Samui Wining & Dining
Larger Than Life

We chat to the charismatic Khun Kittirat Suksomboon at Baan Haad Ngam Boutique Resort & Spa.

 

17General Motors. That’s what Khun Kittirat says his title of ‘GM’ stands for as he bellows a laugh and introduces himself. Of course, it’s general manager that the title represents, and a more fitting personality for the position you couldn’t find. After all, the general manager’s most important role is to keep guests happy, and Khun Kittirat welcomes them as if to his own home – which it is, as he lives on site!

      Although he’s been general manager at Baan Haad Ngam, in northern Chaweng, for nearly three years, his career in the hospitality industry started several decades ago. We won’t reveal his age, but let’s just say that if ‘life begins at 50’, his started a few years ago. Khun Kittirat’s family have a hotel business in Phuket, so that’s where his training began – right at the bottom, cleaning pools, even though he had a degree in political science. He learnt all angles of the business from ground level for seven years in the family business, before heading to the Sauerland Stern Hotel in Germany for a year of in-service training. He picked up some basic German language skills, which he takes delight in practicing on his German guests.

      On returning to his homeland, Khun Kittirat started his 12-year stint with the Dusit Hotel Group, with the first five years as a guest activities manager in Phuket. Here he was in charge of organising themed parties and events, cooking classes, managing the ten staff in charge of Kids’ Corner, and arranging indoor activities to keep guests entertained and happy during the rain – not an easy task when visitors are after sunshine! After proposing to the love of his life, she agreed to marry him - on condition they live in Bangkok, and starry-eyed, he obliged. So staying with the Dusit Group, he headed the sales and marketing of Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket from the Bangkok office. He became the Southern Regional Manager of Sales for all the group’s properties, learning as much as he could about marketing while on the job, from a company that has excellent systems in place, ideal for training. He was frequently sent on training workshops, even abroad, so Khun Kittirat feels his years with the Dusit Group were invaluable.

       Phuket Fantasea is one of Thailand’s most popular attractions, and this may partly be due to the fact that Khun Kittirat was in charge of the production’s marketing for its first year. Once everything was set up, he started searching for something to scratch his creative itch, and moved through several hotels, staying a couple of years at each. One such job included three years as assistant general manager with the Springfield Group’s three properties in Hua Hin, which include a 27-hole Jack Nicklaus designed course. But then the opportunity arose to join a boutique resort here on Samui, and Khun Kittirat jumped at the chance to run Baan Haad Ngam (which translates to beach house).

       As we sit chatting over lunch in the resort’s Olivio restaurant (the pasta is delicious, by the way), Khun Kittitat takes the time to greet each guest that walks past, asking them what they are up to for the day, making recommendations, and ‘ordering’ the rain away at their request. His enthusiasm and laugh are both contagious. He loves planning events, and according to his assistant, Khun Sunny, the staff find it hard to meet his expectations when it comes to what he envisions. When asked how she would describe him, she says, “Crazy and creative.” She means it in a good way. There’s no black and white with Khun Kittirat, so when he wants something done, there’s only one way – 100%, nothing less. His style with both staff and guests is easy-going however. He jokes about living in the ‘cave’; his room under the cascading waterfall feature of the resort. Thankfully, the water feature gets turned off at 8:00 pm, or he’d get no sleep!

      As Khun Kittirat says, a GM cannot work without his staff, so once he’s trained them to his way of working, they are part of an important team, with happy guests being the common goal. He has an assistant that handles most of the operations side of the job, allowing him to focus on the guests, dealing with important decisions, as well as marketing. “They got two for the price of one,” he says, referring to the fact that he has experience in both marketing as well as general management. He’s not a GM that stays behind his office desk, preferring to mingle with the guests, and he personally travels to do the marketing of the hotel. Currently, a target market is Asia, and as we chat, Khun Sunny is frantically getting all the paperwork together for his next trip to China.

      Always on the go, there’s little time for family life. Khun Kittirat’s wife is still living in Bangkok with their adopted child, where she runs her own business. “The deal of the marriage was that I move to Bangkok. Nowhere in the contract did it say I have to stay there,” he jokes as he lets out another of his loud and contagious laughs. Luckily, he manages to accumulate his off-days and fly to Bangkok once a month to see them. An interesting fact that he let slip is that he once played on the Thai National Rugby Team, and his favourite team to watch is the South African Springboks!

      The owners of Baan Haad Ngam are open to letting Khun Kittirat do his thing, and he’s taking steps to update the ten year old resort. As beautiful as it is with its manicured gardens and abundant water features, there are plans to build more pool villas on the beachfront, as well as a new free-form pool. But when that’s done, we’re sure to hear about something else on the cards, as with ‘General Motors’ Khun Kittirat in charge, his vision and creativity are sure to deliver interesting results.

    
Rosanne Turner


 


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