The managing director of the two exquisite ‘Maikhao Dream’ beachfront properties in Phuket, Zhanel Tyurina gives us the backstory on the birth and future plans of the uber-luxurious Maikhao Dream group.
What are your expansion plans for Maikhao?
The current Maikhao Dream is ‘just a snack’ in comparison to our master plan. There are 300 more rooms planned for across the lake from Maikhao Dream Phuket, and there are currently 50 more rooms being added for Maikhao Natai. There is also a 500 room property slated for another beach-front position in Phuket.
The new properties will be more of a normal five-star property, but still following the same luxurious standards of the villas but in more of a hotel format.
How do you see Maikhao Dream in the next 10 years?
In ten years Maikhao will be truly international. There are currently plans to go into several countries, though as the market and economies are changing at the moment, the countries that management have chosen might change.
Right now there is another property brand in the family in Kazakhstan. The property is a beautiful 120 key property, though at the moment this is not five-star. This will be re-branded and brought up to standard.
Another property is in Turkey and managed by people in the same group. In three to five years, they will join in the expansion under the new branding.
Why did you choose to build Maikhao Dream in Thailand?
My father was a scientist that traveled all over the world. My mother was a stewardess on a cruise ship and they both met on a trip to Antarctica where the boat that my mother was working on went to pick up the expedition from Antarctica.
They have been to the most beautiful and exotic places all over the globe, but when it came down to it, my mother chose Thailand as the perfect place to set up this Dream project to build the ultimate getaway vacation property.
After seeing what else is out there, I finally agreed with my parents that Thailand is the ideal place. The culture and the hospitality both lend themselves to providing the ideal degree of hospitality from the heart that is required for such a level of property.
What market does Maikhao cater to?
In Phuket, there is an existing market that the island appeals to, so in general Maikhao has to cater to these people. Depending on the season, the guests will change between European countries and other places around the world.
The idea for Maikhao Dream came from the owners. They are the type of clientele that they designed the place for. They are business people working at high levels in all different kinds of industries. They might not own hotels, but when they go on a holiday, they go to be cut off from the rest of the world and get away from their usual hectic work lives. That means no phone calls coming in to disrupt them, no meeting etc. The whole thing is for them to be able to escape for a few days and be in their own private world. They want to be as far away from the crowds as possible where they can get their thoughts together and regain their strength.
What was the vision for the property?
The vision was to create the ultimate luxurious experience that will be a treat to all the senses and restore the body and mind back to its original balance.
As the team was building and learning about the local culture, the way this was realised in the property came about.
The price isn’t an issue for people who really come to enjoy the experience. It’s the environment that they come for.
The original concept of hospitality though is to invite guests into your own home and give them a piece of your soul. That’s what hospitality should be. That’s what Maikhao has tried to base their hospitality philosophy on.
What challenges have you faced since opening these properties?
The local culture has been the biggest challenge. While it’s beautiful and exotic, it still means that you have to do business with a new mindset. Working practices are different. In order to gain the trust and respect of people that have different motivators, different standards and different ways of working is a big challenge for people new to the place and new to the industry. You need to accept the local culture, appreciate it for what it is and work with it.
What advice do you have for people opening a hotel?
If in Thailand, come and live in Thailand for a period first to get to know the culture and understand the way things work here. Explore first – explore the market, explore the construction field, the market, and the suppliers. Go and visit other places around the country with a mind to learn. Many people hear stories and think ‘Oh, that’s ok, it won’t happen to me’. This is dangerous thinking. You need to come, learn and then plan around what you have learnt.