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Allan Zeman

Canada to Hong Kong to Phuket. Fashion to restaurants to property to film to casinos − Allan Zeman talks about his journey.

March 2013

Where are you from and when did you move to Phuket?
I'm from Canada but I’ve been in Hong Kong for over 40 years and have taken Chinese nationality. I finished building my home here around 2003 and I spend my time between here and Hong Kong

How well did you know Phuket before moving. and what made you decide to move here?
I'd visited on holiday many times and fell in love with the island. The wonderful Thai culture is the main draw; everyone's smiling, the weather's great and the food's delicious.

Did you come here intending to set up a business?
I came to Phuket to relax, but like everything I do I always find a business opportunity to make my time worthwhile. I just can’t sit still!

Tell us about your businesses.
I started in the fashion business in Canada when I was 18, which led me to Hong Kong. I then expanded into the F&B sector where I gave life to the Lan Kwai Fong district, which led me to property development. Now I’m involved in so many projects it’s hard to pinpoint exactly! I’m chairman of Ocean Park, an educational theme park in Hong Kong that recently won the Applause Award for the world's best theme park. I work with Steve Wynn and his casino hotels in Macau and Las Vegas and I help the HK Government on many matters. I also have a film production and distribution company in Hollywood called After Dark Pictures.

In Phuket I started with The Plaza Surin boutique shopping mall, where there are some very creative and high quality shops. After seeing the market potential and the positive comments about my house, I decided to build more villas and residences. We’ve sold all 26 villas and 37 residences at Andara, which operate as a resort, and we’re building 13 more ultra-luxury villas, called Andara Signature.

Tell us about your latest project.
Andara Resort has developed into one of Asia's top destinations. We keep receiving awards and commendations − and we opened less than four years ago! Andara Signature is exciting because it's the latest evolution of my Andara Private Villas. The interior spaces are brighter, more comfortable; the pools are bigger and have amazing views.

Outside Phuket, we’ve just celebrated the second anniversary of Lan Kwai Fong Chengdu, and we’re hard at work on Mission Hills Lan Kwai Fong Haikou on Hainan Island. They call Hainan the Hawaii of China, but our project is going to make Hainan stand out beyond compare.

What's your biggest success?
I know I’ve tried my hardest, so I’m happy with everything. Andara is an award-winning development and resort. With Lan Kwai Fong, I created a whole new lifestyle for people to relax and enjoy themselves in Hong Kong and now I’m doing the same in China. At Ocean Park, we turned around an ageing theme park and consistently attract more visitors than Disneyland. I’m proud of everything I do, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it!

What's your leadership style?
I like to build a strong team of people who are good at what they do because I can’t do everything myself. But I know about everything that’s going on and I can often help my team see things from a different perspective, more creatively. I believe in a flat company structure, where anyone can come to me with an idea or a suggestion. It's important to use all the resources at your disposal − and your team is the most important resource.

Where do you live in Phuket? Why?
My house is just above Laem Singh Beach next to Surin. It’s a great location, very private and has an amazing view. It’s also right across Kamala Bay from my Andara project, so every morning I can have breakfast facing my baby.

Tell us about your home?
It's truly my dream home. We went through every detail, from the positions of the beds for the best view, all the way to the kitchen design and choice of silks for the pillows. I wanted something modern and comfortable, but with a strong Thai influence, because after all that's why I chose to build a home here!

What's the most frustrating thing about living here?
The airport needs to be improved, especially the immigration area. This is the first impression for visitors. If they get off a 20-hour flight and have to stand in line for another 45 minutes, they won’t be very happy.

How old are you?
That’s a very personal question! Let’s say I’m in my early 60s but feel like I’m in my 40s!

What do you think the future holds?
I see myself doing more and more business in China. Lan Kwai Fong in Chengdu is doing really well; Lan Kwai Fong on Hainan Island will open this year and we’re working on a few more cities in China. There’s just so much growth potential there now.

How do you evaluate success?
Success for me isn’t really about how much money you make, it’s about making a difference in peoples' lives. After opening our Lan Kwai Fong in Chengdu, I was in the Starbucks one day when two young ladies asked if they could sit with me. They told me how, before Lan Kwai Fong, they'd finish work, have dinner somewhere, then go home. Now, they spend four nights a week at Lan Kwai Fong; they've met many new friends and it's changed their lives. That, for me, is being successful.

What do you do with your free time, if you have any?
I’m lucky enough to love what I do, so every minute that I’m working feels like free time to me. I always do at least one hour of exercise every morning before I start my day. It energizes me and keeps me sharp.

Do you do much travelling?
I feel like I'm always travelling. Mostly to China, visiting new cities where the local government wants us to open a Lan Kwai Fong. Also Macau, as I’m vice chairman of Wynn Macau − and I go to the US a lot for my film business.

Are you involved in any charitable activities? My Andara team does some regular beach cleaning in Kamala which has been getting a lot of recognition lately. It's so important that we protect these beautiful resources in Phuket.

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