Swedish hotelier within Bangkok’s latest luxury wave: Björn Richardson

137 Pillars Residences & Suites in Bangkok, is the opulent, specific hotel that has once again re-united two really good Swedish friends as well as hoteliers. Hotel manager Björn Richardson tells the story how and shares insights about his latest very luxurious hotel environment and the local luxury scene.

Going back nearly twenty years destiny saw that two Swedes met for the time in Hua Hin, Thailand, both being hoteliers. Björn Richardson was then briefly the caretaker for a hotel in between one General Manager leaving and the next one to be appointed – turning out to be Mr Christopher Stafford. Björn could not have guessed from his name that he was in fact Swedish too.

Hotelier Björn Richardson, with 137 Pillars Suites & Residences, Bangkok. Photo: Joakim Persson

That hotel became the first ever Anantara hotel, which is today an international brand from Thailand. Christopher and Björn became good friends through work and gradually also best friends privately. It takes two to tango; they developed and ran the well-known Anantara up in the Golden Triangle, including its renowned elephant camp –which also led to the two of them being heavily involved in introducing the sport elephant polo in Thailand, which also became an internationally known charity event by Anantara.

Later Björn ended up working for Oakwood City Residences in Bangkok, back then the world’s largest serviced apartment property. He continued within Oakwood group for eleven years. Until the phone rang from Christopher: ‘Now the time has come, will you join me?’ Whatever it was Björn did not hesitate to say yes.

So two decades later hospitality has re-united them again, with both involved in the 137 Pillars brand.

Actually, Christopher had consulted him some years back for some advice for a hotel developer considering building serviced apartments in Bangkok. The result is 137 Pillars Suites & Residences Bangkok, down Sukhumvit 39, as the group’s second property, following the 30-suite 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai. As Björn’s latest challenge he has now been its General Manager for two years, while Christopher works as COO.

“One did not know it would become as superb as this is!” exclaims Björn. “This is a fantastic product – without any doubt the best serviced residences in Bangkok. I’d say; we have some special things here that you perhaps do not have in all other serviced apartments, with very good architecture in space planning, balcony on every room etc.”

Adding to that this high-rise property (open since February 2017) featues 34 exquisitely appointed suites.

“The positioning for the suites is in the boutique luxury segment, where our level of quality compares with Mandarin Oriental, St. Regis, The Okura and The Siam, plus other luxury newcomers to the Bangkok’s luxury scene. Then as for the residences, are on par with suites in ordinary five-star hotels as ours are one or two bedroom.”

To this end 137 Pillars Suites & Residences Bangkok offers all suite guests with butler service, personalised art tours and at the entrance the two Jack and Lewie London Cabs (equipped with Champagne bar) tha chauffeur the guests to and from the upmarket Emquartier/Emporium shopping district – to mention a few features. The hotel has also profiled itself with Confrérie du Sabre d’Or gala dinners and rotating art exhibitions that celebrate Thailand’s top talent.

The serviced apartments and suites hotel stems from the 137 Pillars boutique property in Chiang Mai and its centrepiece teak house from 1870, which used to be former northern head quarters for the East Borneo Trading Company – from which the brand has also formulated the restaurant/deli concept Bangkok Trading Post.

“Old Chiang Mai is reflected in the entire building actually, with elements like wood and also beautiful marble and with our Baan Borneo club, to connect them together as 137 Pillars properties. We have succeed well; one cannot emulate a pre-20th century house from Chiang Mai in Bangkok but I think this building reflects Bangkok in a good way; it’s modern and also with certain aesthetic elements falling back on 137 pillars Chiang Mai and Baan Borneo,” comments the GM.

A big part in providing exquisite hospitality to guests and residents at all times is also the team members.

“We are putting most of our resources on the guest services. A fantastic product is in itself not enough; it must be complemented with service on par with it to make a perfect match. Then the experience becomes much grander.”

It is then favourable to work with Thais, who has this as a natural talent, thinks Björn. “Thais cannot speak English fluently. That’s fine, we happen to be in Thailand. If you go to say Moscow you will come across the same issue. The service-minded skills of Thais are outstanding. Both Christopher and I have the philosophy that we want to come back to traditional hospitality, where each guest is a person and not a number, and where you are considerate to personal preferences and offer curated stays. Some guests want to look at art, and others want to dine gourmet food, or want to come and explore historic monuments and temples. One has to adapt to that a guest is a guest. That works very well together with Thai hospitality as they are very perceptive when it comes to taking care of guests. Our standards must be flexible enough so that all guests can feel good and comfortable,” he elaborates.

Further testament to this property’s quality is the membership as part the Small Luxury Hotels collection.

“They have very high level of standards, and quality of service etc. that one has to match and it’s a very good group to belong to, a bit special to be part of it,” comments Björn.

The launch of 137 Pillars Hotels & Resorts’ Bangkok property actually began a new wave of luxury hotels that are raising the bar for this particular hotel market, where upscale hotel rooms now exceed 17,000 in the Thai capital. And, with a few exceptions, hotels have struggled to be able to increase their room rates.

“Hotels are unable to charge the prices they are worthy of. If you take an ordinary price for a five-star or a luxury hotel in Bangkok you get less for your money in just about any major city in Southeast Asia” comments the GM.

With more luxury hotels Bangkok is finally able to charge higher rates and raise its status. “Every segment needs to go up in price. Looking around the world things are not getting cheaper. But if you look at Bangkok specifically during the last 5-6 years restaurants have gone up in pricing significantly – and also improved. That in itself entices people not least from the region to visit. So there is really no reason why accommodation should not follow suit. People were saying: ‘We’re going to Bangkok because it is so affordable’ O.K it still is but the prices will continue going up, not drastically but steadily so that we end up at a level that is fair.”

Meanwhile, with no let-up in the world of luxury living, the fine-tuning, fine dining offers and rooftop pool guest instagram photographing at 137 Pillars Residences & Suites in Bangkok continues.

Photos: Joakim Persson

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