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Get To Know Patrick Both, General Manager, Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok

A hotel is like having a large home

I remember years ago when I started my career in the airlines, our trainer imparted to us a quote which stays with me till today – a quote by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learnt that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” A quote so simple yet so true.  

Being in the hospitality industry requires immense genuinity in service, interest, and momentum that will not only make the brand unforgettable but also one that guarantees patrons’ return. So glad to be chatting with Patrick Both, General Manager of Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok.

Patrick, you are a hospitality man through and through; having been in the hotel industry for more than two decades. Let’s start off by telling our readers about you.

The Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok, Thailand, is located in Langsuan and next to Lumpini Park; this is the first property from IHG’s luxury boutique brand, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants to launch in Southeast Asia. My role, apart from leading the team in the opening of the 362-room hotel including 131 residences, its five restaurants and bars, and Amaranth by HARNN spa, I am responsible for driving the hotel’s strategic and commercial growth, and creating Kimpton experiences throughout the property.

During my 25 years in hospitality, I have been extremely lucky to have worked in 11 countries so far, allowing me to be exposed to a range of cultures and working styles. It is this cultural immersion that really fuelled my passion for international hospitality. I held senior management positions across almost all hotel disciplines, from sales and finance through to room operations and food and beverage, before taking on hotel manager, and subsequently general manager positions.

My experience, before Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok, lies in the traditional luxury hospitality, which was why the chance to take on the opening of an international design-led, luxury boutique hotel was such an exciting one for me. It is a true privilege to deliver the Kimpton brand in its first hotel opening in Southeast Asia.

Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok is modern, edgy and the location is impeccable! Walk us through on all we need to know about the hotel.

Thank you for your compliment!

In 1981, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants was founded by Bill Kimpton in San Francisco. He pioneered the concept of unique, distinctive, design-forward hotels in the United States. The opening of Kimpton Da’An in Taipei last year was the brand’s debut in Asia and has since rapidly increased its global footprint. 

The hotel took its name after Maa-lai, the traditional Thai floral garland symbolic of welcome, good health and respect to honour guests, families and loved ones. This art form has inspired many contemporary interpretations and resonates perfectly with Kimpton in Bangkok, as you’ve said it, age-old traditions take on a modern edge.

Kimpton spaces and experiences centre on its guests, offering inspiring design that evokes curiosity, to forward-thinking flavours that feed the soul. Every detail is thoughtfully curated and artfully delivered, so that guest experiences remain meaningful, unscripted and ridiculously personal.

Being next to the lush greenery of Lumpini Park and Langsuan, the hotel’s design narrative fuses storied Thai history with the urban intensity of the city. You’ll see the relentless tempo of life in the old capital mirrored through local artisanship and hand-woven Thai textiles and scenes of modern eclectic Bangkok resonating through raw concrete, oversized furnishings and metallic touches. 

Once a residential area, Langsuan now crosses boundaries with luxury developments and the trendiest places at which to see and be seen are Michelin-starred eateries, shopping centres, The Velaa Project in Sindhorn Village. All this in central Bangkok and connected by the city’s incredible public transport system.

In our guestrooms, you’ll find smart room design balanced with playfulness where it matters. Bathrooms have oversized tubs, luxurious carefully designed robes, and closets are lined with bird-themed wall illustrations by the Bangkok-born artist Phannapast, and Amaranth by Harnn’s signature scent for the hotel will be part of the guest room amenities. 

The brand is also renowned for its award-winning, seasonally inspired restaurants and bars globally. As a ramp up towards the hotel opening in October 2020, we’ve opened CRAFT in our lobby, featuring craft coffee and brews, and Bar.Yard, our re-imagination of a backyard barbecue on the rooftop. The other two restaurant and bar will be opening in the coming months – Ms. Jigger featuring narrative cocktails paired with authentic Italian cicchetti and small plates, and StockRoom, a grocerant featuring wholefood, local produce, farm-to-plate, and six ‘live’ kitchen. 

The Studios – we don’t call them conference or meeting space, are purpose-built and modelled after photo studios and art galleries. Natural sunlight through floor-to-ceiling windows in every room. Innovative live cooking stations, bars and kitchens are woven throughout the space to expound on the ethos of culinary-led experiences for all events to be hosted. We offer the hotel’s gardens as an urban retreat for social events such as bijou wedding, solemnisation, and cocktail events as well. 

Patrick, in your opinion, what separates a good hotel from an exceptional one?

Our industry is all about people. The people working in the hotel definitely make the difference between good and, to quote you, exceptional. Saying this, a good product is of course necessary.

With Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok, we have an incredible team hired for their personality and attitudes. Part of providing opportunities for the team lies in the hotel’s training programmes, to support everyone in succeeding in their roles. However, the people and who they are, their stories, their ethos – this is what we look for.

No two employees are the same and all of them have a great capacity for person-to-person interactions and an ability to cognitively connect with people. Kimpton’s employees, empowered to provide heartfelt service and experiences, have built a highly regarded workplace culture driven by strong workplace values. The brand has appeared on FORTUNE magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for 11 years now.

A hotel’s programming further enhances the difference. From our playful and sophisticated design to our award-winning restaurants and bars, Kimpton is known for creating immersive guest experiences such as Kimpton Off The Record which is a live music series featuring local emerging artistes, industry’s leading pet-friendly attitude and an approachable luxury experience fuelled by my team, championing heartfelt hospitality. .

I would also like to think that hotels that are respectful to the areas in which they operate are also making the step change, for us it’s Bangkok. From the decor to ingredients and food trends reflective of our city, and nation. You will experience it through our robust food and beverage programmes or our social responsibility practices including policies that regulate how we recycle, and you will not find single-use plastics in the hotel. Bangkok is our city, it’s important we treat her well.

If you can name me one aspect of running a hotel you enjoy most, what is it and why?

Running a hotel is extremely fulfilling. It’s like having a large home; a house with 362-bedrooms and a rooftop barbeque, and managing the day-to-day! For me, being involved in the daily facets of operating something that I call my own, is what I enjoy most. As a General Manager, you are heavily involved across all hotel functions, including the commercial strategy, finance, engineering, food and beverage, sports and wellness, corporate social responsibility, as well as the design and guest experiences. Not one day looks like the previous one and unexpected things happen all the time. It is highly satisfying; I never call it a job, just an exciting lifestyle choice. 

How long does it take to plan a hotel marketing programme – from idea to fruition?

This depends on what you are marketing. Our collaboration with Wonderfruit in 2019 took six months of preparation while hotel pre-opening would have been at least a year in planning. A quick win or news-jacking will take anytime between one week and a month. 

Marketing plan gets picked up, fleshed out, sometimes thrown out. While overarching strategies do not change, tactics do. It is a rolling document that changes with new opportunities and ideas. As my director of Sales & Marketing, Shane Jameson likes to say, one idea, one rhyme leads to another and another, and before you know it, the song is finished and there’s a remix in the making.

Activating the Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok pop up at Wonderfruit was part of introducing the brand in the market. Offering a taste of our food and beverage programming at Bar.Yard, and brand signatures such as Morning Kickstart and the Evening Social Hour, were all part of our hotel launch ramp up. 

Running a hotel is always seen as something glamourous – but of course we know that there is more to it than meets the eye. In your own words Patrick, how hard is it, really?

I look at running a hotel as a lifestyle more than a job. Long hours and managing the day-to-day operations are part and parcel of my role. Passion should drive the individual, if it doesn’t, it’ll be a tough one. 

I’m sure there are few factors contributing to creating loyalty in your guests. Talk to us about that Patrick.

Recognition is most important. If guests are recognised and their likes and preferences are recorded, it gives team members an opportunity to let our guests feel cared for, and to add ridiculously personal touches to their experience. The more you know about your guest, the easier it is to turn them into a loyal guest.

I am, just as everybody else, particular about certain things. If these are addressed, it gives me a feeling of belonging, and I know that I’m not simply a number, and most importantly, I will return. Creating loyal guests gives you the capacity to talk to a captive audience who don’t need to be reintroduced to your overall proposition, but rather communicated in a way that suits them about subjects relevant to them.

It is hard not to talk about something these days without touching on the COVID-19 situation which is still happening as we speak. Let’s talk about running a new hotel such as Kimpton Maa-Lai, during this global pandemic.

I think the most important thing is maintaining a happy team, who trusts me and shares my vision of what success looks like.

The hotel is actually not open yet! We are due to welcome our first guests in October 2020. At this point, we’ve only opened CRAFT, Bar.Yard and The Studios. We believe that people will always want to explore the world, relax or reconnect with friends and family, the wheels of business must turn, and events still need to be run. 

As the world adjusts to new travel norms and expectations, IHG® Hotels & Resorts launched the IHG Clean Promise back in June, and is enhancing the experience of its hotel guests around the world by redefining cleanliness and supporting guests’ personal wellbeing throughout their stay.

By combining IHG’s world-class knowledge and processes, with cutting-edge expertise from specialists including Cleveland Clinic, Ecolab and Diversey, the strengthened measures from our IHG Way of Clean programme will give guests greater confidence and hotel teams the protection needed. 

Any parting words?

Thank you for allowing me to share about Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok with your readers. To everyone in Thailand, join us at CRAFT and Bar.Yard if you are in the area!

For Marketing In Asia readers who are keen to check-out Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok once the borders are open again, where’s the best place to get your fabulous deals, Patrick?

The best deal would be on our website, kimptonmaalaibangkok.com. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram, for all the latest updates about the hotel. 

IHG Hotels & Resorts is offering Book Now, Pay Later with up to 50% off room rates across our properties in Thailand when you book by 30 August 2020 for stays up to 31 March 2021. The offer extends the flexibility of having full cancellations up to one day before their stay with no deposit required.

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Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen is a certified Image Branding & Lifestyle Consultant. Born in Singapore and blessed to have lived in a couple of other amazing cities in the world, Anjalika is currently expatriating in Kuala Lumpur. Follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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