Travel Daily chats with Stephen Morahan, general manager of Le Méridien Chiang Rai Resort about the current state of play at his intriguing property…
Q) Where is your resort located, and what are its key selling points?
Le Méridien Chiang Rai Resort is set on the banks of the Kok River, moments away from the airport and Chiang Rai city centre. The resort is also only an hour drive from the legendary Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos converge.
We have many unique selling points, including being built around the two 100-year-old rain trees, Mamia and Sukaseam, and our northern Thai-inspired architecture. Our Italian restaurant, Favola, located on the banks of the Kok River, is the only venue of its kind in the north and the landscaped grounds are perfect for holding events.
The 53m² standard rooms all offer verandas that overlook the gardens or river. Walking around the property is like experiencing a gallery that represents the beauty of and northern Thailand. To me, Le Méridien is a destination within a destination.
Q) What are your main guest source markets, and are you seeing a rise in demand from emerging Asian markets like China?
Our main source markets are 50% domestic followed by Spanish, American, Korean, other European including the UK, Japan, Australia and China. We continue to focus heavily on driving domestic tourism, particularly as an escape for those living in cities like Bangkok. A lot of our resources are driven towards the high growth Asian markets of Korea, China, and to a lesser extent, Japan, Indonesia and Singapore. The Chinese market has a very strong presence in Chiang Mai and given the recent opening of the Friendship Bridge linking Thailand, Laos, Burma and China, I think we will also see increases in trade and tourism numbers from these countries.
Q) How has Le Méridien Chiang Rai Resort performed this year, and what are your projections for the upcoming high season?
Our performance has been absolutely fantastic, driven by a committed and dedicated team. We continue to improve our products and services, and assist the local tourism authorities to promote the resort and, most importantly, the destination. Le Méridien Chiang Rai has increased its occupancy by almost 8% and we are forecasting similar or higher results for 2014.
We are now well into the high season and are achieving record occupancies and rates for the property. We thought we may be affected by the disruptions in Bangkok, however demand has remained strong with only a few cancellations.
Q) You have an extensive amount of meeting and event space. What proportion of your business is MICE-driven, and how has this market performed in 2013?
It is difficult to ascertain what proportion of our business is MICE driven as it has been very sporadic in 2013. What I can say is that I would love to see at least 30% of the property’s occupancy being in this segment. MICE business in 2013 has been quite challenging, particularly internationally. With limited flight access, 2013 has not provided the results we had hoped. We have beautiful function spaces, however one challenge is that our ballroom with a capacity of 300 for a sit down dinner has proven to be too small, with a significant number of potential clients being turned away as we are unable to cater for their numbers.
Q) What new developments can we expect from your resort in 2014?
What is very exciting is we are addressing this in 2014 with a ballroom expansion which will see us able to cater up to 1,000 guests for a dinner function, or split into two smaller rooms for events for 400-500 guests. Combine this with our outdoor spaces, the proposed expansion of Favola (also in 2014), and we will have very unique meeting and event facilities.
Further developments in 2014 will also include the expansion or our Parvati Spa, with the addition of another four treatment rooms and facilities for waxing, manicures and beauty, as well as a patisserie-style coffee and cake café.
Adding to these fabulous new projects, growth in tourism numbers, the local economy and exposure to Chiang Rai, and the continuing property soft refurbishments in the rooms and public spaces, 2014 is certainly a year to look forward too.