Tell us about the scope of the project – what it entailed, how long it took, how much it cost?
It was an 18 month project from start to finish, during which time we completed renovation of the hotel including rooms, public areas, restaurants and pool. It’s such an iconic hotel and we are delighted to have taken it over. It is with a strong sense of responsibility we have done this and we will be respecting the heritage of the resort as well as looking to the future with design innovations that will make the most of its incredible location.
Importantly too we will be fully embracing Southern Thai art and culture and bringing it into the resort experience both inside and outside of the resort so that guests can feel relaxed, inspired and engaged by the history and natural context of the destination.
Have you ever worked on a hotel renovation before?
Yes, the company owns a brand called Manathai and we renovated our hotels in Phuket, Khao Lak and Koh Samui. They are beautiful lcoations and each has its own distinctive feel and sense of location. We work to give each property a sense of locality, and authenticity and keep their own individuality as much as possible.
What were the hair-raising moments, or major challenges?
The biggest challenge by far was to ensure we stick to our initial timeline, which we met, on schedule to open on December 28th, as on some days during monsoon season less work could be done due to the weather conditions. It was a challenge for sure, and certainly something that had to be carefully managed as much as possible.
During the build process, how many people were working on the project?
At peak times we had over 700 workers on the project – so it’s been fairly full on. But we are seeing the results of our hard work now and it feels incredible.
What is your favourite part of undertaking a project such as this?
To be involved from the planning phase until the execution and then finally see the end product, and hearing the fantastic feedback from guests – that’s the real reward.
What is you background in hospitality, in detail?
After graduating from high school in Germany I obtained a degree in hospitality management. I then worked in various management positions in hotels in London (Savoy), Switzerland, Germany (Kempinski Berlin) the Middle East and Thailand (Sukhothai Bangkok, Laguna Beach Resort Phuket) .
What made you become an ex-pat to move your career to Phuket?
A job opportunity as GM came up 8 years ago and since then I have been in Phuket. I have really come to appreciate the culture here, the warm and gracious nature of Thai people – it’s a lovely place to live.
Tell us about the team – how many people working at the hotel?
We started with our pre-opening phase back in March when we hired our GM and over the months the team grew and we are currently employing 170 staff.
Tell us about the interiors of the hotel, what inspired the designs, what are the rooms like?
It’s set on a tropical hillside rainforest opposite Promthep Cape, and offers a great deal of privacy – it is rather serene here really. There are 130 guest luxury rooms and suites – these are the largest sea facing hotel rooms on the island. All oversized guestrooms overlook the Andaman Sea, dotted with islands and sailboats, and are designed to open up the whole room, including the bathroom space, to the view outside, with a four-poster daybed on the terrace providing the perfect vantage point.
Every detail has been considered from the designer bathroom products, private barbecues on the terrace and beach-side butler service. There is a ‘press for champagne’ button on the terrace – as a special amenity. There are freeform sculptural furniture and art pieces throughout which add texture throughout the resort while high ceilings and glass façades seamlessly work to integrate the beach and sea outside in a celebration of the environment.
Tell us about the food experiences available?
With a total of six dining experiences for guests from the all-day dining restaurant to the 50-metre rooftop deck and destination dining, guests can choose from a lavish selection of Thai and international dishes, including fresh seafood and bold gourmet creations.
From the resort’s main restaurant, Cosmo, to stylish Rock Salt at the water’s edge, each dining venue has been carefully designed to capitalise on the stunning views. We are delighted to welcome Kevin Jean Fawkes as the culinary director of The Nai Harn – his background is impressive to say the least. He worked in the great British kitchen of Anton Edelman at the Savoy Hotel London as well as stints at cutting edge restaurants by Sir Terence Conran, Gordon Ramsay, Jason Atherton, Albert Roux and René Redzepi.
His culinary journey also includes stops in Asia, Europe and the Middle East with luxury hotels including Raffles, Kempinski and Rosewood, not to mention his work at the recently named world’s best restaurant, Noma. Rock Salt will be Chef Fawkes’ signature playground, which will feature dishes showcasing cuisine from around the Asia-Pacific region. Separate menus for lunch and dinner with seaside classics, innovative tapas and everything in between – all served right at the ocean’s edge.
At lunch, the focus is on Thai modern classics and international favourites, including wood-fired pizzas, tandoori baked seafood and market seafood display from the Rawai fisherman. As the sun sets, Rock Salt transitions into Nai Harn Beach’s premier chill-out destination. Patrons enjoy a menu inspired by the culinary traditions of the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa with a dash of Thai influence in a relaxed al fresco ambiance.
Chef Fawkes will also be tasked with ensuring the Nai Harn’s other main restaurant, Cosmo, and its menu reflects the chef’s passion for travel and new cultural experiences, while an underpinning of Southern Thai flavours pays homage to The Nai Harn’s rich Phuket heritage. Freshly prepared breakfast specialities; delicately marinated seafood and healthy salads for lunch; and exquisite Thai cuisine throughout the day.
Also at Nai Harn we are committed to ethical cuisine. Guests will be able to indulge in the world’s most exclusive fois gras, without the guilt. A first to create all the exquisiteness of foie gras without force-feeding, Spanish producers Sussa & Labourdette has learnt how to farm the happy, free-range geese. Able to roam wild thanks to their migratory cycle, the farm creates an environment so comfortable no need or want for the geese to leave. With the aid of a specialist foie gras importer from some of the finest localities in Europe to Thailand, the The Nai Harn will be fortunate enough to be able to serve their guests this preferential product and further promote ethical foie gras to the luxury hospitality industry.
The Nai Harn has also tapped into the expertise of one of the world’s most famous barmen, Mr Salim Khoury, who was the head barman at the American Bar at The Savoy in London for 34 years. He has been engaged to organise the set up, training and preparation of cocktail lists at all bars at and will be in residence for one month following the opening.
What has the early reception with customers been like?
Great customer feedback – we feel very positive going forward and are very much looking forward to a fantastic 2016.
Where do you see the hotel in five years, in terms of business progress?
One of the leading resort hotels (non villa) in Thailand and Asia is certainly where we plan to be. And I think we’re on track for that – we’ve taken what was already an iconic location and hotel and taken it up a level for today’s discerning traveller. We’ve tried to think of everything and it’s really something special.
Would you consider another such project?
Yes definitely, if it has a similar potential like the current project. It’s been a great challenge but also incredibly rewarding. We started with a phenomenal product though, a hotel directly on a beach, an iconic property that has hosted some of the world’s most famous faces. It’s been a joy to reinvigorate this hotel and return it to its iconic glory.