Veteran hotelier Alexander Blair leaves his Maldives position to set new standards in luxury accommodation in Bangkok with the Oriental Residence Bangkok team
By Percy Roxas
The call, to put it in showbiz lingo, is 2 p.m. The setting is Oriental Residence Bangkok, that luxury accommodation property on Wireless Road which is already forecasting a hundred percent increase in revenue growth this year following just a full 12 months of operation. The purpose is to meet Alexander Blair, the new general manager of the property that is now arguably setting new standards in the city’s luxury service residence segment.
Originally from Scotland, Blair seems to be in his best element at the Oriental Residence Bangkok. A 22-year hospitality veteran who boasts an outstanding career track record via a number of prestigious roles with many leading hotel companies, including Rosewood Hotels and Resorts and Six Senses, he has worked in many different destinations around the world. He spent the last two years at Maldives, where he worked as resort manager for Gill Lankafushi, enjoying “a fantastic stint in a resort environment; running mostly barefoot around the beautiful island.”
In fact, Blair said he did not hesitate to move to Bangkok for his current role. “At the end of the day, it’s very simple,” he says. “Running a luxury property is running a luxury property anywhere. It is all about anticipatory service and hospitality. Taking care of the guests and providing a luxury level of service for them has always been part of what I do. And we have an absolutely fantastic product and a great team who have been already been recognized internationally for the service they provide.”
Blair boasts an outstanding record of successfully developing and managing operations; building excellent guest relations; and improving the market profile, reputation, and profit of world-class ultra-luxury resorts.
During his tenure at Gili Lankanfushi, the resort was recognized by awards such as Condé Nast Gold List 2012 and the World Travel Awards 2012 — making him just the right man as Oriental Residence Bangkok furthers its already skyrocketing profile. And no doubt about it, he’s ready to face the challenges.
“We see overall occupancy going up by 13%,” says Blair when asked about his specific targets for the property. “We will double the revenues now that we have a full range of facilities onboard. We had a fantastic start in January and February so we’ll just build upon that momentum and keep going.”
Indeed, Blair joins a very optimistic team at Oriental Residence Bangkok. “The outlook for the year is very positive, ” he shares. “The Oriental Residence Bangkok is tremendously popular among Asian guests, who, according to 2012 figures, contribute some 60 percent of the guest mix, ahead of Europeans (14 percent) and Americans (12 percent).”
Even on the F&B side, Blair is happy to note the growing stature and recognition their chic, innovative dining venues are getting. Café Claire has already established a strong reputation in Bangkok with its discerning menu and intimate setting. It’s contemporary Chinese restaurant Mandopop, meanwhile, has become the venue of the moment in Bangkok, providing an eating and drinking hub for the city’s hip crowd.
In March, Mandopop started offering a Sunday lunch promotion, at prices starting from Bt1,188++ per person. Free flow beverage packages were also launched (for an additional Bt688 per person). In April, Mandopop introduces a happy hour option, available from Monday to Friday. In addition to the regular “2 for 1″ cocktail. They have also unveiled the special Taittinger promotion during happy hour for all champagne aficionados at just Bt388++ per glass.
“Café Claire and Mandopop are definitely making their mark and we plan to continue building on their present success,” he says. “And watch out for more surprises coming in the F&B area.”
Since opening, Oriental Residence Bangkok has received a number of awards and accolades, including becoming the “Overall winner for Bangkok in the luxury hotel and top hotel category” by TripAdvisor 2013 Travelers’ Choice® awards; Tatler Travel Guide 2013- “World’s Best 101 Hotels”; and the “Best Restaurant Award” for Mandopop given by Thailand Tatler.
“Again, we’re quite fortunate to have a fantastic building; a stylish property that has become very popular for product launches and press events,” Blair reiterates. “Our 145 lavishly appointed serviced residences are ideal for extended stays, although the top 10 floors are for private ownership. A sense of understated elegance premeates them and they benefit from imported furnishings and fixtures with expansive vistas of the city that enhance the prestige of the luxurious facilities.”
Blair’s love affair with Thailand started on his first visit as a tourist. Even then, he said, the Thai brand of hospitality and genuineness, and the food have always stood out. They are part of the reason he’s happy to live and work here.
“I’ve been coming here at least twice a year in the last 10 years and I absolutely love Thailand,” he says.“Plus, I have a fantastic team who are very supportive of me. I think I’m very fortunate to be in this position.”