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Coming: the Novotel-Sofitel-Kempinski-Rixos Premium-Cher Fah-Marriott

Tsunami Coast Gains Second JW Marriott

Thursday, October 22, 2009
IN JUST 10 days, a new JW Marriott will open in Khao Lak, north of Phuket. The 298-room resort, to be named the JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa, already has a remarkable history.

We suspect the advent of the big-brand management deal probably means that Marriott is almost certain to replace Laguna Phuket as the region's largest private employer, although Laguna Phuket may now still hold that title on the island itself.

Phuketwan has been a frequent visitor to the Khao Lak site in neighboring Phang Nga over the years, especially since the 2004 tsunami. This property was the largest to be devastated along this stretch of coast, and the last to be fully restored.

It's a wonderful layout for a large resort. A tunnel said to be more than 100 metres long is reputed to run under the main pool area, so that waiters and maids can scurry back and forth without being seen by the guests.

We didn't get to see the tunnel. Nor did we get to test the owners' other remarkable claim: that guests can swim in the rambling pool for three kilometres without passing the same spot.

It may be that myths and legends are always going to be part of the history of this place. Certainly, a massive effort went into the quality of the reconstruction work.

The owners were also extremely kind to their staff after the big wave of December 26, 2004, and from the November 1 opening Marriott employees will be housed in accommodation that some rate as resort-standard three-star.

The public relations handout reports that the new JW is ''located on a lushly-landscaped site along a one kilometer stretch of pristine Khuk Khak Beach. It is one of only two internationally-branded luxury resorts in the market.''

(We think they are trying hard here not to mention the Le Meridien Khao Lak, which is down the road a few clicks and has an excellent reputation. Nearby is the Sarojin, an award-winning five-star boutique resort, along with a La Flora, too.)

Competition between the five-stars will mean a great boost for the Andaman coast of Phang Nga, which has none of the jet-ski tackiness or the time-share and tailor touts of Patong to mar a holiday.

This beautiful coast, remember, is one of great contrasts. Late last year, extending all the way down to the northern part of Phuket and the JW Marriott, Anantara, Sala Phuket enclave at Mai Khao, it became the world's top five-star destination, according to a writer in the New York Times.

Yet within a couple of weeks, Phuketwan had made the world aware that it was also the destination of choice for Rohingya asylum seekers, and hundreds perished off these shores under the notorious ''pushback'' policy overseen by the Thai military.

Such is the breadth of attraction of this remarkable coast. Rich and poor were equally victims back in 2004 when the tsunami swept through all the coastal resorts here, a natural disaster that seems unlikely to be repeated.

While the pr blurbs never refer to it, the tsunami must never be forgotten. This soon-to-be Marriott started life as a Novotel and was upgraded to the five-star Sofitel Magic Lagoon Resort and Spa just before Boxing Day 2004.

After the tsunami, the resort went through more changes, sticking with European brands, from a Sofitel to a Kempinski to a Rixos Premium, before opening late last year as the independent Cher Fah.

Marriott, which has oversight of about 19 different brands globally, is demonstrating its faith in the Andaman coast with an unprecedented spate of openings.

Three Courtyards on Phuket are to be followed soon by a fourth at Karon, with a Renaissance (or two) still under construction.

Ed Fuller, president and managing director of international lodging for Marriott International, is quoted as saying: ''We are delighted to expand our JW Marriott brand presence in Thailand and are confident the JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa will be popular with leisure and incentive travelers who are seeking the renowned Thai travel experience in a relaxed, quiet environment.''

The resort has seven themed restaurants and bars, mostly clustered along the beach, two pool bars, a club lounge and an outstanding spa complex, Quan.

Marriott's portfolio in the vicinity of the JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort and Spa ''now includes the 265-room JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa, 256-room Courtyard by Marriott Phuket at Surin Beach, 385-room Courtyard by Marriott Phuket Patong, 180-room Courtyard by Marriott Kamala Beach and two Marriott Vacation Club International ownership resorts. Under construction are the 202-room Phuket Marriott Resort at Kamala Cove and the 180-room Renaissance Resort Phuket.'' And don't forget that fourth Courtyard, coming to Karon.
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Comments

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Not a good history this resort . I hope Marriott have more luck with the place.

Posted by Peter J Notley on October 22, 2009 16:25

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I'm sure the new management will LOVE the fact that you describe their location as Tsunami Coast. The reference to dying Rohingyas is also a nice touch, and certainly relevant to the story of the hotel's rebranding ....

Editor: I'm sure Marriott understands the need for both brand promotion and the safety of its guests and staff. Don't you? Events that occurred this year, in the case of the Rohingya, and less than five years ago, in the case of the tsunami, are not likely to be forgotten as quickly as you seem to want them to be. Are you selling something?

Posted by matt on October 23, 2009 19:36

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Matt,
You don't seem to understand the difference between brand promotion and journalism. Plenty of outlets simply carry the Marriott media handout word for word. That's really just free advertising.

Professional journalists interpret the information and put it in full context. Marriott would have given a lot of careful thought to branding at this location. They would also be aware that it's the 'tsunami coast,' and have a disaster plan ready in the unlikely event of another big wave.

They may not publicise it, but as professionals, it's something they would prepare for, just in case. So that's relevant information, for all their future guests.

About 6000 boat people have come ashore along this coast in the past two-and-a-half-years. With Thailand's commitment to human rights under Asean, that's all timely information about this part of the world, too.

Perhaps this is stuff that doesn't interest you, but it certainly interests those of us who prefer to be told the complete story.

Posted by Angelfire on October 25, 2009 14:39

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Point taken. The difference, I think, is the one between profession journalism and tabloid journalism, a line that has become increasingly blurred by Phuket Wan as it has evolved.

No other media outlet, professional or otherwise, has referred to Khao Lak as the "Tsunami Coast", especially in the headline of what is essentially a business article. Sorry to disagree, but in my book responsible journalism never includes sensationalism.

Don't get me wrong, I like Phuket Wan's independent, investigative approach. It's just that every time I log on lately, there has been another mystery death - even a dugong suffered a mystery death a few weeks ago - or scam sex scandal.

Phuket Wan does a good job of publishing stories that no one else does - that's great. No need for the tabloid twist...

Posted by matt on October 27, 2009 13:20


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