As the tourism and hospitality industry in Thailand looks to welcome back international guests under a phased reopening plan, a Bangkok-based boutique hospitality consulting start-up wants to give local hotels and restaurants a leg up on the competition.
Launched in March 2021, WaiThai Hospitality is led by veteran hotelier Thomas Pfordte, who has 25 years of senior leadership experience in hotel and restaurant operations in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
Speaking to TTG Asia, Pfordte said the idea to launch the company was born prior to the pandemic, and has been further developed during the long lockdown phase. The team also comprises marketing manager Jantana Tanprasit and senior advisor Bob James – both internationally experienced hospitality professionals.
With the pandemic posing challenges to a large swathe of hospitality businesses, WaiThai Hospitality aims to drive the long-term profitability and sustainability of hotels and restaurants launching or reopening in Thailand.
Explained Pfordte: “The hotel and restaurant sector in Thailand has experienced many years of unprecedented growth, until its peak in 2019. Such a business environment often makes entrepreneurs less critical about their own operations.
“For instance, (manpower) levels and efficiency, as well as sustainability and procedures in general were not questioned to the level needed to sustain a healthy profit over time. Now is the time (for) hoteliers and restaurateurs to look into details, (and) challenge expenses and how things are done.
“My key point, however, is not to just reduce (manpower) levels, but look at smart solutions without ever compromising the guest experience.”
With international tourism staring at sustained headwinds ahead, operating a hotel or restaurant in the post-Covid era comes with a fresh set of challenges.
Pfordte said that while reduced tourist flows could mean a revenue hit for hotels and restaurants, these establishments would be “judged more than ever by the experience they offer, and at what price”.
He added: “Hence, managing expenses without ‘cutting corners’ is crucial. The intelligent usage of systems, in regards to guest related as well as administrative functions, becomes even more relevant. Guests will want to experience high levels of creativity and the sense of culinary adventure.”
Pfordte noted that one of the most immediate challenges faced by many hotels and restaurants in Thailand is a severe cash flow issue after almost 18 months with drastically diminished demand.
In cutting back on payroll, the highest cost component in hospitality businesses, companies may see manpower being stretched while performing the usual tasks. In such cases, WaiThai Hospitality is able to step in to support F&B or hotel senior management functions at hotel companies as well as assist on small, specific projects for hotels and restaurants, such as redesigning menus, conducting productivity studies and analysing manpower guides.
The company is currently in negotiations with large and small companies to become potential partners, shared Pfordte. Once travel rebounds, he plans to expand the firm internationally, beginning with other South-east Asian countries and the Middle East.
A proponent of sustainability, Pfordte also sees “big opportunities” to promote environmentally-friendly practices among Thai hoteliers and restauranteurs.
“The country grows some of the best agricultural products on earth. Why do (restaurants in Thailand) have to fly in food items from the other end of the globe? Why is a bottle of imported mineral water (being sold) for an inflated price in restaurants, when still and sparkling water (can be bottled) on-site, eliminating the transport while still serving a premium product to guests? Some of the world’s best restaurants in the US, Europe and elsewhere, have adopted this practice,” he said, adding that restaurants in Thailand can achieve the same.