Discovering the island via its resorts
My family and I try to explore the island on Sundays, in the way of visiting different resorts. The idea is that we have lunch at the pool side restaurant, use the pool and perhaps try out the spa. We have come across some spectacular resorts on Samui, many tucked away at the end of dirt roads. Without turning off the Ring Road, and ‘bundu-bashing’ as we say in Africa, we would not have discovered half of the amazing resorts out there.
We have come to the conclusion that the more discreet an entrance is, the more impressive the resort. Some of the best resorts on the island have rather understated entrances. Zazen in Bophut has to be one of the most impressive resorts Samui has to offer, but driving along the Ring Road, you would have no idea without venturing in. On the other hand, some resorts have elaborate entrances, creating a great first impression, and are then a let-down once you past the entrance. It seems as though many resorts only focus on their beachfront entrance, and their main entrances are an after-thought. The problem with this is that a ‘walk-in’ customer, driving along looking for a place to stay has no idea what is behind drab walls, or at the end of inconspicuous dirt tracks. Surely this must affect business? Sure, a large percentage of business comes from the internet and booking agents, but a fair amount of guests arrive on the island with the intention of finding their own place to stay – or perhaps they are booked in somewhere via their travel agent, but want to return the following year, and are looking for something else to their liking. As focal as some of these resorts may be from the beach, most people drive around looking for accommodation, as wheeling luggage along the beach while looking for a place to stay is not an option. Having previously owned guest houses in South Africa, I know that an inviting entrance draws walk-in customers.
During our Sunday outings, we have come across some resorts with a rather narrow-minded management approach. We have a few old favourites that we visit frequently, that offer great food, friendly service, set around a pool or on a pristine stretch of beach, however, sometimes we feel like trying a new spot. On arriving at reception, we ask if day visitors are welcome on condition we have lunch, and usually we are welcomed in - after all, business is business and why would anyone turn away a few thousand Baht spent in the restaurant? Occasionally we are turned away, or asked ridiculous rates to use the pool – even if we are eating at the restaurant. I cannot understand this narrow minded approach. This negative response often comes from the resorts that are empty, with few rooms booked. Now surely income from the restaurant is as good as income from a room?
All expats on the island will get visitors at some stage, keen to find out what their wayward, long lost friends are doing having left civilisation and moved to paradise. We may not always be able to host these friends or family in our homes – or may not want to! This means that local expats are always on the lookout for good resort or villa options for visitors. Short-sighted managers need to keep this in mind when turning away locals, as it is not only the lunch turnover that they are missing out on, but possibly countless future bookings.
A note to resort managers: Look after the locals too! They are your best word-of-mouth advertising, and will support you in the quiet months. A note to locals: Dare to drive down the dirt roads; you may just discover your new favourite spot of paradise!
© Rosanne Turner