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Laguna Phuket's latest addition, Outrigger Laguna Resort and Villas

Laguna Phuket Swaps Barricades for Bonuses

Friday, January 22, 2010
BONUSES and better times are here today, and the jobs revolution is on the way. That's the message from Laguna Phuket as the key destination resort looks at what 2010 holds, and beyond.

Notices informing staff that the annual bonuses are coming were posted this afternoon, marking a dramatic turn-around in the fortunes of the island's largest private employer over the past 12 months.

''This time last year, we were facing Armageddon,'' said managing director Michael Ayling. ''We had to be prudent.''

Foreseeing a lengthy economic downturn, Laguna Phuket opted for ''a year of consolidation . . . and survival.''

The reaction to Laguna paying no bonus in 2009 was a blockade of the resort complex in February.

''Most of the staff understood,'' Mr Ayling said. ''They supported us in a difficult year. The result is that we can be a bit more generous this year.''

Staff worked reduced hours, management took pay cuts, with ''100,000 complimentary nights'' and other special deals being made to reinvigorate the flow of cash.

Since December 1, it has been business as usual with staff back full-time, and predictions of better times ahead.

''We've kept staff informed and the main thing is that the Laguna family is still together,'' Mr Ayling said.

Although development of the Angsana boutique resort (yes, another A-resort) was postponed in 2009, Laguna Phuket embraced change that brought the Best Westin brand to a chunk of the old Allamanda and converted a neighboring property expansion into the Outrigger Laguna Resort and Villas.

The Laguna Vietnam integrated development of seven resort plus casino at Hue is also proceeding.

But there is one major paradigm shift when it comes to jobs. The length of the economic downturn and the prospect of a future containing surges and setbacks means Laguna will adopt a new operating model.

In practice, that means fewer fulltime staff and instead a pool of casuals who will have work in season or when demand peaks.

Multi-million dollar Indian weddings and Asean foreign ministers' meetings are perhaps prime examples in 2009 of large events that would demand extra attention.

So Laguna is setting up a recruitment service centre that will supplement the work force if and when required. It also means there will be ''less disruption'' in any future crisis, Mr Ayling said.

Natural attrition is the most likely method of reducing staff. What the new model probably means is that staff who remain will be better trained to fill more roles, and also empowered to make more decisions.

Butlers at the villas at Outrigger, for example, are able to offer guests free nights in the event of some unexpected catastrophe. That's empowerment.

While Laguna Phuket probably remains the leading private employer on the island in terms of total numbers of staff, that may not be regarded in the same positive way as 10 years ago, when salaries were lower.

More and more, Laguna is also doing its own thing. It has long been the island's leader in property sales.

Laguna now has a substantial tour business, providing five-star extras, and is likely to keep showing the way with innovative ideas.

As jobs disappear in one segment, they tend to appear in another.

Our guess is that Laguna management will have one eye on the Jungle Splash waterpark at West Sands Residences and Resort, with a view to perhaps making a splash of their own. But it probably wouldn't be a waterpark.

If the two-billion-baht Explorer resort and mall complex goes ahead just down the road at Cherng Thalay, then there will probably be a line drawn through any plans, however loose, for that kind of Laguna development.

Insiders say the attitudes at LP now are ''much more positive'' than 12 months ago, with good pay rates and reasonable tips flowing.

Although late online bookings these days make forecasts more difficult, Michael Ayling's fuzzy crystal ball suggests that 2010 ''will not be a great year, but it will be one of greater certainty.''

And that's a great relief.
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Comments

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I can't follow the logic of the following 2 paras. What are you trying to say? Spit it out, man in plain English - less of the cloak and dagger stuff, please...

Our guess is that Laguna management will have one eye on the Jungle Splash waterpark at West Sands Residences and Resort, with a view to perhaps making a splash of their own. But it probably wouldn't be a waterpark.

If the two-billion-baht Explorer resort and mall complex goes ahead just down the road at Cherng Thalay, then there will probably be a line drawn through any plans, however loose, for that kind of Laguna development.

Editor: Laguna is unlikely to build a retail supercentre or a waterpark. But they will probably deliver public attractions sometime soon. A $2 million tethered balloon, rising to 300 metres, was in the planning at one stage, before the downturn. I'd expect to see that idea, or something similar, return. Perhaps a classy kids' fun park? Just guessing.

Posted by stuart on January 22, 2010 14:15


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