A Work Week With Simon Douthett, General Manager of Hotel Indigo Phuket Patong
Think the hospitality industry is all glitz and glam? We reveal all, right here.
Being in the hospitality industry, particularly when you are running a beach-side boutique hotel just minutes away from the nightlife hub on Thailand’s most famous island, Phuket, the weekdays and weekends sometimes tend to blend into each other as lived, overlapping experiences. In any case, it’s important to start the new week with a plan: reflecting on the previous week and assessing which parts of the business require the most focus and plan accordingly.
Hotel Indigo Phuket Patong only just opened last month (note to editor: 18 November 2018) so for a fresh new property, walking the halls becomes an even more important task as I connect with the front line team and listen to what they have noticed. There is nothing more valuable than hearing what the team – who is there with the guests all the time – has to say about the experience and the hotel. More importantly, a morning meeting provides an early chance to hear what is happening in the hotel and to provide support where it is needed. A GM has to ensure the team has what it needs to succeed.
The property has been built around the main influences that it draws from the neighbourhood of Patong – nightlife, tropical forests and fishing village. Communicating these key influences correctly and in the best way possible is core to our identity and thus we align our marketing and sales activities to reflect our brand and identity.
I start the day with a breakfast with a VIP – I love connecting with hotel guests and it’s through such opportunities that I am able to share tips on how to enjoy Phuket, New Zealand (where I am from) as well as the stories behind Patong. The neighbourhood contributes greatly to our hotel – from the design influences to the activities (we have a Muay Thai ring in our 24 hour fitness gym here), we are a microcosm of Patong.
I continue the day with a departmental action plan follow up. It’s a communication of plans in which the team committed to and we get an update on what has been achieved and where they need support. After all, as a new property with a difference, we have gotten everyone curious – not just tourists but also local residents – so we have high expectations to fulfill. The Revenue Meeting is one that I look forward to. How do we best position the hotel to be most effective? We have the Marketing and Sales, Revenue and Finance teams come together to leverage each other’s expertise. We have an incredibly well-designed property by Habita Architects and Blink Design Group and we would love to have the world see it.
The final interview always sits with me. No difficult questions here, just a chance for us to see if the potential team member has the right attitude to fit with the dynamic and vibrant team already here. We hire people who fit our DNA and can, through training, lend themselves to being moulded that way. We have a very important update twice a week on what training is taking place in the hotel. Investing in people is one of the most valuable things and we have so many tools and experiences to share.
One of the key demographics that Hotel Indigo draws is ‘savvy individualists’; these folks travel widely for business and leisure and look for boutique hotels – distinctiveness, style, personality but also the reliability and benefits of a brand. We wish to build a team that’s in the best position to communicate our brand to our guests.
Wednesday gets more creative with our meeting with Chef Morten Nielsen. He has a background which includes molecular gastronomy and Thai cuisine and he’s well-primed to help us create gastronomical experiences to draw in epicureans. Start at our Butcher’s Garden, a butchery, charcoal grill and wine shop all in one, followed by drinks at our craft beer and cocktail garden, Pots, Pints and Tikis. We even work with local small-batch rum producer Chalong Bay to create cocktails. How does an ever-evolving, locally-inspired crafted beverage experience in a cocktail bar sound? The only caveat is that you will need a password to get in. Our food and beverage marketing sesh is where we find opportunities that exist to bring people in.
While we are boutique in our approach – with lots of character and personality to boot – we also come with the quality and reliability that our parent company InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is known for. We have a close relationship with the hotel’s project manager so it enables us to stay on top of project developments even after our recent opening. Formal weekly updates provide a chance to tick off the final touches. Quality check remains a top priority too as we check in weekly with our Quality and Continuous Improvement managers whose job is key to bring about continuous improvement. Reviewing both feedback and observations provides insight into where the current focus needs to be.
I end the evening with other IHG GMs – it’s a good chance for us to share, reconnect and swap useful learnings.
I like having a day of reflection. It’s a chance to look at the week just gone and begin to create the roadmap for next week’s plan.
We spend time having a Digital Marketing connection with the usual suspects in our team and have an assessment of what has been successful and what needs retargeting. We have someone in our team whose full time role is to just handle social (media.) For would-be guests, our social platform – aside from our website – is the next best place to discover the best expression of our brand personality, a window into our vibrant and sophisticated property.
Just before the weekend comes, we empower our team and ensure they have the adequate support and resources for the weekend.
Patong has undergone transformation from the fishing village it once was to become the epicenter of Phuket. It is a hive of activity filled with options ranging from nightlife, entertainment and leisure to sports, retail and recreation. No prizes for guessing, too, that it has spectacular scenery, sunset and beautiful turquoise waters off the Andaman Sea. It is truly the most electrifying neighbourhood on the island.
Our Saturdays are spent working with Kebsup towards shaping the vision of next-level Patong.
We like working with our owners Kebsup Group Company Limited as they are committed to having our ‘hood develop into next-level Patong. They saw the potential of Hotel Indigo Phuket Patong leading the way for change in Patong with its boutique approach to design, F&B, service as well as its rich character and sense of place. For a business of its scale, we believe it will have great influence as to how people will perceive the place and we are sure that it will be able attract more like-minded businesses as well, all without sacrificing the character of the neighbourhood.
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