- 10 May 2010 1:00 AM
It’s easy to be inspired by this harmonious holiday haven, fashioned in modern Thai-style and set within sublime natural surroundings. But its the service element of the vacation experience provided by Michael and his team that makes this resort so special. XpatLoop.com asked him about the secrets of this success, and Michael generously shared valuable insider insights in his modest yet engaging manner.
Before revealing the techniques behind the magic created by this seasoned hotelier, it’s worth discovering more about the location and the man himself. By his peers Michael is described as, "an extremely passionate professional who genuinely cares about his guests and always makes his decisions with them in mind”.
“I observed that he is a great motivator of his team and that, combined with his tireless energy, has always resulting in him increasing revenue and guest satisfaction wherever he has worked. Michael is also scrupulously ethical and holds his staff to high standards, but in a way that inspires trust and confidence rather than fear or resentment,” that recommendation continues.
This fits with Michael’s challenging track record of leadership experience gained from managing teams of between 100 - 1000 employees in Europe; the Middle East; and South East Asia.
Looking in detail at the career history of Austrian national Michael Vorderleitner, which spans two decades, he's clearly a very well rounded executive with experience of luxury cruise liners, business hotels and leisure resorts, as well as boutique and multi-outlet properties. His great strengths include how hard-working and grounded he remains, partly attributable to his familiarity with the many roles in the hospitality industy.
During this interview it quickly became clear why Michael's peers regard him with such great respect and professional affection. such as Natasha Eldred of Laguna Resorts & Hotels Plc comments, “Michael is an energetic and dedicated hotelier. He has plenty of experience but more importantly he has outstanding people skills enabling him to manage associates and also his guest’s expectations."
The Art of Managing Expectations & Satisfaction
This brings us to one of the magical element, the art of managing and exceeding expectations. Not only those of guess, but also of his staff – internal customers, to use terminology from his earlier work as a trainer.
Michael sincerely believes in understanding people’s needs, and in making them happy - a simple yet exceedingly effective path to satisfaction for all he says. Michael gives the basic example of a lady's need for a hairdrier, now a 1500W version at that, whist men have other requirements to consider, often more rational concerns such as value for money.
All these requirements are indentified methodically and in detail via sophisticated tracking systems implemented by Michael. Satisfaction measures are used during a guests stay to ensure any arising issues can be corrected rapidly, a critical success factor in a TripAdviser focused world.
He is very clear that such travel website ratings should not in themselves be the goal, rather a constant high level of client contentment is his single-minded aim. Even so, he personally monotors and replies to important online feedback, since much can be learnt and developed with this 'listening + action approach'.
Michael takes an inclusive approach to create a shared vision of success amongst all his team, also inviting them to look for opportunities to raise standards. He feels it's vitally important to jointly view the future with positivity.
This forward looking, holistic type of healthy thinking seems to be a major factor in the achievements made at each stage of his international career. Prior to taking charge at this property, Michael worked in Greater Phuket at the Dusit Thani Laguna, and at the Sofitel in Krabi. Earlier he spent 5 years working within the global chain of InterContinental Hotels.
Diplomatically Training & Ingraining High Standards
The location of his current assignment in southern Thailand presents the challenge of dealing with an incredibly high occupancy rate during the hot and dry main season, followed by much reduced guest numbers in the wet season.
Accordingly, the management of staff levels and clear-cut standards is a high priority for Michael in Khao Lak. Ensuring these standards are always met is one of the main points Michael cites as key to success. Consistency is actually the crux of the matter he reveals; that’s once the relevant high standards have been trained and ingrained into the mentality of all staff, be they F&B personal or housekeepers.
Other key insights Michael shared include his role being that of a diplomat but never a politician. Following a bomb-explosion directly outside the hotel he worked in at Sharm el-Sheikh he places service and security as equally high priorities in the hospitality mix.
Also he mentioned the removal of ego from his whole management team and staff to allow thier naturally warm personalities to come through when serving guest needs. Feedback shows this is working in his favour, along with ensuring guests have plenty of leisure choices to enjoy, whatever the season.
A stay in Khao Lak wouldn’t be complete without a little exploration of the surrounding area. For those inclined towards water-based activities, there’s snorkeling or scuba diving around the Similan Islands, some of the most beautiful islands in the world - noted as one of the top ten dive destinations according to the National Geographic Society - well-known for their white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters and abundance of marine life.
For those hoping for a more cultural experience, a trip to Takuapa Old Town is a perfect way to catch a glimpse of the local Thai / Chinese way of life - traditional Thai coffee shops are worth a visit to gaze at the Sino-Portuguese architecture.
Shopping in Phuket is also a good rainy day activity using the hotel bus service. Other land based activities and excursions include: river rafting, all-terrain-vehicle rides, elephant trekking, hiking in Khao Lak–Ram Lu National Park,. river canoeing, bamboo rafting.
Michael has an active lifestyle himself, he is an marathon runner who constantly improves his personal best times, and he's a competitor in Ironman events.
Alongside those personal activities, he is also a man with deep faith in his team, and his intuitive ability to facilitate and enhance their careers. Michael shares another secret in saying his people are one of his greatest treasures.
He thoughtfully takes cultural factors into account, and understands the importance of religion in Thailand and the related philosophy of his team. He actively embraces this and uses it to enhance the hotel experience for staff and guests in various authentic ways, as easily demonstrated in the various restaurant menus, as well as in guest rooms where, for example, travelers can find a book about Buddha as well as a Bible, plus other local souvenirs which are available for purchase.
The Skilful Craft Of Providing Holiday Happiness
In similar ways Michael combines many local touches and good business, adding value to the guest experience in a unique yet appropriate manner. The desired outcome of course is happiness, and so the excellent levels of feedback from both ‘external and internal customers’ so to speak.
Michael believes that Thai people are hard-wired to make others happy, and so his mix of international standards and local touches fits well with their nature whilst completely aligns with hotel targets.
Obviously this is another secret behind why guests depart from this resort with high spirits. During their stay they enjoyed a truly happy hotel environment that's subtly yet purposely crafted to provide joyful encounters with the natural wonders of Khao Lak and the charming people of Thailand.
Follow this link to explore the resort online via an amazing 360 degree visual tour. Khao Lak itself is much quieter haven than say Phuket, and this is its appeal. Visitors searching for peace and tranquility will find Khao Lak delivers in amazing style.
From romantic beach strolls to active day tours, not to mention fantastic scuba diving opportunities, there's a lot to do - in a laid back fashion. Nightlife outside the resort is subdued but there are places around for a few drinks and a chat with fellow visitors and friendly locals alike.
Before closing it's worth mentioning that the Ramada Resort Khao Lak is a strong advocate of sustainable tourism and prides itself on being an environmentally friendly resort getaway.
The resort's love and care for the environment has been recognized many times over, and Michael and his team continually strive to maintain and improve upon the eco-friendly measures we have already put in place. Awards and certificates stand as testimony to this, such as 2012 Wyndham Green Hotel Gold Award, 2011 Global Finalist for Best Luxury Beach Resort, 2011 TUI Environmental Champion Award.
A fitting conclusion is to quote from guest feedback and show vivid snap-shots of the magical moments conjured up by Michael and staff at the Ramada Resort Khao Lak: “Perfect example of an all in one get away”,
“We chose the hotel fundamentally on the private pool room which didn't disappoint. We like to spend time exploring on foot or scooter and it's heaven to chuck yourself into your own pool when you return!”, “We loved eating at Sassi's... great food and wonderful service in a very relaxed style."
"The daily poolside lunch specials were hands down the best value of all! The actual meals themselves were fantastic! No need to leave the hotel to venture for cheap local meals”, “The staff are friendly and attentive and go out of their way to make sure you have a fantastic holiday", "We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary - and staff decorated our bed with an anniversary message and put beautiful flowers in the bath. It made us feel really special and added to our celebration!”
“The buffet breakfast is great", “I would recommend a trip to the Spa. The service is excellent and the prices very reasonable”, “In the town there are markets on some days and it is worthwhile to go and have a look… you can take a complimentary bicycle from the resort”, “A special thanks to Boom from the kids club...and Nit the Executive Chef for the informative tour of the fresh food market and fantastic cooking class", “First class resort and I would recommend it to everyone”, “Can't wait to go back!"
Click here to visit Ramada Resort Khao Lak online.
Qatar Airways offers regular flights from Budapest to Phuket via Doha, click for more info.
Ramada Resort Khao Lak is approx. 1 hour drive by car from Phuket International Airport.