During the recently conclude SEAHIS 2022 conference in Bangkok we were privy to listen to Thailand’s new generation of young leaders of the hospitality industry.
The session billed as The next generation speaks: Where will they take their businesses?
This included a number of valuable insights from the leaders of Thailands’ family owned hotel icons and the smart thinking that is currently driving development and investment in the sector.
Youthful Nathee Nithivasin, MD of the Group since 2015, prefixes his LinkedIn profile with his nick name ‘Ton’. He is the third generation of the owning family set to take over the running of the Narai hotel empire as the company enters a dramatic period of change which will see the demolition of the 54 year old hotel icon on Silom Road.
Mr Nathee explained that critical decisions of the board of directors had to follow the family’s conservative but strict golden rules that ensure the safety and long term security of the family’s core assets and potential to maintain an income stream for future generations. He and all his family members had to refer all major decisions back to the ‘mothership’ suggesting that matriarchal control, so often seen in Thailand’s most powerful families, is still relevant today.
New Directions in Thailand’s important hotel sector
The Narai Hotel, has been on Silom Road for more than half a century, is set to make a significant transformation to fully meet the lifestyle of Silom visitors. The Narai Hotel pioneered the Silom area to become a business street. The name “Narai” was chosen to signify the ingenuity of King Narai the Great, who was the 27th monarch in the Ayutthaya period. King Narai’s versatility also brought international relations, trade, and diplomacy leading to prosperity.
In discussions with Mr Nathee he explained the 54-year hotel will be demolished along with the adjacent smaller Triple Two Silom hotel and both will be rebuilt over the next 4 years developing “a new Oasis in Silom,” which will launch in 2026.
Mr Nathee said in an earlier interview that the Narai Group would implement the idea of serving communities in the Silom area under the concept “Be Part of Everyone’s Community”, by providing communal public areas which can be utilised by non-guests while other nearby plots are rented at low rates to SMEs.
The new Narai Hotel will be under 20 storeys high and interior designs and room designs will blend classic with new. He explained they would retain classic elements on the lower floors to maintain the ‘vintage atmosphere’ of the legendary hotel, while the upper sections of the hotel would be more luxurious, said Mr Nathee. Original historic art pieces would be carefully preserved and displayed in the new hotel such as the statue of its namesake, King Narai.
Mr Nathee, a member of the Narai Hotel Co Ltd’s board since 2008, commented “I took over from my father in 2008, and I have been living here since birth. My father told me that Narai Hotel was born because Grandfather and all shareholders saw the opportunity to grow demand for rooms and large hotels,” he said.
He remembers every corner of the 12-storey hotel since his childhood, re-living many impressive moments during the past period; the first revolving restaurant and the Narai Pizzeria, which was the first of its kind in Thailand.
A Thailand hotel icon to be demolished
When it opened in 1968, the Narai Hotel’s 500 rooms made it one of the capital’s first large scale hotels. Its rotating restaurant, towered over the low-lying urban landscape with 360-degree, panoramic views.
The impressive Narai Ballroom served as a key attraction for hosting weddings with it’s 1000 pax capacity while more than 15.1 million guests had checked-in and the Rabiang Thong Restaurant, which started serving one of the very first international buffets in Thailand, has catered to around 30 million customers.
The hotel is owned by the Narai Hospitality Group, whose holdings include Lub.d boutique hostels, Riverine Hotel & Residence, and the nearby Triple Two Silom hotel.
The two new hotels on Silom Road will open in 2026, with an investment budget of 8-10 billion baht Mr Nathee explained. The new project consists of two hotels, the first with 200 rooms, will also be called Narai Hotel, and will be a 4-5 star hotel. In the past average Narai Hotel room rates were normally around 1,000-2,000 baht per night, but the new Narai is expected to charge more than 5,000 baht per night.
Triple Two Silom, next door will be a 6-star hotel with 100-150 keys.
The company is currently selecting a hotel brand to help manage this property.
However, the building won’t be another skyscraper in the neighbourhood as it will have just 20 storeys to differentiate itself from other tall buildings.
Other elements in the project will include a 7,000-square-metre courtyard and canal dividing the two buildings, which will be public space.
Meetings – the project will feature meeting rooms with a capacity of 2,000-3,000 people, as well as a food and beverage area for street food vendors and restaurants.
Every element of this project, which will total around 70,000 sq m of space, will be ready by 2026, Mr Nathee predicts.
“Our Vision, mission and goals laid out in our new business plan have not changed. We still have the same standards. The Narai Hotel has received many awards over the years. Both in customer service and social responsibility. No matter what direction we change the organisation, we will continue to adhere to maintain quality, standards and develop continuously and meet the needs of every customer,” said MD Nathee Nithivasin.
by Andrew J Wood
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