Thailand is proudly without a colonial history, but the Centara Hua Hin has been inspired by the colonial era experienced by many countries. Australians are sometimes (much to their chagrin) referred to as ‘colonials’. Accordingly the appointment of a ‘colonial’ as GM at the Centara seems to fit!
David Martens was been appointed as the General Manager of the flagship of the Centara group of hotels and resorts, the Centara Grand Beach Resort and Villas Hua Hin, in early December 2016. We met David during a very pleasant hour or so at the Centara’s Elephant Bar. This was not long after his arrival following a period of some 5 years as General Manager of the Centara’s Krabi resort. He says he was enjoying making a difference to the progress of that resort. However being offered the opportunity to take the lead role at the Centara Hua Hin was really irresistible.
David says his introduction to hospitality was accidental. After employment in banking he found himself dissatisfied with the uninspiring and then very conservative approach of that industry. Travel was also on his mind and hospitality offered that opportunity. He was initially willing to take on somewhat menial roles because he could see the possibilities of both travel and career advancement. In a typical Australian manner, he pays little heed to hierarchy or status, so working initially as a waiter or a laundry hand did not imply any sort of ‘fall from grace’, just a means to an end. It seems that along the way higher management recognised his potential and progression to management roles followed.
He’s now best described as a world citizen; leaving his homeland in the early 90’s and living in around 9 different countries since then. David describes his management style being akin to a coach or a captain. Because he has worked in so many different roles, he can empathise with staff and really understands their trials and tribulations but also the lurks and perks of their jobs. He recognises that the first 90 days of a new post is when staff are at their most receptive to change; that’s not to suggest that changes will be too dramatic, but the early days are when there is the best opportunity for improvements to be accepted. At the time of our conversation there had been only a few weeks for David to get to know Hua Hin.
He likes to keep fit, so he had found some of the market places during strolls around town, but there’s still a lot to discover. His early impressions are that Hua Hin is underrated by many potential visitors. He believes that many have not ‘pre-discovered’ what’s on offer in an age when internet exploration before arrival is so prevalent. David is aware that countries with a winter season coinciding with Hua Hin’s quieter months offer an opportunity with the right sort of marketing. The popularity of Centara
World Masters Golf Championships in June each year with Australian golfers is an obvious example of how this can work. One challenge of David’s new role is to give travellers (and locals) a better understanding of the history and unique ambience that the Centara offers. He wants casual visitors to feel welcomed, although not to some kind of museum. He just the resort to be more accessible, so that the next generation of visitors to Hua Hin can get to know this real Hua Hin and Thailand treasure.
The Raffles Singapore; inspiring the Centara?
The Raffles Hotel in Singapore has long recognised as one of Asia’s iconic destinations with a colonial heritage and grand style reflected in the architecture which reflects its 1915 heyday. The Raffles presents the grandeur and elegance of Singapore’s colonial history and recognises the founder of modern Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles. It’s easy to see the same classic style and elegance at the Centara, perhaps best enjoyed taking afternoon tea, an experiences one must have in Singapore but also in Hua Hin in an equally grand setting. A harpist to enhance the ambiance is always present at the Raffles but also at the Centara; a superb ‘colonial’ experience at both locations. The timeless Centara Grand Beach Resort and Villas Hua Hin has won honours as Asia’s top heritage hotel; it’s easy to see why. www.centarahotelsresorts.com/centaragrand/chbr/