FIVE MIN­UTES WITH WAN IS­SARA

Portfolio - - PORTFOLIO - Mr. Is­sara shares his vi­sions for the Charn Is­sara group’s fu­ture

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.

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