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Union representative Vichien Tanumas, at Laguna Phuket

Laguna Phuket Resort To Lose 350 Staff in Major Renovation

Wednesday, March 28, 2012
PHUKET: More than 350 staff are to be made redundant at Phuket's Laguna Beach Resort when it closes in May for major renovation works, a meeting heard today.

The Phuket resort's new owners had obeyed the letter of the law in notifying staff of their severance pay and conditions, a union representative told Phuket Vice Governor Dr Sommai Preechasin at Provincial Hall in Phuket City.

''But we have come to expect more from the resorts at Laguna Phuket,'' said Vichien Tanumas, President of the Laguna Beach Resort Labor Union of Phuket and Vice President of the Phuket Federation of Hotels and Service Labor Group.

Khun Vichien told the vice governor today that staff at the resort were disappointed to be losing their jobs when staff involved in previous renovations of similar magnitude at Laguna Phuket had retained their positions.

The 353-room LBR, one of seven resorts in the Laguna Phuket lagoon sanctuary, was sold last year to Singapore-based Real Estate Equity Partners (Recap), an Asian-focused real estate equity fund.

Laguna Beach Resort was the second hotel to be built at Laguna Phuket. It opened in 1992. It has perhaps the strongest reputation among Laguna Phuket resorts for sporting activities, both on land and water, and has proven especially popular with Koreans.

The other resorts at the Laguna complex are the Banyan Tree Phuket - flagship for the international Banyan Tree boutique resort network - Angsana Laguna Phuket, Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket, Outrigger Laguna Phuket Resort & Villas, Best Western Allamanda Laguna Phuket and Laguna Holiday Club Resort..

It is believed that when the Sheraton group ceased managing the Sheraton Grande Laguna after two decades, all the resort's staff were retained and retrained during the extensive renovations before its relaunch last year as the Angsana Laguna Phuket - Phuketwan's Phuket Resort of the Year 2011.

New LBR owners Recap previously acquired the Jungceylon shopping complex and hotel in Patong in 2006 and also has invested in Bangkok's prestigious four-tower Millennium Residence development.

Recap managing director Suchad Chiaranussati is quoted in the 'Bangkok Post' today as saying that Recap specialises in seeking out distressed or poorly managed properties and reconditioning and operating these properties to achieve superior returns.

Recap is backed by a group of 15 institutional investors, most from the US. Around 75 percent of the total funds are from the US, 10 percent from Europe and 15 percent from Singapore-based investor City Developments Limited (CDL), he said.

Today's news report revealed that Recap has established its third property fund, a US$500-million investment vehicle set up to deploy capital in markets that offer the opportunity for higher returns, such as China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan.

Laguna Beach Resort is among the resorts at Laguna Phuket where it has been announced that more than 15,000 Amway China representatives will stay during a rolling series of incentives reward seminars from April 15 until May 15.

However, Khun Vichien told Vice Governor Dr Sommai today that staff have been told the resort will close for renovations on May 8. Some staff had already gone, she heard.

It was recently announced that Michael Ayling, Managing Director of Laguna Hotels and Resorts and a 10-year member of senior management, will be leaving the resort group on May 31.

Dr Sommai today accepted paperwork about the redundancies, provided by Khun Vichien, and told the group of five union representatives that she would look into the issue.

The resort's online site notes it will be ''Closing on 07 May 2012 and reopening December 2012.''

Management at Laguna Beach Resort has failed to respond to a written request for an interview made by Phuketwan in January.


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