The hotel business is an ultra competitive industry where constant improvement, re-invention and staying ahead of your competition may be an ideal for some, for others it’s a way of life. We recently visited Bangkok, a city right at the heart of South East Asia with a large transient population of tourists and professionals looking for the best hotels.
Pierre-Andre Pelletier is the General Manager of the Amari Watergate Hotel in Bangkok. One of four Amari hotels in the city and the flagship hotel of the Onyx hospitality group. Pierre, originally from Switzerland, has been in Thailand for 20 years and and is passionate about his hotel and his career in the hotel industry.
We met with him at the Watergate’s new Cascade cafe, during his busy working day, to find out what it’s like to be part of such a competitive business.
How did you enter the hotel industry?
I grew up in to the hotelier business in Switzerland. My parents owned a restaurant and hotel so I grew up with it every day and afterwards decided I wanted to go to university. After I graduated I came to Thailand and I’ve been here ever since. I wanted to work in the best hotels in the world and the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Bangkok was at that time. So I came to Thailand to work there before moving to Amari 2 years later.
You must feel passionate about living in Thailand to stay for 20 years?
Something must be right! I think there are several things, the dynamic of the hospitality industry here is great. Out of the 10 best hotels in the world, half of them are in Asia so I was inspired by that. There’s a real passion here for the industry as well, the constant re-inventing yourself and reinvestment in the property, expanding overseas, etc. Thai people are unique as well, you’ll see for yourself, they are very friendly, flexible, great for the hospitality industry, you see smiles everywhere. All the great Thai food which you can experience at our restaurant Thai on 4 too.
I think the multicultural nature as well, all the different people coming to visit Thailand, etc. You can go to the North of Thailand for fantastic trekking. You can go to the South for beautiful beaches, the best beaches in the world. And Bangkok is fantastic, you have everything in Bangkok and it’s really a hub too.
We have over 1200 guests at the moment and it’s really a good mix between Europe, Australia, Middle East and Asia.
How long have you worked for Amari?
18 years so far. I was GM of the Amari Orchid in Pattaya, GM of the Amari airport hotel when it was still linked to the international airport which was a very busy property. We’d sell the rooms sometimes twice or 3 times a day. And here now in our flagship hotel, The Amari Watergate, we have a total of 600 rooms, 6 restaurants, 25 meeting rooms. Today we have 2 weddings here, we have a function for Toyota with 800 people. We have almost 800 team members here and we do catering as well so there’s a lot going on at the hotel all the time.
Do you have much say in the direction of the hotel?
There’s a constant enhancement here. The property is 17 years young and we have done quite a lot of things in recent years. We have flat screen televisions in every room, bathrooms with separate showers and Double wash basins. Wifi in the rooms and our executive lounge as well. I’ve overseen the renovation of the Chinese restaurant Heichinrou, additional meeting rooms with a boardroom that can cater for 1000 people. We’re one of the largest “MICE” hotels in Bangkok which stands for Meeting Incentive Convention and Exhibition. We’ve also just done here in the Cascade cafe, an investment of 1 million Euros with a nice alfresco terrace which recently opened for our guests.
Has the Amari Watergate Hotel given you any new challenges?
The challenges here are on a daily basis. You have to try to be on top of your competitors all the time. It’s very important to make sure your team members are enjoying what they are doing as it will be reflected on the guests. We have quite a few reports and things we send to guests for feedback and we get some great responses. We are constantly in the top 3 hotels in the Onyx group so that’s what keeps us going on a daily basis. We need to make sure we are different you know, we have to deliver what we promise.
Have you had any highlights working in this hotel?
Oh several special moments! We have a lot of celebrities and a lot of presidents of countries too. The most rewarding thing is being in such a competitive industry in Bangkok with so many hotels and serviced apartments to contend with. To see so many loyal returning guests, this is I think the most rewarding thing for a GM running a hotel in Bangkok. To see guests who have the potential to go somewhere else saying “we feel comfortable in your hotel and we’re coming back”.
Do you have much time during your day to connect with guests?
Oh yes on a regular basis. It’s a busy day for me. My brother does the morning shift and my twin brother does the night shift! haha!
When you’re not at the hotel where do you go to in Thailand?
I like to go out with friends in Bangkok, sometimes for great noodles in the small shops that you find everywhere. Sometimes I try to get out of Bangkok as well. You have Khao Yai which is very nice about 2 hours drive from here. You have beautiful vineyards and lots of activities to do there. Sometimes I go to Ryong which is on the Eastern seaboard. Phuket & Koh Samui too. If I remain in Bangkok very often I’m in the Hotel, at least 6 days a week. If I do take a break in Bangkok I do a little bit of shopping and dinners out with friends, it’s a great city.
Thank you to Pierre-Andre Pelletier for taking the time to speak to us and for his hospitality at the Amari Watergate Hotel in Bangkok. You can read our full review of this hotel, it’s Spa and thai restaurant too.
For more information on the Amari Hotels visit www.amari.com or call Thailand +66 (0) 2653 9000.