Samui Wining & Dining
Why Here ?

We talk to Khun Jeff, General Manager at Nora Beach Resort.

 

9Nora Beach Resort & Spa is one of a number of prestigious hotels that are located away from the hustle and bustle of Chaweng. Meaning that it’s right on the fringe, in the northern part of the bay, just a few minutes ride away from the centre, yet perfectly and peacefully placed. The ‘Nora Group’ is very much a local enterprise, and this was the first of the ‘Noras’ to appear. It’s a large and luxuriant resort, sitting high on the cliff and with layers of terraces drifting down towards the beach and the two restaurants. Since this resort first appeared, the group has added another three super getaways, culminating in the sumptuous 5-star Nora Buri Resort & Spa, just a little way along the coast.

      Today the person in charge of the smooth running of the resort is Khun Prajuabphan Sakakorn – more generally known as Khun Jeff. He’s an interesting man and very accessible. Purposeful, rather than earnest, yet readily moved to the point where the grins begin to emerge. He takes his work seriously, and has become known for tackling problems head-on. And yet he’s affable and easy-going by nature. But, curiously, his career began in another direction altogether.

      Khun Jeff was born in Bangkok, and on leaving school gained a degree in Political Science. His aim was to work his way up in local government, after first securing a junior posting in one of the regional offices. But the way things work in Thailand is that such batches of vacancies fall open every two years. Thus, with a gap to fill, and with the help of a friend, he took a junior post – but in a hotel. And not just any hotel, either. Khun Jeff started in the employ of the 5-star Royal Orchid Sheraton & Towers, one of the nation’s most prestigious hotels.

      “My job wasn’t quite as grand as it sounds,” Khun Jeff smiled modestly. “I was very much a junior, a trainee, and I started by doing a great many small things to learn the basics. In fact, I spent a total of five years in the ‘front office’, covering all aspects. At which point I became interested in a different sector of the business.”

       The fact that eventually Khun Jeff was to remain with this hotel for a total of 15 years speaks volumes. He’s not the sort of person who light-heartedly dances their way up the career ladder – two years here and one year there. He’s thorough, dedicated and conscientious. “I realised,” Khun Jeff continued, “that there are just two core elements to any successful hotel. The first one is to get the guests into the hotel in the first place. And the second is to ensure that they are not only delighted with their stay but they want to come back again.”

       You’re probably wondering what happened to Khun Jeff’s political ambitions – remember the stopgap job he took whilst waiting for the next round of vacancies? The answer’s simple. He got hooked on working with people. It didn’t take long before the prospect of sitting in the same office each day with a dozen other co-workers had lost its appeal. As he himself says, “People are complex. You can’t rubber-stamp them with clear-cut rules and regulations. Every person, every couple, carries their own dynamic. Every problem has a different solution. And if a similar thing comes up again then it has not been satisfactorily solved. It’s not only a challenge but it’s fascinating!”

      Realising that the first aspect to get to grips with was the ‘getting people in’, Khun Jeff took another (once again junior) position in the hotel’s sales and marketing division. And, once again, methodically learned the ropes and worked his way up the ladder, until he finally emerged as Assistant Director of Sales and Marketing. It doesn’t take long to say that; but it took him another seven years before he left – a total of 15 years with the same 5-star employer, in 12 different posts – by which time he considered this part of his apprenticeship complete! The next step was to put himself in a position where he could ‘keep the guests coming back’: he now needed to find a position as a hotel manager.

       His next significant appointment was with the world-renowned Minor International Group, which operates over 1,000 restaurants and 30 5-star hotels worldwide, including such spangled names as Marriott and Four Seasons – plus the new brand name of Anantara. Khun Jeff was in on the opening of this brand, as Director of Sales and Marketing for the Anantara Group. And that’s how he came to Samui. “I’d visited the island before” he explained. “Although I was then based in Bangkok, now I was coming to Samui for meetings every month.”

      Two years later, in 2009, the Nora Group opened their 5-star flagship, Nora Buri Resort & Spa. The general manager from Nora Beach took the top post there, leaving a vacancy in his wake. Khun Jeff applied, and was accepted for the position. And then his work began in earnest. He worked his particular brand of marketing magic on the superb beach restaurants, upgrading them and creating one of the most lavish beach barbecue buffets on the island – believe me these have to be experienced! And they’re exceptional value for money, too.

         And he introduced an exacting staff-training program to regulate, monitor, encourage and reward all his employees, from the gardeners to the waiters to the cleaners. “It’s not enough to just say we really care about our guests,” he mused. “It actually has to happen. All our staff must understand how to respond to guests and their problems. We have 114 rooms here and it can get very busy. But I’m always on hand to help and support my staff. We not only need to create a great atmosphere for guests, we want them to remember us and come back again. Guests have to leave us with a warm feeling and fond memories!”

         It’s an unusual scenario. All in all Khun Jeff has spent a total of 19 years in international hotel chains and has worked for long periods in every discipline. And now he’s not only getting guests – he’s keeping them. Because at last he’s running all the marketing as well as keeping them happy when they’re here – he’s Group Director for Sales and Marketing, too. And all of this is exactly the reason Khun Jeff came to us here on Samui!

         

Rob De Wet


 


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