Q&A with the GM of the new SALA Samui Chaweng Beach Resort – Erwin van der Veen

Travel Daily spoke to the dynamic Dutchman to find out his thoughts on the industry in Koh Samui, what to expect from SALA’s latest resort and how he plans to make an impact on the popular island.

Travel Daily) Congratulations on your new role as GM. What can the resort’s staff expect from you, and what is your leadership style?

Thank you very much for your congratulatory message, I am delighted with the opportunity to be on Koh Samui The team can expect a passionate hotelier with two decades of experience in the global hospitality arena, someone who will be there to open this amazing resort whilst standing by their side.

I believe in allowing the team to make mistakes and create successes by making their own decisions which will allow them to grow and develop as professionals. Obviously, I will support them and monitor their development to ensure this learning process does not affect the guest experience or resort performance. Celebration of successes is something I am looking forward to doing, recognizing those great moments of achievement.

An emphasis on training and staff well-being will be at the core of all initiatives, based on the genuine belief that a resort is “merely” a building – it is the team that provides the heartbeat to the property, and this will make or break any guest experience in any hotel.

Pool Suite

What is your take on the travel industry in Samui, how does it differ from other regions you have worked in?

It is a still growing but well-established destination for local and overseas travellers, with an abundance of options in all categories from back-packing to ultra-high-end luxury products.

My past experiences were in developing areas of the Middle East as well as a more remote location in Malaysia, which makes the scope of work at SALA different. In previous destinations, for example, the emphasis was not merely focused on property development, but an equal if not more amount of time and effort was spent on destination marketing. With Koh Samui being in much further advanced stages of destination development, the emphasis will have to be more on gaining market share in this more competitive environment.

Koh Samui appears to be very active in ensuring that aside from the development of hotels and resorts, it pays an equal amount of time and effort in the development of destination activities, and is continuously enhancing the quantity and quality of the infrastructure to sustain its growth.

SALA Pool Villa

With the Grand Opening set for 16th January 2018, what plans do you have to make an impact, and stand out in a competitive arena like Samui?

The Island of Koh Samui has a highly competitive environment for accommodation, service, as well as food and beverage offerings. It will be of paramount importance that we differentiate ourselves from the competition, through product as well as service experiences, as alternatively we will blend in the big pot of fishermen angling in the same pond of potential guests.

I strongly believe SALA Samui Chaweng Beach Resort has from the onset tried and been able to create that difference, through significantly different and creative designs from most competitors on the island. The unique location also allows for that peaceful and romantic break whilst being a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of the entertainment hub of Chaweng.

All 52 of our guest rooms in phase one opening in January will have private pools between 18 sqm up to 52 sqm in size which emphasises the ‘private and personal’ positioning of the SALA Resorts and Spa brand.

The team and I are also working on some creative “service touchpoints” which will be experienced by every guest visiting the resort. These WOW experiences and extra touches will create unforgettable moments that will be captured on social media as well as be etched on the guests’ memories for a lifetime.

It’s worth noting that we have been on the island for 14 years since the opening of SALA Samui Choengmon Beach Resort, so we have over a decade of local experience to draw on.

Pool Suite Partial Seaview

As you mentioned there is already the SALA Samui Choengmon Resort on the Island. How will the two resorts differentiate from each other? Can guests expect synergies amongst the Resorts?

SALA Samui Choengmon Resort is the first of the SALA Resorts and Spas and a well-established and respected resort in the market.

By having a second resort on the island we obviously open up exciting opportunities and synergies that will positively affect the guests’ experience.

Both properties have obviously unique designs. While Choengmon is more famous for its tranquillity we offer at our Chaweng Resort a relaxed setting yet close to the action if one desires to explore the nightlife Koh Samui has to offer.

SALA Resorts have always put a strong focus on high quality culinary offers – both resorts have experienced expatriate chefs at the helm of the culinary teams.

We would like to invite our guests to explore both resorts to discover different neighbourhoods, taste new exciting dishes offered at our restaurants, or simply change the setting for the day.

By making use of the shuttle services we will operate, these options become available and will enrich the guests’ experience.

SALA Pool Villa

What can guests expect from the SALA Samui Chaweng Beach Resort under your leadership?

Guests can expect a brand new concept for resorts on Koh Samui, a product that is very much different from the existing landscape of resorts on the island.

The design of the resort is incomparable to any other, aimed at providing this high end luxury product at competitive prices. The product is modern and trendy beyond anything available in the destination, reflecting key attractions of Thailand and Koh Samui throughout its décor and finishes. Non-conventional, spacious rooms provide opportunities for romantic relaxation for couples, and as a sanctuary for travellers that have seen it all and expect nothing but the best.

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