Anna Olsson is the lady from Dalarna, Sweden who has worked in some of the most upscale hotels in the world, and now settled down on Phuket in Thailand working for Indigo Pearl, formerly known to Scandinavians as Pearl Village.
The Swede Anna Olsson is one of the rare few foreigners on a sales and marketing position within the hotel sector in Thailand.
However, Anna and the property in her case, Indigo Pearl, seem to be the perfect match. When meeting her on site, Anna is very much at ease and says that she thrives with her new island life since a year back.
She appears to have the gentle approach that goes down well with Thai personnel and in addition she brings a wealth of suitable experience to the property from some of world’s most prominent luxury hotels she previously worked for.
“The quality of life, the people, the support and colleagues at work, and having everything one needs: good restaurants, shopping, and Bangkok a short flight away for what cannot be found here. And the climate is wonderful,” says someone who has had to endure the baking, unbearable summer heat of Dubai.
Anna also likes the fact that it very much feels like an international destination. “So I enjoy it and will stick around for a while for sure!”
From the world’s only seven star hotel
Her background is working within F&B but having changed direction to sales.
Most recently she comes from a very prestigious sales position at the world’s so far only seven star hotel, Burj Al Arab in Dubai, seeking a better lifestyle along with her husband and their young son.
Her husband was the one mostly pushing it, as he was fed up with being in the Middle East.
“Dubai is nice but there comes a time when one decides either to stay longer or moving to new pastures. There is not so much to do there, life quality is less interesting and half the year one cannot be outdoors.”
After stints in London (at The Lanesborough) and the Carribean (Carange Bay), followed by moving to Australia with her husband and then on to Dubai they had jointly decided to try to continue their respective careers in Asia. Aiming specifically at Thailand Anna looked for hotel with the right characteristics there.
“Many asked me: where do you go next after having worked at Burj Al Arab? Like: there is hardly anything higher hotel-wise.”
Right kind of product
“I had worked on selling very unique products, and especially when you are with sales, one must like the product or else it’s hard to sell. So when this came up I just thought: Wow! It is completely unique, and designed by Bill Bensley [Asia’s legendary architect].”
She had had been here on vacation and also read about Indigo Pearl so she new about the property.
”I felt this was the right environment for me; I wanted to do a resort, not any big city corporate hotel.”
She describes Indigo Pearl as a very unique design product. Tracing Phuket’s tin mining past plays a significant role for the design while it is at the same time not minimalistic.
“A lot of recycled material is used, like the rail beams from the tin mining and many old artefacts, such as the original lamps that were there in the tin mine. So it’s very much about restoration, the same goes for the rooms where the wood panels are recycled, painted wood. Then you have the raw concrete walls.”
“It’s still warm with a lot of wood, and red and warm colours contrasting the polished cemented details (though she says it happens that guests ask when we are going to paint the walls).”
“And I think that the mature, lush greenery plays a big part, where Bill Bensley has done a great job with the landscaping. A design hotel can become very stiff, especially in an environment like Thailand so I think they have found the right balance, being very green and at the same time very design-oriented, but with a soul. The hotel is alive. Guests comment that it’s very different, and it does not feel stiff but cos, and that one can feel comfortable.”
Guests are typically in the age group 30 – 50 and people who like being away from the buzz, wanting more a Thai experience.
Targeting travellers online
At the resort Anna, as Director Sales and Marketing oversees also reservations, revenue and PR.
A clear trend is the continuing growth of the so-called Free Independent Travellers (FIT), towards which Indigo Profiles itself and is trying to tap into as much as possible.
“And many book directly or via the Internet. It has become very large; one can notice significant difference only during the past two years. People don’t have time going to the travel agent any more and often that might cost more than own booking.”
“One tries to reduce dependency on travel agents, establishing a good platform with direct bookings, OTAs, Facebook, Twitter… it all drives FIT. But we are in Thailand and in a resort and thus many bookings come via travel agents and it’s important one has good travel agents as partners and work well together.”
“Especially in Thailand many still book with large tour operators,” she continues, “Sweden is such as market with charter being 80 per cent of the market.”
Anna can also confirm that a first page ranking on TripAdvisor is very important, leading automatically to selling some three to four hundred rooms. Guests told her they looked at the top ten hotels in Phuket and the different price categories and then booked Indigo Pearl based on good reviews there.
Very precise ad campaigns on Facebook targeting certain groups of people with special interests have also been successful for the resort.
Anna’s vast experience and broad hotel skills, and coming from a family where the parents have run restaurants and hotels, also prompts the obvious question: is it not time for here to become general manager?
“Sure, one day I would like to do that. But I enjoy my job immensely. I like sales and marketing; building relations and driving a product and taking it to whatever the owner or one wants to take it. That is fun.