Name: Franck De Lestapis
Position title: General Manager
Company name: Pimalai Resort & Spa, Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand
When and why did you join the industry?
Back in 1982, I joined the Hilton in Brussels, which was one of the best Hiltons in Europe at the time. I was guided towards the hospitality industry; I used to cook cakes with my mother in the kitchen and spent my summer holidays working in restaurants. I was also attracted by the possibility of travelling around the world, and as a young man I told myself that one day I would land in Australia – eventually I did.
What do you like most about your job?
I am not an office-bound person, so I like to practice the MBWA (“management by wandering around”) method of working. This allows me to interact with guests and my team, as well as making a note of any issues that I see, and finding things that need adjusting or fixing. This means that there is a never dull moment or a typical working day.
What’s one of the biggest achievements of your career so far?
Having been at the helm of this fantastic resort for almost 19 years (since the very beginning) is, I believe, a big achievement. But that could not have happened without the support from people above me and the dedication of my team, who have put up with me over that time! Thanks to them, we have brought this resort the recognition it deserves.
What’s the best advice ever given to you and who gave it?
Remain humble, avoid being complacent, and ask yourself what did I/we did yesterday that was good, and what could be improved today. Basically, “don’t just sit there, as you will get run over!” This piece of advice came from a motivational speaker I listened to during a Hilton training course I attended in Basel, a long time ago.
Who do you admire and see as a role model in the industry?
People who stick with their jobs for a long time and continuously try to improve things; not only the hardware, but also the software. By creating a comfortable environment to live and work in, we can drive loyal and make people stay longer. There are hotel managers, group leaders and even Michelin-starred chefs who have reached these heights and who could be considered role models.
My owner can also be considered a role model, for how he managed to integrate a beautiful resort in such a stunning natural environment without destroying it, which unfortunately is not what we seen in many tourist destinations in Southeast Asia.
I also consider our front office manager as a role model within our organisation – “An Angel in a Found Heaven” as she was described by one online reviewer! After all, role models can be found at all levels in our industry, not only at the top end.
What can people expect from your company and what sets it apart from the rest?
For our employees; training, development, being able to grow in the hotel industry, in a safe and clean environment and with nice benefits and rewards. For our guests; the very best of Thai hospitality, delivered by genuinely friendly people in a great resort, set in a unique and idyllic natural environment.
What destinations are on your travel bucket list?
There are many and time is running out! But first, I want to uncover all the small corners of Thailand that remain unspoiled – where the scenery is beautiful, where the locals are still genuinely friendly, and where you can encounter authentic experiences.
What’s a memorable travel experience you’ve had (good or bad)?
Travelling with your best buddy/buddies makes the whole travel experience memorable. Scenery, cuisine and wine can make a trip exciting wherever you are, but the most important thing is to create memories with your best buddies that can be shared 10, 20 or 30 years later. (“Hey! Do you remember when we were in..?”)
As for the bad ones; there are not even a handful, and I do not reveal them online – it is not fair as everyone can have a bad day. Instead, I tell the people concerned so that they can do something about it. If these choose to do so, it’s up to them! Although I do also tell my close friends in private, just to warn them in case they decide to go there.
What are three things you always take with you when travelling?
My phone (for work of course, but also as a camera), a good book and my credit card!
What direction do you see the industry heading in over the next five to ten years?
Hotels will focus more and more on sustainability, wellness, connectivity and delivering truly authentic local experiences.