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Frank Grassmann

GM of Evason Phuket & Bon Island talks about living & working in Phuket

February 2011

Where are you originally from? Koblenz in Germany.
When did you move to Phuket? My first time here was in 1999, then I moved to Bangkok in 2001. I left Thailand in 2004 (to Mexico and then Philippines) and returned again in 2008 as General Manager for Evason Phuket & Bon Island.

What brought you to Phuket? And what made you decided to live here?
In 1999 I worked as F&B Manager at the Dusit Laguna. Prior to that I worked in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the prospect of moving and living in Phuket was too good to refuse.

Did you always want to work in the hotel indudstry?
No. My childhood dream was to become a commercial airline pilot. When I was not selected, I switched my interest towards the hotel industry.

How do you go about running a big five-star resort hotel?
260 rooms is not really very big (I used to manage a 755-room hotel), but the basic principles remain the same. Surround yourself with the right team, recruit the right hosts, training training training and 100 percent dedication.

What do you like most about being a GM?
The job encompasses all aspects of a hotel. It's the daily unexpected challenges that keep me motivated. Then there's the travelling, getting to know so many cultures, people, ethnic differences, food, drinks and so on.

Tell us about your style of leadership.
Hands-on, limit the amount of administration work to a minimum and ensure you spend as much time as possible with guests and hosts.

Who has influenced you most so far in your career?.
It was my mentor and first GM some 20 years ago. He still embodies the perfect GM for me.

Whereabouts do you live in Phuket?
What made you choose that location? Land & Houses Park in Chalong. It's equidistant to my resort and to the school where my children go. And we appreciate the village-like atmosphere.

Did you buy your house?
No, we're renting. We recently bought a property in the Piedmont region of Italy because that's where we like to go to on short breaks or holidays.

How often you go back to visit your country?
We visit Germany (and England – my wife's home) once a year. Otherwise it's Italy for us.

How do you feel about Phuket?
It's one of the best places to live and work. Superb infrastructure for living with the added bonus of magnificent beaches and seafronts for the weekends.

What areas of Phuket are your favourites?
I like the islands off the Evason. Koh Lone, Coral Island, Bon Island, Koh Aew… Whenever we get the chance, we take a boat and cruise around the islands.

Is there anything you dislike about living in Phuket?
There's not much to dislike about living in Phuket… Perhaps the increasing traffic is something that will need to be controlled in the future.

Is there anything else that worries you about Phuket's future?
Yes. That it becomes even more crowded and loses the few quiet beaches that are left.

Do you think Phuket is over developed?
It has certainly changed from when I arrived the first time in 1999. However, it's still a great place to live and the east coast especially has retained a lot of charm.

Tell us about your family.
My wife Natalie is from England and my children are 13 (Nina) and 15 (Piers). Both attend British International School and are working towards their IB. Nina likes to dance, while Piers is a keen footballer. As a family we like to play tennis on weekends.

Working hard as you do, do you have any thoughts about retirement?
As soon as possible! But looking at some of my role models in the hotel industry, I think retirement is still a long way away for me… I do dream about making wine in Piedmont… Who knows… Maybe one day I can make my dream true.

Do you have any hobbies?
Tennis and scuba diving… And if I really have time on my hands I like to cook as well.

How do you divide time between work and your family or for yourself?
I try to keep the weekends as quality-time for my family.

Are you involved in any local charities, clubs or associations?
I'm a member of the local SKAL and Chaines des Rôtisseurs clubs as well as supporting many local and international charities, including the Soi Dog Foundation, as part of my work.

How has Thailand's political crisis and the global recession affected your business, and what can you do about it?
It certainly had a big impact on my hotel as a business. Fewer guest arrivals, shorter lengths of stay and lower spending per guest have all been noticeable. The only thing you can do is examine the operation, streamline and make the organisation leaner and more prepared to deal with crises. Apart from that, keep doing the best you can and continue providing the best possible service to guests.

What is your prediction for the tourism market for this high season?
What do you worry about most for the future? This year’s high season looks a lot better than last year’s. I'm confident that we'll see significant improvements in our performance at Evason. What worries me most is another airport closure in Bangkok or another round of demonstrations like we saw last April.

How would you rate the quality of your life?
Pretty good! I'm certainly not complaining.

What’s your most satisfying achievement to date?
Building a family and being able to ensure good quality education for my children.

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