by John K. Lindgren
“Mr Dusit Thani” has spent most of his life working in the hospitality industry and has opened stunning hotels in Thailand and abroad. Genuinely passionate about the trade, he recently published “Thailand Tourism: The Early Days”, a magnum opus which acknowledges the contribution made by key figures from the private sector and government during the past 60 years. His aim: to preserve their stories for many years to come.
Pattaya Today Life & Leisure meets the soft-spoken Chanin Donavanik accompanied by his affable PR team. What better venue than Asia Books at CentralWorld. Here we are surrounded by thousands of paperbacks – fiction and non-fiction – and handsome, large coffee table books. The ambiance very bookstore.
Donavanik carries on Dusit International’s (Dusit Thani Public Company Limited) outstanding heritage as Thailand’s preeminent international hotel group. The company, founded by his mother, Thanpuying Chanut Piyaoui, in 1948, is based in Bangkok next to its flagship Dusit Thani Bangkok hotel (the city’s tallest building when it first opened its doors in 1970), which today inspires the gracious hospitality delivered at Dusit hotels in 21 countries worldwide.
Donavanik holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Boston University, USA. He was formerly president of the Thai Hotels Association, a position he held for four consecutive terms. He is also a former president of the ASEAN Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHRA).
He grew up in the midst of Thailand’s rapidly expanding hotel industry, long before the internet and fax machines (with paper rolls), when bookings were made by rattling teleprinters and sometimes challenging long-distance telephone calls.
His mother’s first hotel, the Princess, opened on Bangkok’s New Road in 1949. Khun Chanin tells us that Dusit International today operates 29 properties worldwide and has 51 confirmed projects in the pipeline in key destinations such as Australia, Bhutan, China, Indonesia, Kenya, Myanmar, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and UAE.
Today, the company is a leader in hotel management and education encompassing a unique international portfolio of distinctive hotels and resorts operating under four brands: Dusit Thani, dusitD2, Dusit Princess and Dusit Devarana including Dusit Thani College, which offers vocational and postgraduate hospitality degrees at campuses in Bangkok and Pattaya; Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Culinary School; and the recently opened Dusit Thani Hotel School, which is Thailand’s first hospitality school based on the ASEAN Common Competency Standards for Tourism Professionals.
Also in the pipeline is the pioneering Dusit Hospitality Management College, a unique fully integrated hospitality school and hotel in Manila, Philippines to be opened in 2018.
With 32 million tourists arriving in Thailand in 2016, and with the travel industry being one of the most important industries in the Kingdom, employing almost 15 percent of the population and contributing 17 percent of the GDP to the Thai economy, what challenges does Donavanik foresee for the industry?
“The government and private tourism operators should work closely to develop more tourism infrastructure and facilities to accommodate the ever growing number of foreign visitors to Thailand, like upgrading and expanding the four international airports,” he said. “The long immigration lines need to be reduced, too, especially in Phuket.
“According to World Tourism Association, there is strong growth in the Asian market. The new wealthy Asian travelers are here,” he added with a smile.
We agree on the issues of infrastructure, airport expansion and upgrading. Yes, those long immigration arrival/departure lines. Can also we also ask for more BTS “Skytrain” carriages, please! And escalators on every station. Up & Down!
Our discussion moves to perhaps the most comprehensive publication ever published in English on the history of tourism in the Thai Kingdom – Thailand Tourism: The Early Days – a must-have publication for everyone in the airline, hospitality and travel business.
The cobalt blue 1.2-kg tome is published by Dusit International in partnership with Bangkok Bank, Boon Rawd Brewery, Central Group, Chiva-Som International Health Resort, Jim Thompson, Siam Piwat, Thai Airways, and the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Written by veteran journalist and lecturer Steve Van Beek, and edited by Roy Howard, the original advertising manager of Thai Airways International, Thailand Tourism: The Early Days charts the rise of the industry since the 1950s and examines the people, places, institutions, hotels and agencies which have transformed Bangkok from the ‘Venice of the East’ to a dynamic gateway to all the attractions the Kingdom now has to offer.
Never has there been book detailing the history of the tourism industry in Thailand and the pioneers behind its early development. The book examines in rich detail the challenges faced by these early pioneers and, through profiles, anecdotes and quotes, underscores the need to preserve their stories.
Among the key figures profiled in the glossy, full-colour book are His Serene Highness Prince Bhisadej Rajani, president of the Royal Project Foundation; General Prem Tinsulanonda, former Prime Minister of Thailand; Lieutenant General Chalermchai Charuvastra, founder of the Tourist Organization of Thailand; Niels Lumholdt, former executive vice president of Thai Airways International; Dr Prasert Prasarttong-Osoth, founder of Bangkok Airways; Kusa Panyarachun, founder of Thailand’s first travel agency; Chin Sophonpanich, founder of Bangkok Bank; Samrit Chirathivat, founder of Central Group; and Thanpuying Chanut Piyaoui, founder of Dusit International. A special section dedicated to Thailand’s royal family highlights how projects initiated by His Majesty the late King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, have had a positive effect on tourism.
Donavanik hopes the book will not only help to preserve the stories of the early pioneers, but also inspire a new generation of hospitality workers to follow in their footsteps.
“I think it’s vitally important that the new generation understands what happened in the past, and how the risks and opportunities taken by the early pioneers ultimately shaped the industry as we know it today,” he said.
And what a magnificent industry! This year an estimated 33 million people are set to visit the Kingdom. Do you recall the “Amazing Thailand” campaign by TAT?
In keeping with Dusit’s aim to help boost hospitality education in Thailand, copies of the book will be distributed for free to schools, colleges and universities offering tourism, hotel management and culinary programmes in Thailand.
The book is available at Asia Books and all Dusit hotels in Thailand, priced at 1,500 baht.
In remembrance of His Majesty the late King, all proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to the Royal Project Foundation, which helps to improve the living conditions of Thailand’s rural communities.