Kati Häkkinen and Atte Savisalo are currently enjoying their lives in Khanom, on the main land close to Koh Samui in the south-eastern part of Thailand.
In September, their new resort, Aava Resort & Spa, celebrated its Grand Opening, and now the Finnish couple for the first time are facing the challenges of Thailand’s high season.
“Right now it’s going pretty well. Khanom was affected by all the floods in the autumn, and our basement was destroyed because of the water. We lost our server, had some electricity black outs and such things. But we were soon up and running again,” Kati Häkkinen says.
Aava Resort & Spa has actually had visitors since December 2009, although it didn’t inaugurate officially before February 2010. The visitors, who have stayed at the resort so far, have mostly left the place with great satisfaction, says Kati.
“98 percent of the customers have seemed very happy about Aava Resort & Spa,” says Kati based on feedback from her guests. She sees another type of customer going to Khanom than for instance to Koh Samui.
“Most of the people who come here have already travelled a lot in Thailand. They have seen most of the tourist places, and now they are looking for a more relaxed area, and in that sense Khanom is a bit of a paradise.”
The Finns have all-in-all found a place where not many foreigners normally go, but in an area that has great potential.
“The Khanom area is simply wonderful. When you look around in the area there is just such an abundance of beautiful beaches, and as it turns out, more and more people ask for prices of land here,” Kati says.
The minimalistic Avaa Resort & Spa has quickly become a success in Khanom, and with fully booked rooms, interest has been growing increasingly and fast.
“We have been mentioned in media all over the world which has been great for us. But one of the important ways for us to promote ourselves is by promoting Khanom. We never promote only Aava Resort & Spa,” Kati says.
“That is because Khanom is such a different place from most of the places that the tourists normally go to. If we only promote only Aava Resort & Spa, then a customer might think that they might arrive at a place like Phuket or Hua Hin. So our focus is on the area, the beauty and how natural Khanom is,” she explains as one of the reason for the success.
Co-watching the area
Kati Häkkinen emphasises the area’s ability to always think of what is best for the surroundings as an important part in the development of Khanom.
“The local community really follows the instructions and regulations put in place here. The society is waiting for the development of Khanom, but everyone is focused on not ending up as Koh Samui for instance,” she says.
“Khanom people are proud of the area, and there is a mutual respect around here,” Kati mentions as one of the important reasons that Khanom will keep its spirit and not ‘sell-out’ too much to tourism.
She believes that people in Khanom have learned a lot from Koh Samui, where the development suddenly took a ‘wrong turn’, as she calls it. The population of Khanom is really focused on the originality and quality of the area. The feeling is that the local population will not succome to modern mass tourism.
The high season
The first really challenging tasks for Kati and Atte has been the high season that started before Christmas and continues long into the spring.
“We have high hopes for the high season. We were fully booked from 13th of December and all the way until the 15th of January. Then we had a few weeks off with some rooms left, and the we are fully booked again for the rest of February. It looks very good for us,” Kati says.
The customers are not only from Finland. Many different nationalities come by.
“We have had many Thai companies coming and, as it turns out, many Thai families do trips in the weekends, so we have had a lot of Thai customers. But now we are in the season, where many Scandinavians will come.”
“Around Christmas time, 98 percent of our customers were Finns, but the rest of the time it is a mix of all types of people,” says Kati Häkkinen.