Novotel Bangkok Platinum.
After an incredible first year, finishing with 80% occupancy, this GM looks to an even more tremendous year not only for Novotel Bangkok Platinum but also for the whole of Bangkok.
By Percy Roxas.
As a young man, Sagar Naker dreamed of being a stockbroker, at one time, and a rock star, at another. Instead, he became a hotelier. Music has remained an integral part of him (“A big part, after my children,” he says) and today, he still plays — albeit occassionaly — with the resident band at the hotel’s Platinum Lounge. Hotels are obviously his life now, and his track record proves that he is definitely one of Accor’s best assets today.
A 20-year hospitality veteran, Sagar has been with Accor for 12 years. He previously served as GM of Novotel London ExCeL, a multi-award winning hotel in the London Docklands, during which the hotel won numerous awards for Innovation, Quality Customer Service, and Best Employer.
That he ended up in the hotel business wasn’t suprising since Sagar practically grew up in the industry; his parents were both in the same business. But his career started at the bottom end, as a kitchen steward at Hilton Parklane London, then a breakfast waiter. But he always knew that there is more excitement to hotel life than just washing dishes although it took him five years to become a deputy general manager (GM).
He was 27, when he became deputy GM of the 43-room Kensington London, which he describes as “a very small property…but really its about attention to details, and service delivery at the top end of boutique hotels.”
Eventually, armed with a degree in European Business and French and subsequently a masters in International Hotel Management, Sagar felt he needed to join a larger company and become a full-pledged GM. He joined Accor in January 2000 and never looked back since.
In Thailand for just a little over a year and a half, Sagar brings his fun and warm personality to work to the delight of his co-workers. “The guy has an easy laugh and a great sense of humor,” one staffmember says. “He lightens up the workplace even during the most stressful times,” says another, “It’s a pleasure working with him.”
Sagar says he wants to put a smile on every one’s face every day. “My interaction with my team is always an important part of my day; like my guests, my team members are the very reason I love coming to work every day,” he says.
Sagar describes himself as a “jack of all trades, master of none,” probably half in jest, but his pride shows when talking about his great team.
“It’s a big plus to have a great team. I have specialists around me and I value their opinions,” he says. “It is always our opinion. I may have an opinion but I always discuss them with my team. Nobody’s perfect, not even me – although I hope my team will say – that’s what’s great about him. What’s important is my team take the best of what I have: and openness, fairness, and humor are very important.”
Venturing in Asia, in his fourth Novotel, was something like a millennium change for Sagar, and he loved it. “Asia does hotels extremely well,” he says, “and I’m very proud of this one. Every time Novotel opens a hotel the product gets better and better. With the opportunity given me by Accor, both in London and Asia, I couldn’t have asked for more. I think I will be working for the company (Accor) for a long time.” In his 12 years with Accor, he held operations manager positions in two hotels and general manager in three.
Sagar says he actually planned to come to Asia a long time ago, but so many things held him back, but when he finally made the move, he knew he made the right decision. He says: “I think I moved here at a perfect time; the timing couldn’t have been better. Bangkok has got great opportunies, and exciting thing are happening all around while bringing challenges at the same time,” he says. “I think I’ll be here for a while; I have no plans to go back to Europe anytime soon,” he says.
He describes being in Bangkok as an interesting learning curve, and admits it’s been a true pleasure to open the Novotel Bangkok Platinum.
As Novotel Bangkok Platinum GM, Sagar made the hotel a by-word right away among hotel aficionados. He opened the hotel at exactly the date it promised to open, marketed it as an attractive alternative to some of the city’s fine hotels, and finished the first year with an 80 percent occupancy. He says of the feat, “In a competitive market where the average is about 68 percent, doing 80 percent is truly an achievement. If anyone complains about achieving 80 percent in their first year in Bangkok — they must really have higher expectations.”
Of course, it helped that he opened a Novotel. “The beauty of a Novotel hotel is that wherever you go, you know what you’re gonna get. Novotels in Bangkok are all great products although we are separated by location and maybe, design. Even our room rates are very similar,” he says. “It’s important to price yourself and Novotel is always very good value for money.”
Indeed 2012 was an incredible first year for the Novotel Bangkok Platinum and Sagar credits his entire team, especially his great sales team, for their tremendous performance. “A GM is only as good as his team,” he says.
How did they do at Novotel Bangkok Platinum? “We did things differently,” he says. “If you look outside our window, you’ll see that every other building in the area is a hotel. It’s a very tough market here indeed, so you have to make your own mark. You’ve got to set your unique benefits and unique points. Your pricing should be right but so should your key benefits as well. From the beginning we sent out the message that we want to be different. And the public responded.” Of course, Novotel Bangkok Platinum is backed up by a great location in the heart of Pratunam, an area very popular to tourists from around the world. Also, the hotel sits right on top of a shopping mall, which they have direct access to, making it very attractive to the minions of shoppers who flock the area.
Their main market right now consists of small independent buyers from around the region who visit Pratunam regularly and stay from three to four days in general.
“We pushed elements from a leisure point of view,” he continues.
“And our targeted approach hit the right people. We knew that if we are to get the interest of potential guests quickly, we should go for the short-term market. So we focused on the short-haul, we looked at who are coming to shopping mall, and just kept our focus.”
Currently, Novotel Bangkok Platinum’s market can be classified as 70 percent leisure and 30 percent business, although Sagar adds that this will change over time.
Even with their success, there are still areas that Sagar wanted to see improve operations-wise and business-wise. But all in all, he thinks the hotel is looking at another great year.
“I am very positive not only for Novotel Bangkok Platinum but also for the whole of Bangkok this year,” Sagar says, “The Bangkok market should remain very strong because it’s still great value for money, it still has a lot to offer. I’m really positive about Bangkok. I can see great opportunities coming up.”
In the hub of Bangkok’s fashion center, Novotel Bangkok Platinum is located on top of Platinum mall, 10 minutes walk from Siam Square, Siam Paragon and BTS stations. Blending comfort and technology, the hotel is the perfect choice for your next holiday or business trip. Featuring 283 well-designed rooms, Novotel Bangkok Platinum offers two bars and one restaurant, three meeting rooms, free Wi-fi internet, LED flat screen TV, outdoor swimming pool, fitness center and indoor car park.
220 Petchaburi Road, Ratchatevee,