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 My Dream Hotel?
by Harry Nobles, October 2008

In July 2005 we published an article entitled “Our Dream Hotel” in partial response to an oft asked question about the hotel we would design if given free rein and an unlimited budget.  Another frequent question is about our “favorite” hotel.  I have always been reluctant to choose one of the thousands of properties I have been privileged to visit during the last 25 years.  The thousands of hotels world-wide are special in many ways with many similarities and many differences and I had never been able or willing to identify one as my overall favorite.

On a recent trip to Thailand I was able to visit a property that may finally be that special, one of a kind, hands down winner that has eluded me for 25 years.  That special place is The Sarojin in Khao Lak, Thailand (  

We did not help design The Sarojin; I wish we had.  We did not help train the staff; again I wish we had.   Frankly, I would like to find a way to take some credit for this unique creation.  Since I cannot do that, all I can do is what thousands of others have done: enjoy the serenity and outstanding atmosphere of The Sarojin. 

Several factors combine to make a visit to The Sarojin a very special experience.  

The beautiful and secluded beach location of the property makes an immediate and positive impact on the visitor.  Despite the seclusion, The Sarojin, is only an hour’s drive from the Phuket International Airport and is bordered by the world famous dive sanctuaries of the Similan and Surin Islands, five spectacular and adventurous rain forested national parks and stunning Phang Nga Bay renowned for its dramatic limestone islands and captivating sea cave canoe journeys. Three 18 hole golf course lie within an hour’s drive and although Khao Lak does offer some shopping and opportunity to buy holiday souvenirs if very extensive shopping is required, Patong, the major tourist centre in Phuket is less 1 hour and 45 minutes drive away.  

This combination of beauty and convenience is only the beginning, and actually is not unique; this part of Thailand abounds with natural beauty and plush resorts.   What make The Sarojin special?

On initial arrival, the visitor is struck by the way this man-made jewel seems perfectly positioned within the natural surroundings. The layout of the grounds and the architecture complement the natural beauty and enhance the serene atmosphere.  The guestrooms and suites are spacious and tastefully equipped with custom-designed furnishings and décor in total harmony with the overall theme, further complementing the image and atmosphere.

While this is esthetically pleasing, even uplifting, again it is not unique, and does not fully explain what makes The Sarojin that special place.  In my opinion the people are the key.

First is the number of employees; there are 245 employees at this 56-unit property.  For anyone familiar with hotel operations this number is significant.  An employee to guest ratio higher than 2 to 1 is extremely rare; for guests unversed in hotel staffing and operational standards, the numbers are insignificant and even meaningless.   What is significant to guests is the sense of gracious impeccable service and genuine hospitality that permeates each and every employee-guest interaction.

This intangible element is clearly evident to visitors even before arrival at the property.  Guests arriving by air are met at Phuket Airport by a knowledgeable and courteous employee of The Sarojin with an air-conditioned luxury vehicle stocked with cold refreshments and comfortable pillows.  Nothing that can make the one hour ride to the property a memorable and integral part of the total Sarojin experience is overlooked.

This attention to detail continues throughout the guests’ stay, and is even more evident as the staff becomes familiar with the guests’ preferences.  Rarely does a guest need to restate a request; the employees remember not only guest names, but all the other points that make a first time visitor feel like a long-time repeat guest.  A remarkable thing about The Sarojin’s service is the way the staff is able to deliver consistently personalized yet totally professional guest service with consistent attention to detail without being obtrusive.  In my opinion, management and staff have raised service to new heights at The Sarojin.

Most notable and very obvious is that the level of service is not only what management wants and demands; it is also what the entire staff wants and demands.  Achievement of this quality of service is certainly not easy, but The Sarojin employees do it so flawlessly it almost looks easy.  

A visit to this special place is like a step back in time to a more relaxed and slower paced era when gracious guest service was the norm.  The multinational staff is mostly Thai, but also includes Australian, German, Filipino, Japanese, and French, all led and assisted by British owners.  This merger of the European quest for perfection and the innate Oriental charm and hospitality has created a unique guest experience at The Sarojin that must be seen to be believed.



Harry Nobles Hospitality Consulting
(757) 564-3761

Also See: Hurricane Ike:  Challenges and Opportunities? / September 2008
Who Should Train Your Employees?/ Harry Nobles / September 2008
Designing for the Future a Key to Earning 4 or 5 Star/Diamond Rating / Harry Nobles / February 2008
Look for the Ducks / Harry Nobles / April 2007
How Should Casino-Hotels Be Rated? / Harry Nobles / April 2007
Is 'Mega Boutique Hotel' an Oxymoron / Harry Nobles/ December 2006
Hotel People I Have Know / Harry Nobles / October 2006
Now I’ve Seen Everything -  “Food Servers Employing the Internet to Divulge Names of Customers Who Tip Less than 17%”/ Harry Nobles / September 2006
Does Hotel Room Size Matter? / Harry Nobles / September 2006
If You Disagree With Your AAA Rating / Harry Nobles/ May 2006
AAA Evaluation Procedure: Is It Fair? / Harry Nobles/ May 2006
Four Star vs Mobil Four Star / Harry Nobles/ February 2006
Rating Condominiums / Harry Nobles / January 2006
AAA Five Diamond Lodgings; Chain vs Independent / November 2005
Katrina & Rita: Silver Lining or Opportunity? / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / October 2005
Our Dream Hotel / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / July 2005
Losing a Diamond or Star / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs /  March 2005
Ratings vs Guest Satisfaction / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / February 2005
Our "Pick of the Month" / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / November 2004
5 Star vs 5 Diamond: What’s the Difference? / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / November 2004
Strategic Alliance Announced, Committed to Hospitality Excellence / August 2004
Family Resorts: Suggested Strategies / Cheryl Griggs / July 2004
Are Small Resorts Unfairly Treated by the AAA and Mobil Rating Criteria / July 2004
Designing For Optimum Global Ratings / Cheryl Griggs / June 2004
QualAsia Formed to Provide Authoritative Organization to Inspect and Evaluate Hotels Across Asia; Harry Nobles Appointed Chairman of New Asian Hotel Rating Service / May 2004
Validity of Online Hotel Ratings / Cheryl Griggs / April 2004
Resorts Ratings Redux / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / February 2004
Are Your Trainers Trained? / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Thompson Grigg /  January 2004 
The Language of Service / Cheryl Griggs / October 2003
Hotel Renovation Ideas vs AAA Ratings Criteria / Harry Nobles / October 2003
New Employee Orientation: Necessity or Luxury?  /  July 2003
Save the Best - Replace the Rest / July 2003
AAA and Mobil Ratings As a Sales Tool / May 2003
How Well Do You Know Your Competitor? / May 2003
Our Favorite Hotel?  / March 2003
The Current Value of AAA Hotel Ratings / Feb 2003
Stars and Diamonds; Some Similarities and Some Differences / January 2003
AAA's Delay: Good or Bad? / July 2002
Timing Is Everything, Or Is It? / July 2002 
Boutique Hotels: Have They Gone Too Far / May 2002
People Really Do Make the Difference / Jan 2002
What Is a Boutique Hotel? / Dec 2001
The Non-negotiable Traits of Leaders / Oct 2001 
How Important is Service? / Sept 2001
Front Desk Service Mistakes / Aug 2001
Food & Beverage Mistakes & How to Correct Them / July 2001
Bell Staff Mistakes & How to Correct Them / July 2001 
Attitude vs Aptitude / June 2001
Female Business Travelers' Expectations / June 2001
Is Outsourcing Your Training a Viable Alternative? / June 2001
Unique Identity + Consistent Service = Success / May 2001
AAA Standards vs  Guests' Expectations / May 2001
Are Your Guests Better Informed Than Your Staff? / April 2001
Are U.S. Hotels Rated Differently From Other North American Hotels? / April 2001
The Design Theme - AAA / Mobil Ratings Connection / March 2001
Attitude Can Make the Difference / January 2001
How Should Casino-Hotels be Rated? / Dec 2000
Does AAA Rate Resorts Fairly? / Nov 2000
Is Your Property Suffering From Design Deficiency? / Nov 2000 
The Future of AAA Ratings / September 2000
What Is Your Optimum AAA Rating / August 2000
If You Disagree With Your AAA Rating…../ June 2000
Are AAA Ratings Always Accurate and Objective / May 2000
Creating Atmosphere / Jan 2000
What is "Atmosphere"? / December 1999
Maintaining Your AAA Rating / Nov 1999
Earning a AAA Rating vs Maintaining a AAA Rating: Which Is More Difficult? / Oct 1999
Can Outstanding Service Offset Hotel Physical Deficiencies in the Rating Systems? / Harry Nobles / June 1999 
Consistency: The Hallmark of a Fine Hotel / September 1999
Who Should Train Your Employees  / Aug 2000 
Mobil Travel Guide Announces 1998 Mobil Four-and Five-Star Award Winners / Jan 1998 
Key to Success: Training + Follow-Up / June 2000
The Legend of the Pineapple / Harry Nobles / Feb 1999 

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