HM: Please tell us about yourself?
MH: I am Managing Director of Rasa Hospitality Group. A Thailand based private hospitality management company. We have been in operation since 2013 and currently have a portfolio of five properties in Thailand. Additionally, I serve as Senior Vice President of Resorts for Rasa Group and Director of Rasa Group.
My hospitality career started in the United States as I was working through my education. I had a vision of being a lawyer. Still, opportunities presented, and I achieved my first Hotel General Manager role at age 30. In 2003, looking to take a break, I planned to take a sabbatical in Hong Kong but found myself in Koh Samui instead. This was the start of my Thailand adventure. The Land of Smiles has been home ever since.
HM: What’s the Rasa Hospitality Story?
MH: A long term player in residential development, Rasa Group, built and currently operates high rise towers in Bangkok, Rasa Tower & Rasa Two. The group also owns Anantara Rasananda on Koh Phangan. We own and operate the Buri Rasa Village Resorts on Koh Samui and Koh Phangan plus Pai Village in northern Thailand’s Mae Hong Son region.
In addition to overseeing the above hospitality assets, the hospitality division was the lead conceptual developer and provided complete turnkey third-party management for the luxury Ryokan, Onsen @ Moncham in Chiang Mai’s Mae Rim district. All properties are award-winning both regionally and globally, having taken home numerous World’s Best Travel Awards and other accolades.
International guests were a significant part of our market mix pre-pandemic, though, in 2019, we took swift action to switch to a domestic base and are glad we did as we not only survived, we excelled. Like many hospitality organisations, we are working to stay abreast of our daily operations during these ongoing challenges. We are also looking beyond. In fact, the Group has earmarked THB 1 Billion for regional expansion within 2023.
HM: Where do you see opportunities?
MH: Thailand remains a challenging market while protocol for international arrivals and uncertainty remain. However, we are open to acquisitions for the right opportunities or management agreements for interesting boutique properties that fit our Rasa Collection or our Buri Rasa Brand.
With that said, we are pursuing our longstanding passion and love for Vietnam, seeking unique opportunities for hospitality investments in key destinations such as Phu Quoc, Danang, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. With funding available and goals clear, we are beginning our journey toward the future. Along the way, we would also welcome any joint-venture partners whose vision align with ours.
HM: Phu Quoc seems to be tourism flavour of the month. What is the attraction?
MH: Positioned just off the coast of Cambodia, it’s Vietnam’s largest island and the biggest in the Gulf of Thailand. It has a special economic zone status and its own international airport. What that means is easy access onto the island. The government has also provided it with a visa-free status for international arrivals, so visitors do not need to apply for a Vietnam Tourist Visa before travel. They simply receive a visa on arrival, as long as they are not travelling to other parts of the country pre or post-Phu Quoc.
Most of Phu Quoc district’s 28 islands are uninhabited, while some are identified for development as private resorts. Phu Quoc Island, where most of the tourism action takes place, spans 574 square kilometres, with around 50 percent of the island as a national park within the Kien Giang Biosphere Reserve. This fosters the conservation of its tropical rainforests featuring waterfalls, coral reefs, wetlands and other parts of the surrounding natural landscape, as part of UNESCO’s MAB (Man and the Biosphere) programme.
Add to that the beaches, with Phu Quoc Island home to around 20 unspoilt beaches and the district boasting 150 kilometres of coast with velvety soft sand. We foresee Phu Quoc will be one of South East Asia’s leading island destinations over the next few years.
HM: Rasa Hospitality has weathered the COVID storm. What’s your view of the future?
MH: We live our message of positivity and hope while challenging the status quo. We are starting to see signs of progression out of the darkness, and I believe that will continue. I predict South East Asia, particularly Thailand, will be the strongest rebounding tourism market in the next couple of years. We are working hard to ensure Rasa Group and our partners are positioned to be a vital part of that.
HM: Thank you.
By Michael Cullen