The two Finns, 29-year-old Kati Häkkinen and her husband, 31-year-old Atte Savisalo is right now getting ready for the grand opening of their new dream, the five-star resort Aava Resort & Spa on the eastern side of Thailand’s southernmost tip off the city Khanom.
They have so far invested more than 100 million baht in the project and they have high hopes that the resort will be a success and earn the investment back home.
“Just to start with, we are not here to make money. First we need to have it running while we are enjoying life down here, but in the longer term we are off course very ambitious about the project,” Kati Häkkinen explains. She is responsible for marketing and communications, while her husband Atte is managing director and has control of the finances.
Email from Khanom
The couple is from eastern Finland and was on holiday in Thailand in October 2007 on Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Kati and Atte met a Finnish woman and they became friends. Three months later, when the couple had returned to Finland, they got a mail from the woman who lured them to come to Khanom, and when they went to Thailand again in January 2008, they right away fell in love with the area,” Kati explains:
“We almost immediately started to explore possibilities to open something up there. It went quickly, and suddenly we were going.”
It was always envisaged that the design had to be Scandinavian, and there is according to Kati several different explanations. First and foremost, she believes that the Scandinavian way to build and furnish is a world-famous guarantee of high standard and here Aava Resort & Spa will also be the guarantor. Additionally, the Scandinavian elements specifically address to the two most important groups of potential visitors to the resort. One group is the Scandinavians, who are not willing to gamble with standards when they travel far away and spend a lot of money. They are the ones who want to be safe and in fairly familiar surroundings, though they are far from home. Besides them, the Scandinavian model of the resort turns to Asian families who spend their vacation in their own continent, but also want to try something a little different.
And families are exactly the audience that Kati and Atte will focus on the most to reach out to. The thing that it became families which they decided to bet on has a very special reason, says Atte:
“Originally it was our intention that we would invest in a resort for better-off couples, because that way we could help create something that we ourselves would choose if it was us who were travelling. We felt we could put ourselves in the place of potential guests. It all changed; however, since me and Kati early this year became parents of our first child. It has changed our strategy into wanting to go after smaller families as our customers. Now we know even more what a small family will look for when they go on holiday – and that is precisely what we want to achieve with Aava Resort & Spa,” the new father explains with a smile.
Kati’s and Atte’s staff at the resort will also help to appeal to the Scandinavian customers. The chef is Finnish, the baker is Finnish, the front office manager is Swedish, the customer service manager is Finnish, the tour manager is Thai-British, and besides that the interior designers who have helped to equip and design the 28 bungalows, are also Finnish. They all have experience in restaurants or hotels in the past. According to Kati, the many foreign employees help to raise the standard:
“Scandinavians are working hard, they are targeted, they are quickly accepting and understanding messages, and they work independently. This is all something that makes it much easier for Atte and me,” she explains, continuing:
“They clearly have some more in wages than Thais, but we think it is money well spent.”
Although Aava Resort & Spa not officially opens before in mid-February 2010, most of bungalows are ready to live in already from mid-December, and a promotion at home in Finland has meant that all the bungalows are rented out over Christmas and New Year.
It has gone pretty quickly for the Finnish couple, and it appears that guests quickly have shown interest in the resort. Yet, Kati worry until everything is well and up and running.
“For the first time in my life, I am stressed out, but on the other hand I’m really proud of our project and we really believe in it. Right now, I look forward to the opening of the resort. It will be so fantastic,” she states, looking out over the waves.
The area around Aava Resort & Spa
The beach is about nine kilometres long, but besides the new Finnish-owned resort, there are only four other resorts. That means a lot of space, and the area is very quiet and peaceful. Khanom is the nearest town. It is a small fishing village with about 20,000 inhabitants. The city is quite nice, but there is not much to see there.
But there are things to see in the areas around the city, where a magnificent nature features many exciting experiences. Take a scooter and drive up the mountain and look at waterfalls or take a ride around and find a hidden beach, where you can enjoy an afternoon alone. The water off the Khanom is also known as a place where pink dolphins breed, so there are good chances of winning a beautiful and unique sight. Moreover, Aava Resort & Spa offer tours containing kayaking and tours to nearby caves.