Samui Wining & Dining
Why Here?

We talk to David Xavier, Manager of Impiana Resort, to find out what brought him to Samui.


19It’s a dream that most people have. Well – certainly many of us, at some time or another. We go away on holiday to a new place. We weight it against all the other places we’ve been. And then we start to think how great it would be to have a home there. A great many people have retired to Samui by going down this route. But there are also quite a few who have come here to work. Some knew the island already. But, for others, an office with a desk was one of the first things (apart from the airport!) they saw when they came to Samui. And one of these was David Xavier.

    David is Resort Manager at Impiana Resort Chaweng Noi, Koh Samui, just around the corner from Chaweng’s main beach. The resort is a part of Impiana Hotels & Resorts Management, a discerning operator that owns resorts in Malaysia and Thailand. Samui’s ‘Impiana’ is a top-notch resort, set into the hillside via a series of broad terraces which gently descend towards the beach. There are two super restaurants, both open to the public, which form a central feature of the resort. Because of the cunning terracing it takes a moment to perceive this; the upper restaurant, Tamarind Bar & Lounge, is just a little lower than the walkway from reception, with steps leading downwards to the pool area and Sabai, the second restaurant. And the Swasana Spa, one of the most gentile on the island, is cleverly tucked away alongside this, in a petite garden-world of its own. It’s a delightful resort in every way.

      David was born in the popular coastal resort of Kuantan, in Malaysia. His father, a senior engineer working for a German company, travelled frequently and often took the family with him. “I recall this period with fondness,” David reminisced. “The town itself was very relaxed and full of resorts and, in addition to this, the excitement and glamour of the big hotels my father took us to made a lasting impression. There’s an energy about a top hotel: it smells exciting as soon as you enter; the bright and subtle lighting, the sense of muted urgency. It was what prompted me to head towards the hospitality industry when I left school.”

       David has always enjoyed cooking and helping his mother in the kitchen. And so, whilst studying for his degree in Hotel Management and Catering at KDU College at Damansara Utama, it was natural for him to take an evening job in a hotel. Directly upon leaving college, he was selected to work at the very ritzy 5-star Holiday Villa in Kuala Lumpur, where after three years he was promoted to assistant manager.

        At this point David (and his wife, Aronica Lee) went to Melbourne to study at Victoria University for his Bachelor’s Degree in business studies and hotel management. Which no doubt stood him in good stead for his next position, at the Hilton Kuala Lumpur. “I went for a post as head waiter,” he confided, “as I really wanted the opportunity to work for such an international hotel chain. But it was a good move as, three years later, I’d advanced to restaurant manager.” This was followed, in 1999, by an exciting and demanding post as catering and event manager for Pan Pacific Kuala Lumpur Airport Hotel. “I introduced the party nights held on the roof of the airport car park.” He smiled. “They were really something; 6,000 people needing watering and feeding until dawn. This was a most enjoyable period! But then our first child was born, Keith Lee. And I really felt the need to get away from working 14-hour days to spend more time with my family, so I left the industry for seven years.”

      And when, in 2007, it was time to return to his first love, he took a position working as an assistant director of food and beverages for the Impiana Group in Kuala Lumpur. A promotion to Director of F&B followed, and he remained there for four years until, in November 2011, he was offered his current position, managing the Impiana Resort on Koh Samui.

      “It took a while to get the hang of Samui,” he explained. “I’d been used to everything happening right away, city blocks and high-rise buildings, around-the-clock activities, theatres, malls and movie complexes. And then it hit me. It was a culture shock for them, not me! I was approaching everything in the wrong way. Be patient. Everything will slot in with a bit of time and guidance. This is a tropical island – take things as they come!”

      A philosophy which, I have to say, he’s adopted with great success. In the year David’s been at the helm here, the Trip Advisor ratings have rocketed, and there’s a constant, ongoing, process of staff training and customer care. “I was once told that to run a hotel properly,” David continued, “a manager needs to constantly be putting himself in the place of the guests. If a family with children wants to cook their own vegetables the way the kids are used to, why not: the mother can have access to the main kitchen. Make sure that the thermos of cool water is next to the bed, where it’s most-likely to be needed, not in the fridge. I often stay overnight in the different suites, just to experience what’s it feels like to be a guest. So we’ve changed the shower layout, revised the way that housekeeping cleans the rooms and introduced a ‘pillow menu’ so that guests can have exactly the thickness and texture of the pillow that they’re comfortable with. And, of course, the hub of the resort, the food and beverage department and the restaurants, is continually being expanded and revised . . .”

      David is an immensely approachable figure, thorough and dynamic, but also gently humorous and light-hearted. He now has three children, with the eldest two attending the prestigious International School of Samui. He lives in a large and airy house (with a huge kitchen!) in the southern part of the island, and insists that every Sunday, his one day off each week, the family spends time together, goes out on trips and enjoys (not that he has to insist, here) the meal he cooks for them all. He’s content. But is he resting on his laurels? “Not at all,” he grinned, “I am happy here and now. We all love Samui. And I really value the personal approach that the Impiana Group extends to their team, and I want to stay with them. But . . .” a faraway look came into his eyes for a moment, “. . . the company is growing and expanding and there are new resorts being planned and built and more opportunities arising. I’ll no doubt seize the chance when it comes, sometime in the future. Maybe one day . . .”


Rob De Wet



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