Tell us few things about your background.
I studied in Lausanne in one of the best hotel schools of the world. Then I was few years as a trainer, and then instructor for 3 years. Then as the school asked more and more to teach in English I had to go the USA to learn English and that’s where I went and I never came back to Switzerland. I work basically 12 years in the States, 20 years in Thailand, 1 year in Malaysia and 1 year in Switzerland. I always worked in England 2 years the same business. I never changed and I am very happy I didn’t do. The very first time in 1985 I was transferred from the Regent in Albuquerque in New Mexico to the 4 Seasons Hotel in Bangkok where I was food and beverage director. Then I went back to America and I moved to Meridien where they transferred me to London for a few years. They noticed that I have been working in Bangkok so they transferred me back to Bangkok. Practically since 1993 I always stayed in Bangkok but mostly Thailand. I am a cosmopolitan person but limited to the USA and Thailand and of course my home country Switzerland. I worked many years in Bangkok Regent, Meridien, Dusit Princess and then I worked 9 years for Centara in Koh Samui and now 5 years here in Hua Hin for Sofitel and Centara. I am a Centara and a Resort specialist.
How Hua Hin compare to other places in Thailand?
Hua Hin is very unique. I cannot compare it to Bangkok maybe more to Samui. Samui is more a foreigner destination just because is so far from Bangkok. Samui is a young destination and offers better beaches but I believe that Hua Hin, the city of the Royal family and a city so full history, is a treasured destination for Thai people and it is a golf paradise and a beach city. I believe slowly but surely it will become an attraction park destination and it soon will be the Disney world of Thailand if the developments go on the way it should be. I haven’t been much to Pattaya but I think it doesn’t compare at all, it is a totally different market. The history of Hua Hin and being the 1st resort town in Thailand is the huge advantage for this destination.
Tell Us about The Centara Grand Hua Hin Resort & Villas
This hotel was the first Resort in Thailand; it was commissioned by the Royal family 91 years ago. The history is amazing. The King’s Palace being too small and the Royal family had to enlarge its possibilities of accommodation that’s how the hotel was started. Then become the railway hotel and was bought by Central group in 1985 as a joint venture with Accor. This was one of the most historical Hotels. The architect who built the hotel was Italian which was inspired by the British Edwardian style and of course it is settled in such a huge garden. It is one of the two hotels the most referred I could say in the country. It was managed by Sofitel until recently but it was always owned by Centara with the majority of the hotel shares.
What about the Centara Gardens?
Mostly trees have been here more than 100 years but in the storm last November we lost some of them. If we lose one tree we plant another one. We are famous for these sculptured bushes in the garden that look like animals. The gardens are part of the image of Centara Hua Hin.
Have You Had Mentors in your life and how these people make an impact?
There are actually three important personalities. The first one was a very meticulous person Bill Nasikas from the Stanford Court who taught me the following: “The ever present menace of Mediocrity calls for internal vigilance”. Meaning if you are not attentive every minute your business might run away. He was a very successful man; we had a 400 room Hotel with 95% occupancy all year long. I will also never forget either the lesson received by Mr. Georg Rafael who was very respectful for all the operating equipment. At one time I neglected the silver maintenance, then a Director of Regent International Hotel he pressed me on the importance or taking perfect care of the operating equipment, particularly the big 4, china, glass, silver and linen. I also developed great respect for Mr. Gerd Steeb, President from Centara Hotel Resort who helped and advice in difficult issues related to human resources who told me actually to put some water in my wine occasionally.
Is Team Building Important?
I came here and the team was already very good. Of course I motivate the team and in 5 years period people are leaving and coming. I keep believing very much if the team members no matter what position there are in, if there are not happy they cannot make our guests happy. This is probably what I believe the most. To make our guest happy I have to make the team happy. I always try to make them play together with team sports like football; if they work well together they will be happy. I never heard so many positive comments in any other hotel about the staff. We have a lot of activities. For example today we had a family lunch. Every team member can bring their families, wife, husband, children and grandparents. We have lunch, singing competitions and all the family from the hotel family is happy. Each staff member can stay one day a year as a guest when they have their birthday. They can sleep here, they can have breakfast here and also they can invite one person of their family. So this alone means a lot to them. We have a lot other activities for team building.
What core values and vision made your business successful?
We give to our members, to our staff a lot of importance only because we are expected to give to our guest more importance. Obviously we also need to ensure that the financial numbers are right because if there are not right we can’t give too much weight to the first value. We attach a lot of importance to details. The most difficult decision of all relates to the selection who is going to be in or not in the team and one of the toughest decision is when you have to decide who any long cannot be part of the team. When business is rough like when you have to downsize, close restaurants or limit your service is one of the most difficult decisions to take. When it is caused by circumstances not related to the hotel it is always very difficult and painful
Tell us about your Customers
This hotel has over 50 % returning guests all year long, in the winter we have returning long stay guests, some for over 4 months. It is a destination in itself, not only as Hua Hin but as Centara Grand Hua Hin. People enjoy the fact that there are recognised, we know exactly what they like. We are going back to details. Most of our customers are German, Thai, British and Scandinavians in winter. The Chinese also have increased by 10-15%.
Did the situation in Bangkok affect your business?
We were obviously affected but not as much as Bangkok. We had a few cancelations and we tried to manage with special promotions. We did not see too many problems in the beginning of the crisis. We now see a slowing down and we are working on marketing to fix this. The situation in Thailand did not help us to keep the same business level as last year.
How do you think Hua Hin Is developing?
I believe in Hua Hin I think it is going to be and it is already the number one destination for some of the 16 million people living in Bangkok. It has everything to offer; sea, golf and attractions parks. So I can only think positive. More people will come, more hotels will be built. The only danger, the only risk, is the lack of the structured developments. We all know there are some monstrosities in terms of buildings. The day this is monitored and controlled Hua Hin will be the number one place to go. It is got to be controlled development and it is going to be beautiful. As long the destination is a domestic destination maybe the airport is not so important but the potential of a high speed train will be fantastic.
Are you concerned about the infrastructure in Hua Hin growing so fast?
When I think about the hotel will not suffer from many infrastructure problems I can foresee like everywhere else some water problems. We almost have 5 months without rain. I am not knowledgeable about the electricity but I think that’s enough. A big problem is the access into Hua Hin. It is 2.5 hours by road from Bangkok but too many times longer than that. There is really no other way to come to Hua Hin. We have to build better roads. Access is key to Hua Hin.
What do you enjoy personally In Hua Hin?
Whenever I can, I go to Bangkok, but this is a joke. I like to exercise a lot; I walk, I jog, I read and of course I like swimming. I like to do 6 months outside exercise and six months swimming. I also like to go and eat outside. It is a city without stress.
A Jacque Mury Message?
I want tell the readers one thing; they selected a very good town to live in and there are fortunate to be in Hua Hin because it has everything including quietness and lack of stress. I wish they can stay long because the development will be good and I see how many foreigners are coming to retire in Hua Hin and that is perfect.