"It was truly one of the toughest times in my career, but as it's said, the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire."

Michael Janssen has been with IHG Hotels & Resorts for over 20 years and has worked in a range of roles around the world including Europe, Middle East, Africa, China, Thailand and Indonesia. Prior to his current posting, he was the Area General Manager based at the InterContinental Hua Hin Resort. There, he was responsible for managing a portfolio of luxury resorts in Thailand's South including Holiday Inn Vana Nava Hua Hin, InterContinental Koh Samui Resort and InterContinental Phuket Resort. Under his leadership, InterContinental Hua Hin Resort was named "Thailand's Leading Resort" by World Travel Awards for three years running -- the only hotel to be named so in the award's history -- and won several other international awards. Previously, he successfully managed hotels in Mauritius and Indonesia after leading sales and marketing teams in hotels across Asia and Europe; Michael's accomplishments were recognized with the prestigious InterContinental Brand Hearted Director Sales & Marketing award.

What are the factors that have contributed to Kimpton Kitalay having such a successful opening phase?

Kimpton Kitalay Samui has just opened on 20 December, 2021 with a domestic-first commercial approach focus. Since our launch, we have seen strong interest in the transient leisure segment and a majority of our resort guests are local residents and expatriates from across Thailand. Koh Samui is now welcoming vaccinated travelers from around the world under the Test & Go Scheme as well as is part of the Sandbox program in Thailand. It is encouraging!

What makes your property unique? How will you be looking to ensure repeat visits?

The design of Kimpton Kitalay Samui is strongly influenced by the traditions and architecture of the local fishermen community. As the first Kimpton resort in South East Asia, we invite guests to Kimpton Kitalay Samui for a differentiated stay with our own take on the Samui way of life and that approachable luxury experience, fueled by our team who champion heartfelt human connections.

The resort's lifestyle programming -- part of Kimpton's DNA -- delivers memorable experiences; starting with morning kickstart to our nightly-hosted Social Hour, where the brand's vision to enable human connection comes to life as guests mingle with locals and us! Furry guests need not feel left out -- our industry-leading Kimpton Pets Program will delight with special amenities and treats such as Spirulina Ice Cream, and even a Pet Spa experience.

And as for ensuring return visits: Based on recent survey results from IHG Hotels & Resorts, those who are returning to travel are craving more interaction and that human connection, more than before the pandemic. Almost 50% of respondents surveyed are looking for a more personalized travel experience. At Kimpton Kitalay Samui, our team's brand of heartfelt hospitality brings to life ridiculously personal experiences, making every stay a memorable one.

What's the most fulfilling thing about your work?

We see many guests daily, but it's an incredible privilege each and every time to be a part of their day or a special occasion. When we're able to surprise, delight and touch our guests' lives with a warm word or thoughtful gesture, it truly feels fulfilling.

What's been the most challenging moment in your career and how did you overcome it?

It's been a challenging time since the start of the pandemic -- indeed, it has been quite the roller-coaster ride! We cannot underestimate the impact that Covid-19 has had on the hospitality industry at large -- if you think about travel restrictions, social distancing, closed borders, and hotel or dining cancellations.

It was truly one of the toughest times in my career, but as it's said, the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire. I definitely learnt a lot then and became a better leader as I guided my team members through the changes and kept them engaged.

In that time, I kept a positive outlook on things even on the greyest of days, and found time to nourish myself through personal hobbies like kite-surfing. I'm also a great believer in the power of staying self-motivated and staying mentally tough in the face of challenges.

What makes a good leader in the hotel industry?

It's definitely someone who can be flexible and who can agilely adapt to circumstances and evolving situations -- these have always been essential tools in every hotelier's toolkit, and now, even more so.

Having a strong problem-solving mindset and ability to meet challenges head-on is also important; a good hotelier and leader will have a finger on the pulse of market conditions, and take swift action to adjust to changes.

And finally, people skills will never go out of style -- some of the most important are being able to effectively engage with management, while keeping an open door policy for team members.

Visit Micheal at Kimpton Kitalay Samui