Deevana Hotels and Resorts has a long history. It first appeared as Bayshore Resort in 1999, and then through rebranding it’s become what we know today as ‘Deevana Hotels and Resorts’. Now, the Deevana Group owns Deevana Hotels and Resorts which consists of Deevana Plaza, Deevana, Recenta Suite, Recenta and the Recenta Express. They also own Spa brands Orientala Wellness and Spa, along with Orientala Spa. The Deevana group is also a franchisee for the Ramada Phuket Deevana.
Suksit shares about the early days:
“The road to Deevana started 17 years ago. My sister had just graduated from hospitality school and as one of her first projects with the family, she opened the Siam Bay Shore. Once that started to move, they started to think about the whole concept of what expansion might look like. It’s around that time that I came into the picture - as we were evolving into a hotel chain. I suggested to my sister that we should go with an established international hotel chain because there weren’t that many in Patong at that time. We opened the Mercure as our third property in Patong. After several years, more and more international brands started to flood Patong the fact that we were an international brand couldn’t be used as a unique selling point anymore. We needed to re-strategize.
We figured that it was about time that we looked at building our own brands up and manage them ourselves. We believed that by that time, we had enough experience that we were capable of doing so. We modelled ourselves on how the other international brands had set themselves up. We set up a corporate office where we managed all the brands from and each property had its own General Manager, Director of Sales and Marketing and Financial Controller. At the corporate level we had our group DOSM, Group FC, Group Marcom and other key executive level roles that you would expect. We had all the elements that we needed to manage our own properties.”
That structure was indeed just what they needed and it enabled them to grow their business to what it is today.
Even with such strong brands of their own, the group is also a Ramada franchisee. On that topic, Suksit explained:
“We own the Ramada but it’s a franchise. Their development team suggested that we go with this option because being locals and having been the very first hotel group in Patong, we know the market well - it plays to our advantage.”
The group has 50 staff at their head office and around 850 staff all together. Those staff serve guests from all over the globe. When discussing their marketing strategy, Suksit noted:
“We have built good relationships with travel agencies over the years. We attend all the sales calls in countries around the world and in particular in Berlin and France. We handle our sales and marketing much in the same way that any other international hotel brand would do it. We also have the Scandinavian market covered, which is not easy to tap into - especially new hotels. Over 20% of our direct bookings are from that market and we have a repeat guest rate of 10%. We also have market share in other markets as we believe in a strategy of having one’s eggs in many baskets”.
What are the benefits of managing your own brands? Sukit says “Having our own brands gives us so much flexibility. When everything is controlled and standardized under a larger global organization, even to make the smallest change, you have the arduous task of traversing all the hierarchies of the organization at the corporate office just to get a decision. For example, when the market drops, instead of you being able to respond quickly by launching a promotion to counter the shift, there are steps that you need to follow in order to get approval from the corporate office. It takes time and that time costs. Being modelled the way we are now, if a GM feels that they need to make a decision, they are empowered to do so, enabling them to respond quickly to the market. This is especially helpful when we need to respond to feedback that we receive from travel agencies.”
Suksit believes that there are five keys to managing a successful glocal brand.
When we started, I told my father that we needed to ensure that we had good, solid systems for everything that we do. We used a professional branding agency and hired Grant Thornton to do our internal audits. The structure needs to be strong from the beginning and I believe that the fact that we did this is why we were able to grow quite rapidly and remain strong.
We have a good relationship with the community and take care of our people well. As mentioned earlier, we have a very low rate of turnover and have no problem hiring in good talent.
We have internal audit teams that keep us in check. Our designers, engineers and architects go into our properties and check to see if there is anything that physically needs fixing. We also have our regular preventative maintenance programme that happens every three months. We carry out regular financial audits and also have an annual brand audit.
Every property is different and GM’s need to have a certain degree of flexibility in managing a given property. We don’t have high turnover at corporate level because I give them freedom to make their decisions, make mistakes, and fix them without me having to hold their hands. I don’t believe in micro-managing.
Due to the way we have decentralised everything, I only end up having to spend an hour or so in our monthly meetings. I don’t like to work slowly. If papers or documents need my attention, I do it right away. The job of the CEO is to process work fast. Anything that unnecessarily slows things down is of no use to anyone. Despite my hectic travel schedule, I can still always sign the documents that I need to and respond to emails as required. When you do things properly, there is no reason not to. Efficiency needs to start from the CEO. if you tell your staff to be efficient and work fast but at the same time you take weeks to sign documents and push work through, you’re not setting a good example.
The Deevana group has a strong footing in Thailand’s south, but that could change. When it comes to expansion potential, nothing is off the table.