interview with Robert Frei
An interview with Robert Frei, General Manger of the Beyond Resort Khao Lak
Despite working in the hospitality business for more than three decades, Robert Frei remains energetic, friendly and exceptionally positive. From his early career as Executive Chef for the Amari Group to General Manager at the Indigo Pearl (formerly known as the Pearl Naiyang Resort) for 14 years he finally moved to Krabi joining the launch team for the Beyond Resort Khao Lak by Kata Group Resort Co. As its General Manager since the beginning of the development, in this interview Robert Frei expresses his love for Khao Lak and an insight into his job and life here and his vision of the future.
Tell us a little about yourself and why you chose to live in Khao Lak:
“I’ve been in the hotel business for 35 years and I have lived in Khao Lak since the day we started building in 2011. Overall for working and for private life in Thailand, to live in Khao Lak is probably one of the best packages.”
Upcoming Low Season prediction:
“Although it can be quiet in Low Season, it offers better prices for accommodation and the cost of living. Many tour operators are still open except the ones to the islands. In the past few years, we have seen so much change in weather conditions. It used to rain in October but in the last two years we’ve had the warm and dry weather at the end of the Low Season. The upcoming expectation for the Low Season is better than last year for sure. We have a high number of pre-bookings for this season. June and July could be quiet but September and October is coming very strong already. In addition, travelers nowadays are smarter, they are well-prepared for the rainy season, they read on TripAdvisor, Holiday Check or other internet sites about the destination so they know they could not expect sunshine every day yet the prices for their accommodation are less than half so they get better value for their money. As hoteliers we are hoping for the best.”
“In general, Europe has fallen because of the currency exchange and difficult economic climate. We have a huge influx from Eastern European countries and from China. This has created mass tourism, which was not present in this destination before. This brings more money and will make the economy flow better in Thailand. I just came back from ITB a few months ago. The prediction is that Khao Lak will have more Central European tourists and I’m talking about French, Italian and Spanish. We will have more here in Khao Lak than they have in Phuket which has a big problem with infrastructure such as traffic. They also have a huge amount of group tourism from the new market (Eastern Europe and China) so when people are searching for a pure beach holiday Khao Lak is their best dream destination. Within 6 years, we will have bigger and better infrastructure including hospitals, healthcare and international schools for permanent residents. Shopping possibilities and entertainment facilities will rise. In addition, you will see a change in the attitude of local people. They will open their businesses longer each year. There will be no longer a Low Season to satisfy the off-season market as well.”
How do the big establishments such as your resort benefit local people and small businesses?
“We bring employment and give work to locals for sure, although it is so hard to get staff within the area.”
What are the other establishments associated with the Beyond Resort Khao Lak?
“There are 6 hotels under the management of Kata Group, 3 in Phuket, 1 in Krabi, 1 in Samui and 1 in Khao Lak. One thing which combines the Beyond brand is that we are located directly on the beach with nothing in between, no streets and no shopping centres. It’s the best guarantee.”
What made you choose to make such a big hotel (153 rooms) Adults Only?
“It’s a market plan. Look around. We received a good response this year. In November the Kantary will change to be Adults Only (16 plus) as well. We chose to be an 18 plus resort. The Sensimar Khao Lak is also an 18 plus hotel. The reason we wanted to promote the Beyond to be Adults Only is because people are more stressed nowadays in the workplace, especially in Europe. Long ago there was no big competition in the office environment. In the last 10 years people especially in management work harder, performing upto 6-7 days a week. They feel more stressed so they need a break. “I want to relax. I want it quiet. I don’t want to be disturbed by anything. No screaming kids. No shouting parents. I want to enjoy my holidays.” At Beyond, this is exactly what we’re offering them. We were concerned about two things when we changed to the Adults Only concept. As is it is Thailand, people might have the wrong idea that this could be a sex hotel or a red light district outside, neither of which, of course, are true. Another worry was that we’re building ourselves an old age home but in the event our average customer’s age is 42.”
What distinguish you from other 3, 4 or 5 star hotels?
“We have 157 permanent staff and about 9 temporary staff and some extra day staff and at the end of the day we are all about service. We want our customers to be spoiled in this hotel. We clean the room three times per day in our villas. This is what makes the price value for money. That’s what keeps us apart from other places. Things like this impress our customers.”
We are launching a new column “People of the Month”. Do you have any suggestions?
“That is very interesting. I would like to see more of local Thai faces and expats; people who have built and settled in the area, people who are not in the limelight.”
Recommendation to KL Magazine:
“So far, I like the last few issues. My suggestion is that you don’t let the advertisements take over the magazine because when people come for a holiday, they would like to have information about the destination. Once it becomes too commercial, people will stop reading it.”
While being interviewed in the hotel lobby, you could see the positive dynamics between Robert Frei and his customers and staff. With his progressive attitude, we can be sure that Khao Lak will be a dream destination for a very long time. Enjoy your green season in our town and explore the endless possibilities of your holiday.