Hotels Association, focusing on Sustainability, education of Thai students in hospitality schools and destination marketing for the 78 member hotels.

• 32 years in development and management of S.E. Asia’s finest resorts and hotels, including openings of Amanpuri – Phuket, Amandari – Bali, The Strand – Myanmar, Trisara – Phuket, including Phuket’s first and only Michelin Star restaurant at Trisara.

• Multi-year recipient of “World’s Best General Manager” – Gallivanters Guide, and many World’s Best resort accolades in Conde Naste Traveler, Robb Report and Travel and Leisure, for Amanpuri and Trisara.

Anthony now owns and runs his own luxury hospitality company focused on Resort and Residential Villas design and master plan concepts, management auditing of existing properties, supported by world-class associates from many fields.

al@anthonylark.com

 

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Brian Dunbar

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 3:47 pm

    Well written and I agree with everything you say. But how does 8 million plastic bottles end up in a landfill. Do you not recycle in Phuket? If not, maybe it is time to consider that. In other parts of the world everything is recycled…even food.

  2. Avatar

    Graeme Chuck

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    In my opinion, the author has correctly identified some of the minor, but important issues which guests find niggling and which can have a huge impact on the experience. Solving the early arrival and late departure issues in particular, which guests clearly see as not only annoying but of little consequence to the hotel, would be a great benefit. Nothing like a crisis to provide focus!

  3. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    Oh NOW you are becoming reasonable. Now that you have no customers.
    How about guests being able to pay in cash to stop your hotel dipping into the guest’s credit card to pay for supposed damage.
    How about no more deposits?
    How about allowing guests to pay in cash and receive a receipt to stop extra items being added to the bill to be paid for when the guest leaves.
    How about no more B200 small cans of Singha in the mini bar?
    How about no taxes applied to service charges?
    If fact NO service charge. Let the guests decide if they want to tip
    How about not dumping your guests on another hotel because someone walked in and paid a higher price for your guests reserved room?
    What is this big favour you suggest for guests that arrive before 2 P.M check in. Give them a private space . . .
    A £20 guest house in Thailand will let you occupy the room at 9 A.M is the room is vacant or has just been cleaned.
    And you are supposed to be a luxury hotel.
    How about no more corkage charge, because you want the guests to buy your overpriced substandard wine?
    Please don’t try to gain merit because you are all Save the planet. What do you want a medal?
    All businesses are at this now. It is becoming boring.
    I have just read reviews on your hotel, and I am not impressed. Apparently one guest found holes in the sheets. Another had money pilfered.

  4. Avatar

    Johnny Rambo

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    “Thailand deserves high praise for its decisive actions in late March that successfully managed the spread of Covid-19 yet in closing the kingdom to all non-resident foreigners,..”

    So they deserve praise for destroying the country’s economy and enraging millions of tourists just because of a joke virus that only kills 80+ years old zombies suffering from cancer or heart diseases ??? Haha this is so r****ded.

    • Avatar

      RA

      Monday, November 2, 2020 at 9:01 am

      Hey Moron Johnny, how about doing a bit of research on the demographics that the virus kills before you mouth off. A little education goes a long way, try it, you’ll be amazed.

      • Avatar

        Johnny Rambo

        Monday, November 2, 2020 at 10:10 am

        RA@

        I dont need research, i already know the truth. The average age of people who die from Covid is 80. It might also kill young people under 40 suffering from other extremely rare and severe diseases. But this is certainly just a tiny fraction of total fatalities.

        Covid is a lie fabricated by the press, but the Thai government is dumb enough to believe that.

        • Avatar

          RG

          Monday, November 2, 2020 at 3:07 pm

          The largest percentage increased deaths were seen among adults aged 25–44 years (at 26.5%) and among Hispanic or Latino (Hispanic) persons (at 53.6%.

          In comparison, excess deaths among adults over 85 were up by 14.7%, and among White people, for example, deaths were 11.9% higher than average.

          I must wonder what you would have to say if you got it and passed it on to your parents, family or friends (if you have any) and they died.

          • Avatar

            Don R

            Tuesday, November 3, 2020 at 3:57 pm

            “The largest percentage increased deaths…”

            Increased in comparison to what exactly?

            We know the fatality rate is 0.3% and probably much less than that now.

            For people under 60 it’s vanishingly small, a statistical zero.

            There are half a dozen other things that are more deadly but get no media attention.

  5. Avatar

    Harry Garside

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    If this gentleman is so wise and knowledgeable about the hotel business why is he in denial concerning the Covid situation in the future.The Thai government does not control events in worldwide tourist areas.The reality is that 2021 tourist arrivals could open to a tiny minority of elite travellers that will not make any significant difference to the entry figures. 2022 is a reality. A vaccine will have been developed a new world order will be in charge of the future of tourism moving forward.

  6. Avatar

    murika

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 4:51 pm

    Thailand has gone from humble family owned business, a few bungalows on the beach, a kitchen cooked with love by mama, and a 3000 bath bill at the end of the week, to European styled mass tourism money making, specially in Phuket, people like this man above have destroyed opportunities for low income people to change their life with the tourism, travelers will love Thailand much more if they are in touch with it’s original people, instead of ending up in expensive souless resort, run by underpaid burmeses with no workers right, most complain i read and hear about Thailand come from people whose experience never give them an opportunity to meet the locals, maybe this pandemic will bring back what was the reason i fall in love with that country, simplicity, shared moments in a home stay type place with a thai familly, instead of aircon towers owned by foreigners who only care for money

  7. Avatar

    Khun plastic

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 5:02 pm

    Sir,
    Your long experience in the hospitality industry shows.

    I have recently retired after 35 years of constant global travel.

    you have highlighted every irritation that exists in the sector.

    The nickel and dimeing bit should not be underestimated.
    5 star international chain properties being by far the worst for it.

    Outrageous charges for laundry, internet and mini bar items never failed to annoy me and many others.

    the fact that I was generally on company expenses does not matter,no body likes being insulted.

    I deliberately starting using perfectly acceptable 3 star local hotels in Bangkok and Singapore over this sort of thing.

    I hope your vast industry experience is acted upon and long term positive changes that will benefit all parties can come out of the current terrible situation.

  8. Avatar

    Issan John

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    Excellent article – the only problem is having guests to sell it to.

  9. Avatar

    Mark

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 5:36 pm

    The hotels across the world are looking at a 5 year plan very slow a lot of job losses worldwide and very little worldwide travel even after the vaccine found

  10. Avatar

    Jacky

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    MiniBar never has been my concern , specially in thailand when there food and drink available everywhere 24/24.
    My concern about hotel, or any rent tourists is many of tourist got no refund at all. Many activities shop where you had packages already paid just vanished with your money. From today my number one rule, never accept to pay in advance even 1 day before, never pay any deposit. If they won’t accept, just move. And I don’t even talk about all the flights tickets canceled without refund. So this is not only about hotels, but flights company gonna have to adapt. Who gonna accept to book and pay a flight 1month ,2 month and more before… Some can afford to lose this money, but most of tourist who make all this economy profitable are normal people. And you just stole there saving. They won’t forget easily …

  11. Avatar

    Anthony

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 6:29 pm

    Well said! What you said makes senses. I used to travel for business frequently and even though I’m a Gold/Platinum member, early check in or later check out is very difficult to get. The mini-bar prices are another sore point. I rather go to the 7-11 to get my stuff and put it in the fridge!

  12. Avatar

    Gavin

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 6:35 pm

    Time of robbing Farangs is OVER

  13. Avatar

    John

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    Everything you say is valid and very sensible but you know you are moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic. Making right the wrongs of the past are not going to help when (as you mentioned Australia for instance) there is little chance of viable flights from there coming in before the end of NEXT YEAR as stated by my many friends there. As wonderful as Thailand is..(and I choose to live here) the covid effect plus the ridiculously bad exchange rate means it will be a long time before you even see a few dregs compared to the heyday within your experience.

  14. Avatar

    TS

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 9:28 pm

    nice sentiments expressed but why not stated pre-covid? Doesn’t matter now. Sorry, but you are up against the very anti-foreigner policies of the powers that be. Tourism has a very deep hole to climb out of in this country and others. As long as the ridiculous procedures required for tourists to visit Thailand remain, mini bar bills and free water with meals will be the least of your worries. But best of luck sir!

  15. Avatar

    Johnny Rambo

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    TheThaiger@

    Another non-sense and heavily biased opinion piece that nobody needs. The author heaps praise on the Thai government for closing the borders. This is just disgusting, but what else to except ? In Thailand it’s forbidden to criticize the government, so people have no other choice than to praise this disgraceful bunch of incompetent and corrupt junta dictators. TheThaiger, stop publishing this biased propaganda or i will stop visiting this site !!!

    • Avatar

      RA

      Monday, November 2, 2020 at 9:04 am

      Bye!!

    • The Thaiger & The Nation

      The Thaiger & The Nation

      Monday, November 2, 2020 at 9:28 am

      It is clearly marked OPINION. And you have also shared yours.

  16. Avatar

    Ted Dunn

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 11:12 pm

    Dear Mr. Anthony,

    My name is Ted Dunn and I am A Scottish person who has lived in Mukdahan province for 20 years. I am married to a Laos national.

    Your opinion above is very encouraging. We usually stay in Krabi for holidays but my wife very much wishes to visit Phuket (I visited Phuket a few times many years ago). Where do you recommend we stay.

    Many thanks, Ted

  17. Avatar

    Richard Wyatt

    Sunday, November 1, 2020 at 11:21 pm

    I applied for an STV and I’m willing to go into quarantine but I still cannot go because I live in England apparently only China can go.
    I have got a girlfriend out there and I help the set up a shop and I’ve bought a brand new car in Thailand but it seems I’m not good enough to go even though I am willing to go into quarantine.

  18. Avatar

    Thalangfarang

    Monday, November 2, 2020 at 6:10 pm

    Any comment about the compulsory Christmas Dinners and New Year’s Dinners, at several thousand baht a head? A terrible rip off, that puts many people off staying at the higher class resorts.

  19. Avatar

    James

    Monday, November 2, 2020 at 10:04 pm

    Everything said in the article is great and I agree.

    But all of what is said is for the future, many countries are not allowing their people to travel, most people do not want to travel, many people now can not afford to travel.

    For some reason people are suggesting this problem is a Thai problem, no tourism is down all around the world.

    Nothing will change until a vaccine has been tested and most of the population has been treated, so hold your breath for a least another year.

    Hope is a great thing, but we can only plan with facts and not wishes.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

For travellers to Phuket, testing is out, quarantine is in

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Phuket Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong (via Facebook)

The on-again-off-again plans for testing people for Covid-19 as they arrive in Phuket will be replaced by quarantine after May 15, according to Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong’s latest announcement. In an online video broadcast last night, the vice governor confirmed the new scheme after Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew first mentioned it in an executive meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall yesterday.

There are now 25 provinces on the Phuket red zone list that they instated on April 22, with anyone arriving from those places required to have proof that they are either fully vaccinated or tested negative for Covid-19 within the last 72 hours. Without proof, people have to take a rapid antigen test to confirm they did not have Covid-19 before they would be allowed on the island. The test was first set to be 300 baht for everyone, and later controversially made free for Thai people and 500 baht for foreigners.

There had been some back and forth with budget concerns of being able to provide the mass testing and who would pay how much for continued testing. Perhaps requiring people to quarantine in Phuket is cheaper than testing them when they arrive (cheaper for Phuket officials anyway).

The original scheme was set to expire May 15, and announcements were made about extending the plan and stopping testing right away. For now, this debate seems to have settled on replacing the testing with a mandatory quarantine upon entering Phuket.

The vice-governor explained that the rapid antigen test will continue through May 14, and then starting May 15, anyone who arrives without a vaccine or a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of arriving in Phuket will be required to quarantine for 14 days. They set a goal of zero new infections by the end of the next two weeks. And he stated they are committed to doing whatever it takes as “Phuket cannot continue with this risk”.

Speaking to The Phuket News… “We want to send a sign to the country that we are cleaning up our province. The 3 vice governors [in Phuket] have been ordered to take care of each district by cooperating with local administration officers as well as community leaders to do proactive screening,”

After announcing the quarantine plan for Phuket, the vice governor spoke confidently that in the near future the island will have enough jabs to vaccinate every person on the island. Religious leaders from any faith are currently being vaccinated because of their general proximity to people during religious ceremonies and practices.

Vice Governor Piyapong pled with people with the people of Phuket who were on the fence about Covid-19 vaccinations, anti-vaxxers, or those otherwise resisting getting the jabs needed to reach herd immunity.

“If you are still deciding whether or not to get vaccinated, please come to get vaccinated”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

 

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Thailand News Today | Pfizer vaccines on the way, Phuket’s July re-opening | May 7

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Disease Control Department back-peddled saying that that foreigners living in Thailand WILL also be vaccinated, governor of Chiang Mai is calling for the ban on dining in at restaurants in the northern city to be lifted and for eateries to be allowed to serve food on-site until 9pm, Tourism and Sports Minister insists the southern island of Phuket must record zero Covid-19 cases if a planned July re-opening is to go ahead, and 150 million baht worth of methamphetamine pills were impounded in Nakhon Phanom yesterday

 

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We’re looking for a Video Editor/Production Assistant in Phuket

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The Thaiger is seeking a full time video editor and production assistant for a new project based in Phuket. The role is open to a Thai national but with great English skills as well. You will need to be able to work to deadlines with a crazy bunch of stressed out news hosts, guests and the rest of The Thaiger team.

You’ll also need a general knowledge of the Thai news cycle as the content will be largely centred around daily news and current affairs. Knowledge of social media, and especially YouTube, will be an advantage.

Prior work in the TV or video production industry would be a requirement; we couldn’t care less about your educational qualifications. The role would be Monday to Friday.

The work hours would be earlier in the day, probably starting around 7am. There may be some occasional travel to Bangkok involved as well. Salary would be between 30-40,000 baht per month, depending on experience with opportunities for bonuses. The initial contract would be for 3 months, renewable.

If you are interested, or know someone who could fit the job, send an email to THAIGER EDITOR at info@thethaiger.com

 

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