Samui Wining & Dining
Why Here?

For Michael Howard, being the boss isn’t just about managing, it's also about leading from the front.

 

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Samui has a large expat community. And not all of its members are retired or simply here to soak up the sun. For some, coming to Samui to work is a career choice. And many of the island’s top resorts are managed by experienced hospitality professionals from across the globe. We spent some time with Michael Howard, the Chief Operating Officer and General Manager of two of Samui’s most prominent hotels – Melati Beach Resort and Spa and Chaweng Regent Beach Resort – to find out what brought him here.

  JP :Hi Michael, can you tell us a little about your background please?

MH: I was born in Indiana, USA, to wonderful, hard working parents who fully supported my far-fetched dreams to not only see the world but perhaps change it a little. My first job, like many other people, was packing bags in a grocery store while still at high school. I guess my first job in the hospitality industry was scooping ice-cream in a Ben ’n’ Jerry’s. I worked while attaining my MBA at university and haven’t stopped since!

 JP: How did your career in hospitality progress?

MH: I was fortunate enough to land a role as a maitre d’ in a very up-market restaurant while I was still comparatively young. It was one of those places where the crockery on one table alone was worth more than my car but it was a fantastic restaurant to work in at the time. From there I bounced around to Los Angeles, London and Japan before coming to Thailand for the first time about ten years ago.

 

JP:When did you first come to Samui?

MH:At the time, I was based in Bangkok and in 2003 was asked to come down to Samui to interview for the general manager position at Baan Haad Ngam Resort, in Chaweng. I was amazed by the sheer beauty of the island but to be honest when I boarded the aircraft in Bangkok I had no idea where Samui was! Anyway, I accepted the position and had a fabulous time at the resort. Alongside Executive Chef Luigi Fadda, who started around the same time as me, we were able to establish the resort’s Olivio Italian restaurant as one of the very best eateries on the island.

 

JP: How would you describe both Melati and Chaweng Regent to someone who had never been before?

MH: Chaweng Regent is the ‘Grand Dame’ of Chaweng. It’s been one of the most popular resorts on Samui for more than 20 years and is a true oasis amidst the colourful character of Chaweng. Melati Resort in the northeast of the island is simply the ultimate destination for those seeking to get away from it all and have their individual wants and desires met. It sits on a secluded bay and it feels like a little island on its own although it’s just 15 minutes from Chaweng.

 

JP:How would you describe your typical working day?

MH:A little bit of peace and a whole lot of pressure! I spend time on more than 100 topics per day. Between the two resorts, we welcome hundreds of guests every week. I’m also responsible for several hundred staff and no two days are ever the same. That said, I am working on a beautiful tropical island and not stuck in a cubicle in a skyscraper

 

JP: What do you think you have achieved so far at the resorts?

MH: Not as much as I would have liked but you cannot have it all. We have streamlined policies, improved services, increased return on investment and expanded our presence in the market both locally and internationally. We have also given back to the local community by donating to the local school, helping out with environmental projects and giving aid in times of natural disasters, such as the terrible floods here last year.

 

JP:And what are your goals for the next 12 months?

MH: Looking forward, the goals for the next year are to strengthen the building blocks of the organization while preparing for growth in one form or another.

 

JP:What’s the impression you have about the standards and levels of cuisine at your resorts and on Samui as a whole?

MH: The island is a great dining destination and I am so lucky to have been a part of this for many years on Samui. Now I am lucky enough to oversee the one and only Red Snapper Restaurant & Bar (on the Beach Road itself, at the entrance to Chaweng Regent) which is Samui’s premier venue for dining with outstanding entertainment. At the resorts, we have calm and relaxing beach dining venues that offer the most incredible romantic dinners, and then there’s Kan Sak Tong restaurant at Melati. This is one of the best Thai restaurants in the area in my opinion.

 

JP:And What do you see as the most important aspect of your job?

MH: Tough question. As a GM and COO, I have responsibility for many things, including property management, investor relations, community relations and guest services. However, I guess the most important aspect may be listening to the 100-200 people I chat with every day. Whether they are my staff, community members, directors, guests or others; when we listen we can understand and use that information to develop people, services and the business. I am often asked why I work so hard here in laid-back Thailand and the answer is really simple. It’s to have the great joy of helping develop someone into a role or place in life they didn’t think they could attain. That is my reward and my purpose.

 

JP:Recruitment and retention of staff can be difficult on Samui with so many rival resorts here and more under construction; what are your thoughts on this?

MH:The key to recruitment and retention, I believe, is all about enabling a sense of our culture within each group or resort, developing the people, rewarding outstanding acts of accomplishment and truly loving the teams we lead. Connecting with people reduces turnover and improves service delivery standards.

 

JP:When you get some time to yourself, what are some of the things you like to do or experience on Samui to relax?

MH:If I have time off you will either find me working in my garden at home or in the lounge at the airport waiting on a flight. Having been in the area for so long, I have seen and done it all, so I tend to travel a lot to nearby countries to experience other cultures and cuisines.

      

 


Johnny Paterson

 


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