People argue about whether or not years of experience can guarantee your success in running a hotel. Pratarnporn Phornprapha, the Managing Director of [email protected] Hotels has proved that you don’t necessarily need to be old and grey to run a successful hotel. With three properties in her portfolio ([email protected] Bangkok, [email protected] Pattaya, Movenpick Pattaya) Pratarnporn is also working on a new project that will add yet another property to her portfolio.
How did you cut your teeth in the hotel industry? … and What was the biggest challenge for you at that time?
I actually wasn’t sure what to study before going to college and my father suggested that I go and study hotel management since [email protected] Bangkok was already in the pipeline. It was mostly circumstantial, as I wanted to study something completely different. I guess life works in different ways. I finished my college, went for my traineeship in various countries and then came back. I started work at [email protected] perhaps a year after I returned to Thailand. The biggest challenge was that huge transition into a management role. My father used to take me into meeting rooms. As I was in my teenage years, he still insisted that I sat at the head of the table on my own. This was something completely different from what I was used to, especially given that I was so young. I think that the challenge with young management is always placing so many expectations on somebody with no experience and just expecting them to make it happen. When you are young, you always tend to be quite idealistic, and then get frustrated when things don’t happen your way. I think my biggest challenge was managing my expectations and shifting my focus from the end result to more of how to get there. This was my experience in the first year but I had to learn quite fast. It was a great experience.
What is the one thing that you have since learnt and wish you had have known when you started there and what might you have done differently?
I don’t think I would have done anything differently but perhaps to take more time into doing it. Change doesn’t just happen with the click of the fingers so to make sure that change is sustainable and change is perceived by all as a positive outcome then it gives you more productive results. We have an ever changing market in the hospitality sector so change is an inevitable thing, if you don’t change you become stagnant, the most important thing is to drive for a positive change and with the right pacing with the right communication. If you ask me if I would have done things differently I perhaps would have taken more time to slow down the pace of the change so that it became something a bit more natural rather than a sudden transformation.
Having run two successful hotels, why did you decide to go with a chain hotel as your third one?
We had always said that [email protected] would be a 4 star brand that represents experience and design. In Pattaya, there’s still space in the market for luxury, more classic hotels therefore that’s the space we wanted to get into. It is so different compared to what our 4 star chic brand represented so we decided to go with a chain whose core essence represented more of the market space that we wanted to go in.
If you were to build your next hotel, would it be an independent or a branded hotel and why?
It really depends on the destination. Like Pattaya, we went in and saw there’s space for different types of hotels and we went 2 different times with 2 different brands, one under [email protected] and another under Moevenpick. We are a fairly new company so we’re looking for investment opportunities with fast return and high cap rate. If we were to enter any market, it would depend what kind of market space it was, or needs that existed there and we would go from there to plan whether or not we would self run it under our own brand or use a branded model for other reasons such as leveraging their marketing network. It depends on which destination is attracting which market too, to plan which brand will be the best fit accordingly.
There is a lot of investment from Thailand going into places like Vietnam and Burma right now. Would you consider expanding your portfolio into neighboring countries like Vietnam or Burma any time in the near future?
Definitely and it’s in the works. We are currently looking at 2 sites overseas and will definitely let you know more once we have selected which project will go first.