|By Kanokporn Chanasongkram, Bangkok Post,
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 14, 2006 - His first Songkran in Chiang Mai years ago got him soaking wet as well as giggling with fun. Andrew J Wood laughed and smiled so much that he felt that he was completely a child again. From that time on the Englishman from Yorkshire considered Thailand's Water Festival to be a potent stress neutraliser.
When one can't have a Songkran splash everyday to diminish daily tension, Andrew, who is now the general manager of Chaophya Park Hotel & Resorts, turns to smashing tennis balls as well as writing. And from time to time you can read the musings of the born-to-be hotelier in Outlook's "My Two Cents", where he's been a guest writer.
Altogether he's been in the hotel business for over three decades, spending the latter half of this period enjoyably stuck in Thailand, which he considers his home. Newly appointed as International Councillor of Skal International (International Association of Travel and Tourism Professionals) for Thailand, Andrew will help steer this organisation, which brings together leaders of the industry to pursue topics of common interest in promoting tourism.
This year, Thailand will be hosting the 67th Skal World Congress with Pattaya serving as the seaside venue, which means more work for the already hard-working Andrew. The International Councillor doesn't mind the workload and sees it as an opportunity to promote his adopted home.
Why did you leave Great Britain for greener pastures? I started working part-time in hotels 31 years ago, so you might say I was an early starter. I guess you would call me a professional hotelier in that it's the only industry that I've ever worked in.
After university (Andrew has a BA in Hotel and Catering Studies from Edinburgh), I quickly recognised the importance of international experience and joined the Hilton Hotel in Paris. This was an important move and would open many doors for me in the future. Potential employers like to see you move outside of your comfort zone, take life by the horns and experience life's diversity.
What attracted you to working in Thailand? I first visited Thailand in the 80s and during one visit in 1986, I was part of a delegation from the BTA (British Tourist Authority) attending a tourism conference. We stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok. It was a truly beautiful hotel then (and still is) and it had a profound influence on me.
The following year the same conference took place and this time it was held at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort, Pattaya. A wonderful world-class property also. Little did I realise that not too many years later I would end up working at both properties.
You've worked in about 10 hotels. What's good about moving around in the hotel world? You can introduce fresh new ideas, and try different things. What's not so good? You make a lot of friends, both guests and staff, and you also get attached to a property -- particularly those where you are able to exert an influence upon its operation. Good-byes are often sad emotional occasions.
What makes you want to continue in this profession? I truly enjoy driving to work everyday. The variety and people orientated nature of this business makes it unique -- and I need the money!
Name three "dos and don'ts" for a hotelier. Do's? A little bit like advertising: Do things legally, honestly and ethically. I'd like to add hard working, passionate with a service-minded attitude.
Don'ts? The 10 commandments are a good start, but the main guiding principle I have is that I must never, ever forget that with the authority and responsibility of leadership comes the influence that you have upon others and the society and circles in which you operate.
And finally on this subject, a man and former boss who I respected enormously for his intelligence and passion once told me that you have only one reputation -- the way people see you today will be the way they judge you forever.
What should staff do when the GM of Chaophya Park is in a bad mood? Listen, GMs are never in a bad mood! (He said with a smile on his face). The reality is that we are just frustrated that everything is not perfect!
But staying clear of me and letting me work it out of my system is probably a good idea. And a coffee, black, no sugar.
After the tsunami in 2004 and the political protests over the last month, how do you get tourism in Thailand back to normal? A serious question. This is Thailand's Grand Year and we expect to see over 14 million visitors return to these shores in 2006, up from 12.5 million in 2005. We need to continue to promote Thailand as the premier gateway to Southeast Asia. We have so many good things, from our people, our food, our hospitality and quite simply, fantastic value for money.
Airline access is critical and getting the new airport open on time and safely is immensely important, although I'm not sure that the airlines and airport operators themselves believe they will.
What's your top priority as Skal International Councillor? To help promote Thailand, particularly the 67th Skal World Congress in October this year. Also, to prepare for the opening of even more Skal clubs.
We are planning to have a sixth club in Thailand soon, in Hua Hin, and to help prepare for the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Skal movement in Thailand in September 2006.
What do you miss about Yorkshire? Pubs and pudding! Yes the food was wonderful and a good pint o' bitter is hard to beat tha' knows!
When you're not in Thailand,
what do you miss most about this country? I have travelled a lot
over the years, but I can never wait to get back to Thailand, which
after 15 years I consider my home. It is the place I feel most
comfortable, and my life here is balanced and controlled.
How would you honestly describe your weaknesses? Weaknesses: I don't tolerate indifference well or imperfection of any sort. My "get up and go" sometimes leaves me, especially in front of the TV.
Clean, clean and tidy. Anything else is a problem. The older I get the less I like taking orders -- giving them is much more fun!
You're now 47 years old, where will you be 20 years from now and what will you be doing? Driving a very fast car down life's highway, I hope!
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