On the day we met with Frank Rodriguez, the General Manager of the Holiday Inn Vana Nava Hua Hin, he was about to host the monthly gathering of local hotel and resort general managers at Vana Nava Sky Bar & Restaurant. This is where they will experience the best views of Hua Hin from the 27th floor of the tallest building in town.
Franck has more than two decades of experience in the international hospitality industry, including spells in London, Singapore and Bangkok. Prior to rejoining IHG in 2016, he served as director of operations for The Unique Collection of Hotels & Resorts, overseeing 27 properties. He then became general manager of the Holiday Inn Resort Benoa Bali and later area general manager of Holiday Inn Resorts Thailand.
Any prospect of returning to his native France, or anywhere else in Europe is quickly dismissed with southeast Asia as his adopted region. Franck maintains a home in Bangkok and apart from Hua Hin; he would say that that is his ‘home city.’ Taking control of the newly opened Holiday Inn Vana Nava has not been without challenges but Franck remains very comfortable in this role. He had been very busy in recent days welcoming the buzz of family groups filling the hotel as our visit coincided with the final days of the Songkran holiday period. Franck says that meeting and welcoming guests is one of his favourite duties.
He says “everyday is different” and to succeed in the hospitality industry what is needed is an open mind and a logical approach. When it comes to hiring staff, attitude and personality are the most important attributes. A family focus is one of the hallmarks of the hotel, most obviously due to the adjacent Vana Nava Water Park but also with kid friendly facilities such as the Bryde’s Kid Club and Kid’s Suites to accommodate junior guests. This means that if a parent has business meetings to attend or other adult activities the kids are bound to stay happy. Franck believes Hua Hin is on the cusp of a huge tourism boost, as overseas visitors take advantage of flight options to come at the Hua Hin Airport. There is also a distinct possibility that the small railway station within walking distance of the hotel will become the Hua Hin stopping point for the future high speed train from Bangkok. Hua Hin emerged as a resort village with the arrival of rail transport in the 1920s and Franck sees the coming new transport options heralding a new beginning. However from he says that the growth he has seen in recent years has not compromised Hua Hin’s unique identity and almost ‘village’ atmosphere.
The Holiday Inn is eager to maintain that identity.
Design features which resonate throughout the hotel recognise Hua Hin’s past, in particular links with the ocean and the fishing community. Engagement with the local community ha resulted in the Hua Hin Artists’ Village artisan, Thawee Keas-ngarn, producing murals and literally hundreds of paintings with the maritime themes. The hotel design team integrated a traditional fishing trap or ‘sai’ at the peak of the building and to enclose steps from the entry to the first floor lobby. There’s also a statue of a Bryde’s Whale as a welcoming feature at the entry. Franck says he has named the statue “Broodus”; not really a pet name, but the correct pronunciation of “Bryde”. As the finale of our conversation with GM Franck we were introduced to the heights of the 27th floor, including my first nervous walk across the glass floored observation deck.
At this level Vana Nava Sky Bar & Restaurant also offers the most spectacular views in town. A ‘Sunday Jazzy Brunch’ (20th May) at this venue offers an ideal opportunity to join GM Franck and to take in the sights and ‘reach for the sky’. Our thanks to GM Franck for his hospitality and the opportunity to better understand how the Vana Nava Holiday Inn is becoming a valuable corporate citizen to enhance Hua Hin’s image and progress.