Projecting Park Hyatt Positivity
Like the mythical phoenix rising from the embers of a fire, so Park Hyatt Bangkok will undoubtedly continue its rise to become one of Bangkok’s legendary luxury hotels. When the government enforced a nationwide lockdown of hotels and resorts in April, the executive management team used the time to retrain staff, renew health and safety protocols and refocus on the Park Hyatt brand.
Since its grand opening in 2017, Park Hyatt Bangkok has received many awards and extensive recognition for its outstanding hospitality, trendsetting outdoor F&B outlets and stunning architectural design. Once the government began to relax the emergency decree in June, it was imperative to get the hotel back up and running as quickly as possible.
In an exclusive interview, Punch Media Digital spent an afternoon with hospitality veteran and long-serving Park Hyatt executive Michael Golden. In a wide-ranging chat over afternoon drinks, the genial General Manager spoke about the effects coronavirus was having on the travel and hospitality industry in Thailand and how he plans to navigate his way through this latest crisis.
“For us, one of the big reasons for reopening was from a physical product point of view we didn’t want the hotel to be sitting idle. It’s very minimalistic but all the systems need to be running to be maintained properly,” said Michael Golden, General Manager, Park Hyatt Bangkok. “While we were closed we were able to update many of our internal systems. We’ve changed some of the dining options and we’re fortunate that the Penthouse Bar + Grill has been extremely popular. We’re also seeing an upswing in events being held at the hotel. Things are changing on a daily and weekly basis as we all come to terms with the new ‘normal’.”
In fact, the new ‘normal’ is being played out around the world as people, businesses and governments come to terms with life in the post-Covid-19 era. Here in Thailand, many hotels and resorts decided to offer heavily discounted vouchers to entice domestic travellers while the government has pledged billions of baht in aid. Park Hyatt Bangkok opted to play its hand a little differently to sway the domestic market and began promoting a choice of ‘daycation’ and ‘staycation’ packages, placing the hotel – rather than Bangkok – as the destination.
“We’ve now introduced our ‘celebration’ package for all those people who have missed their anniversaries, birthdays and other celebrations due to the lockdown. The package includes a limousine transfer, dinner, overnight stay and breakfast, plus a spa treatment. Guests can relax in one of the cabanas by the swimming pool with a glass of chilled wine with the knowledge that everything is taken care of.
“While we are expecting to see some domestic travellers choose us for a short stay, we will probably have to wait for the international market to restart to really see an increase in occupancy. Of course, there are people who have been unable to travel who might say ‘Let’s go and stay at Park Hyatt as we don’t usually stay at such hotels.’ I think we’re going to see something of a reversal where in the past people would check-in, drop their bags and then go out to eat or shop. Now, people will come to the hotel and really make use of the facilities because they will feel safe here,” added the affable general manager.
While the hotel only has a minimum of guests at present – far different from the pre-Covid-19 days when the hotel was bursting at the seams – those who do opt for the Park Hyatt do so to experience the legendary luxury. While all the health and safety protocols are in full swing they are not so intrusive as to be annoying. Tables and chairs are regularly cleaned, hand sanitisers are widely available and temperature scans are done automatically. At this stage, the hotel is tailoring itself for the local market and offering domestic travellers an exclusive taste of Park Hyatt luxury.
“The challenge for us is to do things quickly rather than taking our time; we’re quite the perfectionists at Park Hyatt. We only like to do things when we can do them very well, but right now we have to do things on the fly. But that still means doing it the Park Hyatt way. We’re looking at doing things a little differently while still preserving the brand, what we are and what we represent. In just three years, we’ve built a very positive perception of the Park Hyatt here in Thailand,” said Michael.
“One of the dynamics that we have in the leadership team here is the expertise across all departments. We have strong personalities in lead roles and now with the present situation their skills are helping us with a diverse approach. I’ve been with Park Hyatt a long time – two Park Hyatt’s in Australia, Park Hyatt Tokyo, Park Hyatt Saigon and Park Hyatt Bangkok – so I am able to give the team lots of advice as I’ve been through crises like SARS and the global financial crisis and know what protocols to call upon.”
While all hoteliers are having to deal with the new ‘normal’ on a day by day basis, for the team at Park Hyatt one characteristic remains the same: give guests the Park Hyatt experience. While face masks do play a role in slowing the transmission of coronavirus, it has not escaped the GM’s attention that a large part of the Thai charm has been lost to guests as they are unable to see the famous Thai smile. Hopefully, face masks will soon be replaced or done away with all together.
“For us, we don’t want to be too pessimistic or too optimistic, we need to be realistic. We’re prepared to do things that may not be traditionally what we’ve done before, but we’ll do them in the Park Hyatt way. We have plans in place for all types of scenarios but we have to wait until the airports are reopened before we can implement many of our ideas. I think the essence of travel, the core of hospitality hasn’t changed, we are still in the people business and we’re here to provide a luxury experience.
“Clientele that stay here do so for a reason and that is the Park Hyatt brand. But they also stay here for the proximity of the hotel as we’re located just above a luxury shopping mall, connected to a department store and on the BTS Skytrain. Guests are not the same as they were 20 years ago, but Bangkok is a different location and attracts a different clientele; we don’t see a lot of guests wearing suits and ties,” he added.
“All our food and beverage outlets have wonderful outdoor spaces and I don’t think many hotels in Bangkok can match us for that. While all the plans for the hotel were drawn up before I arrived, thankfully we could still make some minor changes before we opened. Take the landscaping for example, I made sure it was planted early so everything looked mature when we opened. Also, we put external connecting doors on some rooms where we can allocate groups of people or large families to a certain floor and they can all use one door to access their rooms.”
“We’re trying to do everything as normal as possible to help guests feel at ease. We have lots of space here and we try to maximise that. Previously when the hotel was busy we could have every room occupied – that’s 450 to 500 guests staying in the hotel, we could have 300 people in the Penthouse Bar + Grill, another 600 people in the ballroom and 100 people in the Living Room and Embassy Room and you could still walk around the hotel and feel you were the only guest here.
“For us it’s about how do we drive revenue, what are we going to offer that is different from what we offered before, what reasons are we giving people for coming in to the hotel and how do we protect our brand. People are looking for hotels that are doing something different and I think with the promotions we have in place and the Park Hyatt brand, we will continue to welcome new guests.”
The situation is being played out at different stages for different hotels and different brands. While Park Hyatt Bangkok has been open for quite a while now, many other hotels have decided to remain closed at least until the end of July. This is when the government is expected to make an announcement with regards to reopening of borders for international travel. So, is being at the forefront of Thailand’s reopening putting GM Golden and his team on the radar of other hoteliers?
“The hotel management group in Bangkok is pretty small but we’re all friendly. So as each hotel opens back up again, we’re all sharing best practices, new experiences and how things are now being done. All hotels go through things in different phases and as we’ve reopened we’re being asked ‘how did you do this?’, ‘how did you go about doing that?’ I really think hotels will need to reinvent themselves. It doesn’t matter which brand you are or at what level you operate at, you’re going to have to reinvent.”
For those who have yet to pay a visit to Park Hyatt Bangkok, there are a hundred and one things you are missing out on. How about watching the sunset from the rooftop with cocktail in hand or sampling a rare single malt whisky in the elegant Whisky Room? Even the swimming pool at Park Hyatt Bangkok is one of a kind with volcanic rock tiles and salt chlorinated water, which apparently makes the water feel softer.
But one of the defining features of Park Hyatt Bangkok is the stunning works of art that are on display throughout the property. The works of art have all been curated by one of the owners of the building and include a combination of local and international artists. Images and installations are selected to match the interior design and the artwork really adds a different dimension to the space it occupies.