Samornpun and Tanapong Somnam are both Phuketians. They also are hotel owners and… siblings. Born into the hospitality business, they combined their childhood experiences talents, and love for their home island, to launch one of Phuket’s most unique resorts – Keemala. Today they share with us what they both believe is the key to their success.
Samornpun “Tarn” Somnam
Since I was young, my whole family was in the hospitality field. About 10-13 years ago, my family bought a small, three-star hotel in Patong. During every summer break, I’d come and serve food to the guest, work in the lobby, help out in the front office, etc. After a few years of operations, they tore it down and started the new, four star KEE resort and spa. I’m quite used to this industry and that’s why I decided to study in this field. I studied hospitality in Switzerland and my brother majored in finance in the UK, and when we got our masters degrees, we returned to Phuket and continued our family business.
“Just don’t give up” is the one important thing I learned from my parents. And I had moments when I felt like giving up. When I came back from Switzerland I started working at the Kee, and I knew a lot of theory, but didn’t know how to implement it in real life. My focus was in sales and marketing and for that you need to know a lot of people, have a lot of connections. At first no one knew me, no one talked to me, or even made eye contact with me. This was the time I felt like giving up, but my parents convinced me it would take time. And it did take about two-three years for me to become better known.
My parents always supported me and my brother and still, today, if we have questions or need help, we can always go to them.
I’m very close to my brother and have been so since we were children. Most people in Thailand have close family bonds, also between brothers and sisters, it’s part of the culture. I think it’s good to have someone to consult and ask for opinions. The age gap between us is just two years and sometimes he can give me a better advice than my parents, because we have similar visions.
Keemala is unique and we focus on showing this uniqueness to people around us. Even the architecture is different and it is backed with our own story and philosophy. We own a plot of land that used to be a fruit orchard and is away from the beach, and most people who come to Phuket, dream about the beach. So our idea and goal was to make them forget about the beach for a while, which is why we came up with a unique concept.
We have created a story behind the resort, inspired by its architecture and philosophy. It’s a fictional story of a ship in ancient time, which cruised the oceans to trade between the East and the West. One day it encountered a big storm in the Indian Ocean on its way to China. The ship couldn’t continue on its journey, so the crew navigated with the stars and landed on an island, which is now called Phuket. Here they found a piece of land on a hill side and set up a village, this village is Keemala.
In this village there are four groups of people, these are the four clans of Keemala, and each clan has its own way of life, reflected in the design of a different kind of accommodation at the resort. The Earth Clan – farmers, miners, everyone who lives closely to the earth – is represented in the Clay Pool Cottages; the Wanderers’ Clan’s nomadic way of life is represented in the Tent Pool Villa; the Sky Clan, represented in the Tree Pool House, includes architects, performers and creators – people who have a good understanding of the universe, so their home is floating in the air, elevated from the ground. And last but not least there is the Nest Clan and their Bird’s Nest Pool Villa. This group includes poets, philosophers, and those people who are intellectually superior. They enjoy a wealthy life but crave for privacy.
I still think Phuket is the best, even though I’ve been to many other places. I don’t think I could settle anywhere else, also because of cultural differences and the fact that my family is here. Apart from this personal relationship with Phuket, I love the way of living here, I don’t like big city life, I prefer our village.
Part two – an interview with Tarn’s borther Tanapong ‘Note’ Somnam, coming soon. Follow us on Facebook not to miss it.
Find out more on Keemala.com