FIVE MINUTES WITH WAN ISSARA
What made you decide to persuade your family to let you start Sri Panwa fresh out of hospitality school?
I returned from Switzerland to join the family’s property business, but realized that my real calling was in hospitality. So in 2005, I proposed opening a resort in Cape Panwa. There were major risks involved, but I was lucky to have my father’s guidance.
What distinguishes the Charn Issara group’s take on hospitality?
There were three or four hotels charging upwards of US$1,000 in Phuket then, but I didn’t see ourselves in direct competition with them. We are styled differently. We’re at the most secluded tip of the cape, so location-wise, we’re unique and exclusive. I wanted a luxury hotel that was contemporary in design, with five-star service that is casual yet attentive.
In an era where hospitality conglomerates dominate, how can smaller operators compete?
We differentiate ourselves in terms of location, service, and design. We also do social media marketing to target potential travellers directly and create meaningful connections with potential guests. Consumers these days are looking to explore and experience lesser-known, exciting locations.
You’re launching Sri Panwa in Hainan next year. Why Hainan, and why China?
The Chinese government has been actively developing Hainan for tourism: There are three airports, a high-speed train around the island, and visa-free entry for 59 countries. It’s an exciting opportunity to showcase our brand of hospitality.
Sri Panwa Hainan is our second joint venture with Junfa Real Estate from China. The Sri Panwa brand is popular among Chinese tourists – last year alone, they were our biggest customers, so we see a lot of potential. We have big plans and Hainan is just the beginning.