Back in 1974, after graduating
from Assumption Commercial College where he studied general business, Danai
Wansom went in search of work. Most of his friends were seeking jobs with either
ESCAP (hoping for an international posting), or the up-and-coming CP Group, but
Danai tried a different route.
Hoping also to get posted
abroad, he applied at the Siam Intercontinental Hotel and the Hyatt Rama Bangkok
(now the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza). He had success with the latter, even though
he admitted he didn't have any experience in the hotel business. He won them
over with his pleasant manner and English skills. His first job was as a front
desk clerk, but he really had no intention of staying in the business for
After working at the hotel for a
few years, he was offered a position with Singapore Airlines in reservations and
ticketing. His boss at the Hyatt Rama called his bluff, however, and told him
that if he hung around until the end of the month he would be promoted to
assistant manager. And he was, so at the tender age of twenty-three, he held a
position, that in those days were usually reserved for farangs or Asians from
either Singapore or Hong Kong.
The Rama Group, for whom he was
working for then decided to expand its operations and they established a hotel
in Hat Yai called the Rama Hat Yai. So in 1980, at the age of twenty-six, Danai
became that hotel's general manager. But while there, during business trips to
Singapore and Malaysia, he discovered that he enjoyed the sales and marketing
aspect of the business and he thought it he would like to give that a try for
So he found himself back in
Bangkok in charge of sales and marketing for the new Rama Gardens Hotel, located
near the airport. But in 1983, Danai's former boss at the Hyatt came back to
Bangkok to run the new Hyatt Central Plaza Hotel and he asked Danai to join him.
Danai did, and stayed with the hotel for eight years as the director of sales
and marketing and then as the resident manager. The Hyatt managed the property
for five years, giving it up in 1988, but Danai stayed on until 1991 when he
took a posting in Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong, Danai joined a
management company called Century International Hotels, but he went back into
marketing becoming the company's vice-president for marketing & sales and
eventually its senior vice-president. The group started with one property, the
Century Hong Kong Hotel, and five years later, it had twenty hotels, and just
before Danai left the company it had twenty-six properties in eight countries in
In 1996, Century International
merged with the Laisun Group, a publicly listed company in Hong Kong, and as
Laisun owned the Delta hotels in the Asia/Pacific region, Century assumed
management of these hotels including the Delta Grand Pacific in Bangkok.
Danai moved back to Bangkok from
Hong Kong in August of 1998 as temporary caretaker and general manager of the
Delta Grand Pacific, while at the same time still holding positions as senior
vice-president for marketing & sales for both the Century International
Hotels and the Delta Asia/Pacific Hotels & Resorts.
In March of 1999, Laisun and
Century International split and Danai was forced to make a decision. Was he
going to return to Hong Kong and assume his position as senior VP of sales &
marketing with Century or was he going to remain in Bangkok with Laisun and look
after Delta? Danai chose to stay in Thailand with the objective of developing
the hospitality industry in his home town.
Laisun then bought the Furama
Hotel in Hong Kong and established Furama Hotels & Resorts International,
which assumed management of the Delta Grand Pacific in August of 1999, changing
the name of the property to the Grand Pacific Hotel.
Why did he choose to stay? His
job in Hong Kong saw him traveling more than seven months of the year, as he had
to visit all of Century's twenty-six properties in eight countries, constantly
be on the outlook for new properties and always travel to important trade shows
and conventions. He was traveling nearly every other week.
Danai says, "In the head
office, you deal with policy, planning and promotion and you deal with
distributors, the people who make the bookings. But as the GM of a hotel, you
have the opportunity to talk to your customers, the guests who stay in your
During Danai's stint with
Century, he was acting GM in Hong Kong and other cities, and combined with his
previous experience in Hat Yai many moons ago, running a hotel is not new to
him. But he does realize he is carrying the torch. First, because he was
promoted from a marketing position, as in the old days ninety percent of hotel
general managers graduated from the food and beverage industry.
And second, even though its
absolutely ridiculous to think that farangs can teach Thais anything about
hospitality, the erroneous perception is that farangs make better hotel GMs than
Thais. Danai realizes people are watching him and he knows that he must manage
his hotel at an international standard to prove that Thai GMs are just as
capable as their foreign counterparts.
Danai, who is a graduate of the
Advanced Management Program of the School of Hotel Management at Cornell
University, says its imperative for Thais thinking of entering the hotel
business to try and get more international training at premier hotel schools
because it is from these elite institutions that international hotels recruit
Why does Danai think the Grand
Pacific is a good product? "Hotels are all the same, they are in a
building, they have a lobby, restaurants, guest rooms, beds etc. These are all
the tangible products - what you can see and touch. But then there's the
intangible products, which is what you feel, the service. Our staff is part of
this second product, and they are what distinguish us. Because they are
excellent, our customers keep coming back.
"We have always had a
standard of excellence. The hotel was planned and built by ANA, a five-star
brand in Japan. And just before it opened, it was taken over by Delta, the
Canadian chain, and another superior hotel, so it has had an international
standard from the beginning.
"Our guest rooms are over
40 sq.m, so they are very large, and our bathrooms are very large too with
separate shower and bath facilities. We also offer things like coffee-and-tea
making facilities in the room. We have four restaurants (Chinese, Thai,
International and Japanese), a coffee corner in the lobby, a piano bar on the
8th floor, and a sky lounge and karaoke on the 25th floor.
"We also have a beauty
salon, a health club and fitness center with an outdoor swimming pool, a sauna,
Jacuzzi, state-of-the-art exercise equipment, massage facilities and we also
have top-flight meeting, ball and function rooms as well.
And for the guests who stay on
the top three floors, the Signature floors, they receive free breakfast, high
tea and an evening cocktail as well."
The hotel also has a wonderful
Sunday buffet, where one set price of Bt480 for adults allows guests to partake
in any of the culinary delights offered up by the International, Thai and
Japanese restaurants (the first child is free, and itys Bt270 for the rest).
Danai adds, "It's a real dine around. We also focus on children's
activities with our kid's club, games, toys and giveaways. And the first Sunday
in every month, we will have performances by children including magic
And what about the Grand
Pacific's guests? "We are very close to so many embassies, but especially
the Japanese mission, so as a result we get many business travelers from Japan.
And we also have many guests from the USA, the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore, but
I don't necessarily mean natives of Hong Kong and Singapore, but people who are
residing there. We have many repeat guests, one of our guests has even stayed
here 148 times."
Located right smack dab in the
middle-of-town, the hotel is close to everything, bars, restaurants, the Central
Business District and now it also has a Skytrain stop right outside the hotel (Asok).
Danai personally interviews all
of the hotel's prospective employees. "I hire people at the lower
positions, so that they realize they have a future here, and they do not think
that they will hold the same position forever. I also believe attitude is much
more important than work experience, so I am willing to take a chance on student
with an eager attitude." he says. I guess everything does come full circle.
Tel: (662) 651-1000
Fax: (662) 651-1132