Centara Grand Phratamnak Resort, Pattaya.
Centara Grand Phratamnak Resort Pattaya GM says he is looking to deliver the best possible hotel and guest experience.
By Percy Roxas.
Some people take years to find their true passion in life. Dominique Ronge, general manager (GM) of Centara Grand Phratamnak Resort Pattaya, found his passion early. “From a very young age it was clear to me what I wanted to do,” he says. “I very early developed a passion for travel and fine dining, and all that comes with them. I guess it’s partly a passion for great quality.” These passions — travel, wine, dine, music, theater, art, and movies — are still with him today.
A Belgian national, Dominique was born in Leuven, a Flemish university city that is also famous for its Stella Artois brewery. While still an adolescent he was fortunate to travel to some exotic countries (including Thailand) with his parents, and the experience inspired him to study Hotel Management. He graduated from The Erasmus College Brussels, Belgium and started his career at The Waldorf Astoria in Rome, Italy as management trainee for two years. After that, there was no stopping him. He then worked for a 3-star Michelin restaurant, Jean Pierre Bruneau; then joined the luxury cruise ship, “Crystal Serenity m/v”; and eventually worked for hotels and resorts.
“A dream came true in 1997 when I became executive assistant manager at The Chedi Phuket,” says Dominique. “Afterwards I joined the InterContinental Hotel Group as GM of Holiday Inn Resort Phi Phi, and then as resort manager of Intercontinental Hua Hin Resort.” In Sept. 2012, he joined Centara Hotels & Resorts as GM of the new luxury Centara Grand Phratamnak Resort Pattaya, which is owned by the Tulip Group.
Being a GM, he says, brings many responsibilities. “We are handling vast sums and are responsible for a good return-on -investment to owners. We have a team of around 200 employees and hotels are complex operations,” he explains. “Ideally my role is as a mentor and stimulator. The staff manages their own areas of the business but in reality there is also downward and consultative communication, and feedback to the management is always encouraged. As in many things in life, a balance in various styles for various situations works best for me. I always attempt at positive thinking.”
One of the most satisfying parts of his job, he says, is creating amazing guests experiences, achieving business goals, “and all of the above thru content and motivated team members.” “I am a bit competitive and I am still looking for delivering the best possible hotel and being No. 1 in guest experience,” he says. “As a GM, what’s most satisfying is bringing guest experience to the top and creating that ‘wow’ feeling.”
The challenges of being a GM in Thailand, Dominique says, are definitely different than in other parts of the world. “But challenges we all have, just different ones. This is my sixth year in Thailand and the length of service is helpful on setting the right priorities and fighting battles that can be won. I feel extremely proud and happy to be able to work and live in Thailand. It’s my home-away-fromhome.”
According to him, opening the Centara Grand Phratamnak Resort, Pattaya maybe his biggest professional excitement ever. “It’s an amazing luxury hotel, and we aim very high,” he explains. “The owner, Tulip Group, is incredibly supportive and we are very ambitious together.”
Dominique describes Tulip’s corporate philosophy as “pretty simple”: to offer the hotels guests only the very best in five-star quality. “CEO Kobi Elbaz and Vice President Jason Payne have a great eye for style and are committed to deliver the best product available. I haven’t worked with an owning company like this before where money is not an issue at all,” he says. “It is extremely refreshing to see their hands-on approach to everything that is going in this property. That is why this is really not like a ‘job’ for me. I feel like opening my own hotel. It’s all about the passion, isn’t it?
Centara Grand Phratamnak Resort is set to open in August, the third Centara Grand in Pattaya. Set among the high-end uptown addresses of Phratamnak Hill, with the beautiful beach only a few steps away, the hotel is designed to match the high-class district. On top of the hill at Wat Phra Yai is the principal Buddha image in Chonburi province. There is a royal palace on the hill, making it a very exclusive place.
“We wanted a stunning design; a living piece of art,” says Dominique, “but at the same we wanted quality, which is why so much effort and investment has gone into the fine details of the rooms, right down to the fine linen sheets and the Jim Thompson pillow cases. Marble will clad the hotel’s public areas. The lobby furniture is all Fendi, and fabrics and furnishings in the guestrooms are splendid. Centara and the Tulip Group have created a ground floor inspired by an underwater world, with two giant aquariums in which small sharks and other exotic fish live. Light, glass, and water are used in conjunction with fiber optics to generate a disposition in which land and water fuse into one.”
The eight-storey hotel, designed in two wings with a central courtyard, blends with the varied skyline of the hillside district. It has 165 rooms and suites, and will be family-friendly, Dominique adds, and there’s no compromise on quality in every detail from the rooms to the facilities, which are all with unique selling propositions.
“Our location is unique,” Dominique sums up. “The residential area of Phratamnak is quiet and relaxing, only minutes’ drive from downtown Pattaya, and is just a few steps away from one of Pattaya’s best beaches. The quality and fine design of the hotel, the luxury Private Club-style, the location, and great restaurants and bars are our strengths.”
He said he want guests to write on Tripadvisor that they had an “amazing” stay at the hotel. “We are not after ‘nice’ or ‘good’,” Dominique says. “We have an impressive hotel but it will be the personal and warm service; and the quality in F&B and many details that will make the difference. The employees, with their smiles, will complement the striking design. Once again, we aim high!”