In December, a new hotel that promises to add more excitement to Bangkok’s bustling dazzle is set to open on Sathorn Road – W Bangkok
Few hotel brands in Bangkok have created such buzz even before its opens as the W Bangkok. When news about its opening began to spread, there was more than just anticipation. There was real excitement among city sophisticates as to what the new brand will bring. With the soft opening at hand – first of December – Lookeast sought up the general manager, Nick Heath, to give us a sense of what the excitement is all about.
Nick is not a first-timer in Bangkok, having worked and lived in the city before but he said he is thrilled to the bone to be back “in a city that I love, Bangkok,” and with a brand like W, which is a “absolutely good-fit for me because I’m a design kind of guy.”
The W brand from Starwood’s perspective, says Nick, is a design luxury lifestyle hotel. If that seems like an understatement, it’s because it is. As the W Hotels website succinctly says it, W “sets the stage for exclusive and extraordinary experiences with its iconic design and contemporary luxury offerings.”
Born in New York, where it immediately became a phenomenon, W had since made a foray in select parts of the world (a global powerhouse, says Nick), with 43 hotels and resorts (including retreats as in W Retreat Samui) inspired by its destination, mixing cutting-edge design with local influences and creating a place to work or play by day or to mix and mingle in high-energy space at night.
“We’re forging ahead to be a world-class brand,” Nick tells Lookeast, “with our passion points of design, fashion, what’s new and what’ next – the entire brand DNA, our whole philosophy. We bring to Bangkok not just a brand that is exciting and full of energy and passion but the first design-led hotel and we are excited about this.”
Located at the main CBD of Sathorn Road just off Silom, with direct connection to BTS (Chong Nonsri Station), W Bangkok will have 407 spacious guestrooms and suites that are geared for a perfect slip-away after a day of sightseeing and shopping. The oh-so-spacious Duplex Suites (four of them) promises the ultimate guestroom experience if any. Each room boasts inspiring designs, motifs, fabrics, and custom furnishing, and modern amenities – more than the usual luxurious amenities and gadgets for sure — to heighten your down time pleasure.
“There are two facets of W Bangkok, which we call a hidden gem unveiled.” Nick says. “One is the very reflective tower, which is all about glitz and glamour. The other is heritage mansion, which is over 100-years-old. The juxtaposition of the new and old, of history and contemporary – is part of our unique narrative, part of everything we very much want to project.
And as Nick emphasizes, W Bangkok is more than a hotel, more than a place to stay and sleep, and so expect something unique, from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave. Even the wardrobe of the hotel associates, designed by a famous local designer, will delight guests.
“What we did was do away with the lobby,” says Nick, “so your arrival experience starts with a living room. Everywhere you turn you will be welcomed by surprising, sensory environments where amplified entertainment, vibrant lounges, modern guestrooms and innovative cocktails and cuisine create more than just a hotel experience but a luxury lifestyle destination.”
What W Bangkok is all about is a marriage of the brand’s New York DNA with local context. “Bangkok is really a great comparison to New York,” says Nick. “We have some things Thai in nature but the great vibe of Bangkok is what we were really looking for when we decided to open here: you now, the pulsating light, the exciting happenings, the collaboration with local artists and other people with some edge. You feel the energy as you arrive.”
Nick makes special mention of the WOOBAR, where they hope to spread the brand’s great cocktail culture. This bar, which can be a literary salon, a music lounge, or anything you want, serves signature W cocktails along with smooth grooves to ensure unforgettable mingling and mixing. As well, the hotel’s all-day dining restaurant, The Kitchen Table, caters to globetrotting gourmets; those who love food from the heart. “Great honest food, great cocktails,” that’s just for starters.
Like all W hotels worldwide, W Bangkok is expected to be the venue for live insider events, exclusive partnerships and “a Whatever/Whenever® service standard that is anything but standard.
Another key thing is that at W they don’t wear nametags. “The idea is we really want to bring a more personalized level of experience,” says Nick. Thus instead of nametags, we introduce ourselves to guests. In that sense, W is a luxury hotel that’s also down-to-earth, a real place to escape and get away from the everyday hotel experience.
And W Bangkok doesn’t twist things for the sake of it. “W don’t change things for the sake of changing,” Nick says. “Being at the luxury end, there are some traditional standards in service that we observe, but we take them to a different level to result in a different kind of experience. What kind of experience? For me it is casual luxury, people being themselves and having a feeling for what’s new, and what’s next, excited to be part of something that’s emerging.”
“Bangkok is one of the most prime cities ready for W,” says Nick, whose hotel, as he was leaving Seoul, won the best luxury hotel award in Korea “We want people to change their style, behavior, and reasons for going to a hotel. My vision is for us to be truly recognized for what we are. The idea of that award is that we are true to our brand, to our marketing. I am confident people will feel that we (W Bangkok) are really truly who we say we are, enjoy the W experience, be part of it and the lifestyle movement.”
General Manager, W Bangkok
He calls himself the accidental hotelier. And indeed, he didn’t go to a hotel school. He is a mechanical engineer by education who joined the hotel business as a corporate management trainee after graduating with honors. But, as he himself admits, in the hotel business, “ Once you’re, you’re in for life. I figured that I prefer to be with people, that I like stress analysis and stuff, so now I’m a full-blooded hotelier.”
A British national, Nick worked through operations and sales and marketing, until he was promoted to general manager (GM) in 1999 after continuously honed his skills of running successful and profitable award winning hotels with international hotel chains. In 2007, he joined Starwood Hotel and Resorts to become GM of W Seoul-Walkerhill.
Nick’s 23-year career has taken him global working in the US, Taiwan, Thailand, Israel, Indonesia, and Korea. He returns to Thailand once again to spearhead the launch of the highly anticipated W Bangkok, which will open its doors to the global jet set on Dec. 1, 2012.