Anchalika Kijkanakorn is the founder of Akaryn Hospitality Management Services (AHMS), and as a highly successful female Thai hotelier she was able to offer Hotelintel.co some unique insights into her approach to business.
The Aleenta, Akaryn and Akyra brands are all very well-known in Thailand and beyond, but their underlying concepts are tied very closely to Anchalika’s own personal background. Her very first property was a private beach house, and the brand has grown to reflect her own ideas and interests since that time.
‘It was just like the time you were young and went to a beach house with the family. We really focused on creating a genuinely peaceful environment that was a real retreat from the rest of the world. Every room had a sea view. Sometimes when you go to a hotel, you never know what kind of room you’re going to get and what the view is going to be like. Here it was certain you would have a sea view.
In the early days, we had a ‘no children’ area and a family area. As I grew up and had my own kids, however, this changed and we started to make it much more family oriented and made it a place that could be a refuge for parents. For example, if you’re a parent and you wanted to go to a spa for a couple of hours, rather than having the kids sit in front of the TV we started a kids club with nannies and activities.
As we have all grown up, things have changed with us.’
One result of this gradual evolution is the current focus at AHMS properties on rejuvenation and fulfilment, which reflects an increasing demand for healthier lifestyles.
‘In the early days I didn’t really take that much care of my own personal health. I always hated going to the gym. As I got older I realised how important that was, and so once more that theme started to get introduced into our properties and we would start to have health focused themes – trainers, natural therapists, etc. We even have our own line of products, ‘Ayura Wellness’, which goes hand in hand with our properties’
It came as no surprise to learn that Anchalika believes Thailand should be taking greater advantage of the trend for ‘Wellness Tourism’, given her company’s expertise in the natural therapies that appeal to so many guests.
AHMS places strong emphasis on the concept of fostering unique environments, and this vision is reflected in its portfolio of successful brands. The Thai market, however, consistently presents challenges, and these are anything but unique.
‘One issue is zoning. Right now, Bangkok doesn’t enforce zoning, or set standards for what hotels can operate where, so you get properties popping up everywhere, diluting the market and reducing the ability for businesses to offer great service at prices that make enough profit to perpetuate healthy business. It’s very cut throat and most properties are just trying to keep their heads above water.
Finding good staff is also really difficult. We don’t need a lot of staff, but we do need very high quality staff. The way we do that is to provide very attractive packages – and as a result we have a very low staff turnover rate’
The need for quality staff ties in with Anchalika’s broader aims for the company.
‘The ultimate goal for us is to provide a consistent level of excellence when it comes to guest experience across all of our properties. We set high standards for our own brand and being the owner operators, we have the authority to implement whatever policies we need to keep us where we want to be in the market. That’s different from hotels that have to follow the guidelines of larger management companies.’
The flexibility that comes from being relatively small is certainly useful in the luxury sector, as properties can adjust strategies for specific target markets.
‘The concept of luxury is different for different groups. In Europe, luxury might mean quiet and secluded. Other groups might see it as something else, so we have to be in tune with the different markets and provide the things they are looking for in regard to luxury. For example, we might make changes to suit the Chinese market a little more now as they are a larger portion of our market, especially with the economic problems across many countries in Europe.
The Chinese market even compared to 5 years ago is different. Before, they would stay in a set of standard hotels and do the standard group tour things, but now they’ve already made that initial journey and are looking for different things to do and are often more adventurous.’
It has taken a little over ten years for Anchalika to develop her unique brand of boutique luxury, and with new properties in Cambodia representing the first steps abroad, the next decade should be full of interest for this exciting Thai brand