Bangkok may be a fascinating town, but it's also chaotic, crowded and claustrophobic. So if you are in Krunthep on business or pleasure, and you don't want to spend a ton of money on a tiny room, well, you are in luck, because the Grand Pacific Hotel located in the heart of Sukhumvit Road next to Soi 17 offers you just that - a feeling of space. The rooms aren't huge, but they are designed to make sure you don't feel cramped.
 
The hotel truly has some of the best views of the downtown core. Let's divide the vistas into two parts: the one overlooking the Sukhumvit/Asoke area (of which the hotel's Signature Floor on the 24th floor provides an excellent vantage point), and the one overlooking the Sukhumvit - Ploenchit area.
 
The latter view is particularly spectacular and if you happen to be staying in any of the rooms on the Signature floors (23, 24 and 25) you simply have the best seat in town when the sun goes down. You don't have to go out or watch TV to be entertained, just watch the sky. At dusk, Lord Buddha really puts on a show with a swirl of purple hue here, a tint of orange there, truly a magnificent celestial canvas.
 
It's one of the most magnificent views of any downtown core, and if concrete ever had a charm, well this would be it. With the kinetic city in microcosm before your eyes - the Skytrain, the expressway, the traffic, the multitudes - you almost have a sense that a buzzmobile from Blade Runner will come barreling out of the sky and zip past your room.
 
The hotel is just so comfy from the plush carpetry on down to the ultra smooth elevator rides: you have entered a comfort zone which will take away all your worries and cares and give them back to you once you check-out, unfortunately.     
 
The hotel boasts that it is located in the "heart of Sukhumvit" and it is. Situated half-way in-between those fun centers of Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy, it's a stone's throw away from dozens of superb restaurants and cafes.       
 
Catching a flight couldn't be easier either, since the on-ramp to the expressway is only a few minutes away and once you are on the tang-duan, it's only about twenty minutes to the airport, barring a serious traffic jam.
 
And if you want to zip around town, the Asok Skytrain stop is literally right aside the front door. It's a terrific and fun way to traverse the downtown core.           
 
The hotel has a state-of-the-art fitness center on the eighth floor, and a nice swimming area on the seventh, which is a great place to relax and forget all your worries for awhile. Make sure you check out the view leading down the stairs from the Fitness Center to the pool as this is also  a great spot to scan the downtown horizon.      
 
The Grand Pacific also has a wonderful Sunday buffet, where one set price of Bt480 allows guests to partake in any of the culinary delights offered up by the International, Thai and Japanese restaurants. You can eat as much as you like at the three different outlets, all located next to each other on the seventh and eighth floor.
 
The Captain's Table is filled to the brim with international cuisine. This restaurant is shaped in the form of a ship, with pillars seemingly being replaced by boat masts, so you feel as if you are sitting on an ocean liner overlooking a sea of traffic. It's a nice touch, and very spacious. Then there's authentic Thai cuisine from the four regions of Thailand at Hot Chillies and a range of Japanese specialties just upstairs in Kisso. This makes for a grand total of over 500 dishes. Also, the first child is free, the rest are Bt270.   
 
Danai Wansom, the hotel GM, and one of the few Thais to hold that position in Thailand adds, "It's a real dine around. We also focus on children's activities with our kid's club, games, magic shows, clowns, toys and giveaways. And the first Sunday in every month, we have a musical talent show where children perform live on stage."
 
Many of you might remember the hotel being called the Delta Grand Pacific, but the Canadian Group Delta sold the property to the Furama chain last August. Other Furama Hotels & Resorts include: the Furama Hotel, Hong Kong (the flagship); the Majestic Hotel, Kowloon; the Century Court, Shanghai; the Paradise Lagoon Hotel, Port Dickens, the Caravel Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City; the Furama Resort, Danang; and the Philippine Dream & Entertainment Center, Cebu (The Furama Shenyang is scheduled to open next year).


MANAGING IN THE HEART OF SUKHUMVIT (part 2)
by Scott Murray
 
 
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 twenty-six years.
 
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 awhile.
 
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 Asia.     
 
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 hotel."
 
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 their staff.
 
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 shows."
 
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. 
   

MANAGING IN THE HEART OF SUKHUMVIT  DUTCH STYLE (part 3)
by Scott Murray

 
We all know that traditionally the Germans and Swiss became known as the world’s hotelkeepers because the first holiday goers used to travel to the mountains in the south of Germany and Switzerland. But today there are a growing number of Dutch hoteliers including Henk Meyknecht, the General Manager of Grand Pacific Hotel, which are starting to make their mark in the international service industry.     
 
Why? “There are various reasons,” he says. “Number one, Holland is a small country, and we are very overseas focused. Two, we speak many languages; most Dutch people speak at least four languages (Dutch, German, French and English – the basic training languages). And, third, we have a tremendous curiosity about what’s going on in the world. These factors drive a lot of us into the international service industry.”        
 
Henk’s family immigrated to Holland from Germany 150 years ago and started a wine and liquor business. Today, that business has grown and not only specializes in wine & liquor but also in managing small to medium sized provincial hotels and dealing in real estate as well.
 
Henk knows the hotel business very well, having grown up in one. He was cloakroom boy at age 14, and jokes that he was tipped very well because everyone knew he was the owner’s son. He eventually worked as a kitchen helper, dishwasher and waiter learning the ropes of the service industry along the way. 
He eventually went to hotel school for three years in Maastricht in the south of Holland (where the euro was founded). When he graduated his family then sent him to work on a kibbutz in Israel for half a year, then on to the Bordeaux wine growing area for four more months.

He was then formally inducted into the international hotel business in 1980 when SAS Hotels & Catering hired him as a management trainee. They quickly posted him to Kuwait where he continued his apprenticeship as a management trainee and Assistant Food & Beverage Manager until 1983. The posting was a shock for him having worked in Israel the year before, as he arrived while the Iran-Iraq war was in full gear, so at night he would lie and in bed and hear shelling 50 km away. Although he found it exciting, it was a bit of a cultural adjustment for someone who up to that point had led a comfortable and protected life.
   
When his tour of duty in Kuwait was over Henk decided to attend the famed Cornell University, majoring in hotel marketing: “It wasn’t as academically challenging as I thought it would be, but I learned a tremendous amount about how people in North America think.”
Upon graduation, he joined the Hilton International chain and was set back to the Middle East, this time as a Banquet Manager for the Bahrain Hilton from 1984-86. Then from 1986-88, just as China was starting to open up, he moved to the Jianguo Hotel in Beijing (which was part of the Peninsula Group) as the F&B Manager. He stayed with the Peninsula Group becoming the F&B Project Manager at the head office in Hong Kong from 1989-89 before moving to New York City the following year to become the Director of F&B for the Peninsula Hotel on 5th Avenue.            
 
In 1991, he switched chains again and returned to Holland as the Deputy General Manager of the Intercontinental Hotel in Amsterdam. But he missed the international lifestyle and the responsibility of managing a whole hotel. So he joined the Sahid Hotel chain in Indonesia and from 1993-96 was the Resident Manager of the Sahid Jaya Hotel in Jakarta. He then moved on to the Six Continents chain becoming the General Manager for the Holiday Inn in Dalian, China, from 1997-99 and then the GM for the Holiday Inn in Shanghai from 1999-2001. Then last year he succeeded Danai Wansom as the GM of the Grand Pacific Hotel.          
 
“The difference between managing a hotel in Europe and North America compared to managing in Asia is that here I’m responsible for the complete property, from the engine room, to managing the subcontractors and more than 500 employees and their families. But if I were working in the West, I would be more of an administrator subcontracting services instead of overseeing them. So I’d be more of a manager delegating a process than really being involved with the whole entity. I find this much more exciting and challenging.”            
 
And how does he find Thais compared to other Asians he has worked with? “Thais, more than any other group of people I know, really make an effort to make you comfortable including accepting all your weaknesses. If there’s one country where they truly make an effort to support both your strengths and weaknesses, it’s Thailand. People may have a different lifestyle but the Thais will accept them as long as that lifestyle doesn’t disturb the overall balance of the company.”    
 
Sixty percent of the Grand Pacific’s guests are return customers. One Japanese man (they should name a room after him) has even stayed at the hotel 240 times over an eight-year period. 
 
So what makes the hotel special? “We offer value for money and very competitive room rates. Because we are part of a small hotel chain (7 hotels) we can switch room rates overnight, while a property which is part of 3,000 hotel chain may only be able to change its rates twice a year.     
 
“We were the first hotel on Sukhumvit to switch our marketing strategy after 9-11. We went regional immediately sending people out to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong with new rates for the travel agents and tour operators. And our business went up, and we are one of the few hotels on Sukhumvit, which has seen an increase in business since 9-11.     
 
“For US$95 you can stay in a room on our executive floors. This is a five-star product, but you would be charged that much money for a normal room in a regular five star hotel without any perks. But with our service you also get free local phone calls; daily complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails; free soft drinks from the mini-bar; free instant coffee and tea; ten percent off at any of our restaurants; ten percent off our hair dresser, beauty salon and massage service; free one hour usage of the meeting room in our Business Center; a free pressing service for one suit or dress; as well as a late check-out (6pm).”
 
“But what it really boils down to is personal service: do you have a good team of people in your hotel looking after your guests?” With the Grand Pacific, the answer is obviously yes.
 
CUSHIONED IN COMFORT
 
Bangkok may be a fascinating town, but it's also chaotic, crowded and claustrophobic. So if you are in Krungthep on business or pleasure, and you don't want to spend a lot of money on a tiny room, well, you are in luck, because the Grand Pacific Hotel located in the heart of Sukhumvit Road next to Soi 19 offers you just that - a feeling of space. The rooms aren't huge, but they are designed to make sure you don't feel cramped.
 
The hotel truly has some of the best views of the downtown core. Let's divide the vistas into two parts: the one overlooking the Sukhumvit/Asoke area (of which the hotel's Signature Lounge on the 24th floor provides an excellent vantage point), and the one overlooking the Sukhumvit - Ploenchit area.
 
The latter view is particularly spectacular and if you happen to be staying in any of the rooms on the Signature floors (23, 24 and 25) you simply have the best seat in town when the sun goes down. You don't have to go out or watch TV to be entertained, just watch the sky. At dusk, Lord Buddha really puts on a show with a swirl of purple hue here, a tint of orange there, truly a magnificent celestial canvas.
 
It's one of the most magnificent views of any downtown core, and if concrete ever had a charm, well this would be it. With the kinetic city in microcosm before your eyes - the Skytrain, the expressway, the traffic, the multitudes - you almost have a sense that a buzzmobile from Blade Runner will come barreling out of the sky and zip past your room.
 
The hotel is just so comfy: from its plush carpets on down to its ultra smooth elevator rides, once you check-in you entered a comfort zone which will take away all your worries and cares and give them back to you once you check-out, unfortunately.    
 
The hotel boasts that it is located in the "heart of Sukhumvit" and it is. Situated half-way in-between those fun centers of Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy, it's a stone's throw away from dozens of superb restaurants and cafes.      
 
Catching a flight couldn't be easier either, since the on-ramp to the expressway is only a few minutes away and once you are on the tang-duan, it's only about twenty minutes to the airport, barring a serious traffic jam.
 
And if you want to zip around town, the Asok Skytrain stop is literally right aside the front door. It's a terrific and fun way to traverse the downtown core.          
 
The hotel has a state-of-the-art fitness center on the tenth floor with an open-air swimming pool located on the 8th, which is a great place to relax and forget all your worries for a while. Make sure you check out the view leading down the stairs from the Fitness Center to the pool, as this is also a great spot to scan the downtown horizon.     
 
The Grand Pacific is also one of the few hotels in Bangkok offering wireless Internet services in all its banquet rooms and public areas. Based on the wireless technology of IEEE-802.11b, which is also available at Changi Airport in Singapore, this service allows guests equipped with wireless technology (WIFI) to immediately gain access to the hotel’s Internet service. And the hotel also has e-butlers on call on a twenty-four hour basis that can usually work out the kinks and problems that tend to arise with laptop computers.        
 
And to make communication even easier for its business clientele, the Grand Pacific offers a 24-hour videoconferencing service called “Meetings on the Screen,” which provides links to 63 different countries. 
 
And the food? Well, the hotel has a number of great eateries: Hot Chillies, a contemporary Thai restaurant serving authentic Thai cuisine from the country’s four main regions; Kisso, which serves time honored Japanese cuisine, including a Sunday Brunch, THB480++ for adults, and THB288 for children; Ho Kitchen, a Cantonese Chinese restaurant; and the Grand Pacific’s main restaurant, the Captain's Table, which serves international fare, and is shaped in the form of a ship, with pillars seemingly being replaced by boat masts, so you feel as if you are sitting on an ocean liner overlooking a sea of traffic.
 
The Captain’s Table has a theme brunch geared to children every Sunday (THB530++ for adults, THB330++ for children) Past themes have included the Titantic, where kids were thrown into life rafts and shipwreck conditions were simulated. After surviving their ordeal, the kids were then given a gold medal in recognition of their efforts. Currently, a “Jungle Brunch” is featured where among other activities the kids are pursued by a tiger throughout the dining area.          
 
It may actually be fitting that the Captain’s Table has a nautical motif for it is the job of the hotel’s Dutch GM, Henk Meyknecht, to steer the Grand Pacific thru the turbulent times of post 9-11. And Meyknecht is carrying on a four-century-old relationship between Holland and Thailand dating back to 1604 when ships from the Dutch East India Company landed on the shores of Pattani in southern Thailand and their captains met with a representative of the King of Siam.
Many of you might remember the hotel being called the Delta Grand Pacific, but the Canadian Group Delta sold the property to the Furama chain a few years ago. Other Furama Hotels & Resorts include: the Majestic Hotel, Kowloon; the Royal Windsor Hotel, Kowloon; the Paradise Lagoon Hotel, Port Dickson, Kuala Lumpur; the Caravelle Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City; the Furama Resort, Danang; and the Philippine Dream Cruise Hotel, Cebu.
  
Contact Info:
Tel: (662) 651-1000
Fax: (662) 254-4431
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: http://www.grandpacifichotel.com

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