Joy of a luxury hotel pioneer

Visionary Thai hotelier Mrs Panga Vathanakul has never stopped working since she pioneered one of Pattaya’s first five-star properties in 1973. Her 64-acre private headlands overlooking the stunning Gulf of Thailand is now the empire of luxury, comprising four five-star hotels with 1090 guestrooms and suites, a world-class convention and exhibition venue – one of Thailand’s largest, with 18 F&B outlets, two luxurious spas, six swimming pools and the list goes on.

Over the years, the Royal Cliff Hotels Group has received close to 100 awards and accolades, and three prestigious certifications: ISO 14001 (Environmental Management System); ISO 9001 (Quality Management System) and TIS 22300 (MICE Security Management System).

How do you maintain this 40-year old property?

I do not see my hotels as 40 years old. They are only two years old, and will always be a few years old because I carry out renovations every five years. The latest renovation started in 2009 and finished in 2012.

How are you coping with changes in the way the market is trading and interacting?

The marketplace is shifting towards online platforms, especially social network. I am embracing these new trends as they come, but I am still working closely with agents. I am doing what I have always been doing best: focusing on guests’ needs and wants. Hotel improvements, in part, are introduced based on guests’ recommendations. I have seen our market mix shifting from 70 per cent European and 30 per cent Asian to a good mix of international markets – and I improve facilities and services based on this trend.

How do you motivate staff?

By keeping a flat organisation, a family business. Of over 1500 staff, about 70 per cent are long-term employees – many are the second generations after their parents. My staff has been empowered to manage their responsibilities and voice ideas to improve guest services.

Given all the awards and certification received, is there any other area for improvement at Royal Cliff?

I want to maintain our environmental and social commitments, and provide seamless service both in software and hardware to guests. This reflects in the constant facility upgrades and staff trainings.

What motivates you in your work?

I am happy to work. I love to work. Every morning I wake up, I want to go to work. I am very happy to face every challenge of the day. But at the end of the day, I switch off work completely by simply reading a book.