Perched on Ko Samui, Thailand’s second largest island and renowned known for its palm-fringed beaches, coconut groves and dense, mountainous rainforest, at the helm of the villa resort is Chairman John Kinder. We caught up with Mr Kinder to find out what awaits visitors to this magical corner of Thailand.
SY: Can you start by telling us a little about Samujana and the services and amenities it provides?
JK: “Samujana is the pre-eminent, owner-managed gated estate on Koh Samui, Thailand, featuring 27-bespoke and secluded villas for rental and sale. For our villas and their stunning ocean views, award-winning architecture and five-star service, we have international reputation and are positioned a convenient 10 minutes from the airport and close to the major beaches, restaurants and shopping areas in the North-Eastern part of the island.
“We have our own dedicated professional General Manager, John Dopéré, and his hospitality and management team are on hand to deliver 24-hour ﬁve-star, highly personalised service and security for villa owners as well as rental guests. Optional services include private chefs, nannies, personal assistants, drivers and business support, which we believe is a structure that provides new owners peace of mind that their investment is protected through year-round care and maintenance to a very high standard.
“Each villa has been designed by multi-award-winning architect Gary Fell to have open living spaces that embrace the spectacular ocean view, while also being sympathetic to the surrounding environment. By maintaining thematic and uniform elements of architectural composition, Samujana is created as a unique, hillside estate masterpiece. The villas are beautifully equipped to the highest standard, each with a private infinity pool overlooking the ocean, and many have fully equipped gyms, private cinemas, BBQ terraces, and indoor spa treatment rooms.
“In short, we like to think of Samujana as “Your Place, Your Time”, because owners and guests can choose to tailor their stay with as little or as much personal service as they require. We are cultivating an iconic, luxury estate community, whose legacy is one of privacy, security and calm, where people can take the weight of the world off their shoulders and be cared for by world class staff. We want Samujana to still be considered one of the world class villa estates 50+ years from now.”
What can you tell us about the local area, what can guests enjoy here?
“Koh Samui enjoys a well-developed tourism infrastructure with its airport, leisure facilities and proximity to the National Marine Park of Koh Phangan. All villas have access to a secluded and intimate beach, which is shared by two other small resorts, and a shuttle service to the family friendly Choengmon Beach, less than a five minutes’ drive away or the busier Chaweng Beach, an approximately a ten-minutes' drive.
“Leisure facilities include sailing, diving, kite surfing, mountain biking. Many activities are also available for those who wish to explore Koh Samui, such as booking a full day island cruise on-board Samujana’s luxury catamaran, the 'Kindred Spirit' to Koh Phangan for lunch or around Samui to find secret coves. Guests can also visit waterfalls, temples, street markets, and Ang Thong National Park, an archipelago of 42 islands, mostly covered with tropical forests and home to a rich variety of exotic wildlife."
Where do the majority of your guests come from, is it an international crowd?
“The majority of our owners are British, whereas our rental guests are dominatingly Chinese. However, we have a broad international crowd with owners and visitors from all corners of the world.”
And do your villas generally attract couples, or families, or groups of friends?
“It’s hard to generalise on this as our villas range from two to eight bedrooms, so I’d say that our offering on both the sales and rental side attracts everyone from couples to families to groups of friends. Of course, we host a lot of wedding as well as the Estate has a unique offering in comparison with hotels.”
What about the food and beverage offerings at Samujana?
“A private chef is connected to each villa and can prepare meals to accommodate any request, preference, allergy/intolerance, and religion. Our beverage offering includes a great variety of soft drinks, wine, beer, bubbles, and stronger spirits, which are all charged separately.”
For those who have never visited Thailand, what would you say to convince them?
“Thailand has a magical combination of culture, food, beaches and scenery. Thailand has always embodied traditional Asian charm, but it has its own independent character. There is something about Thai people that makes venturing to this country certainly less intimidating - Thai people are traditionally friendly, perhaps it's their traditional Thai greeting, the Wai, which is when someone slightly bows with their hands together almost as if they are in prayer.
“Maybe it is the way many Thais eat family-style, with some visitors lucky enough to be invited to join them for their world-renowned cuisine, and the local Thai music and dance with graceful body movements and elaborate costumes isn’t too missed either. With a national motto like 'mai pen rai', meaning don’t worry or it’s okay, the nation certainly seems to have a care-free, happy go lucky attitude.
“Because the country’s terrain is so unique, it's possible to go on several different adventurous excursions. Elephant sanctuaries are great for tourists who are animal lovers, while those looking for something a bit more adventurous may instead opt for a day on one of the country’s many rivers or go white water rafting. There are also trails to trek, waves to be surfed, jungles to be ziplined through to name a few.
“Even the markets in Thailand are like no others in the world, with each having its own distinct character, from the crowds they attract to the items which are for sale, from local delicacies to clothing and jewellery.
“Thailand is also home to an abundance of wildlife in its many national parks, beaches, and mountainous terrain. Khao Yai National Park in central Thailand is home to tigers and wild boars, and in the south, there are entire beaches filled with monkeys.
“In general, Thailand has so, so much to offer, and it’s certainly not a homogenous country – you have to explore both the islands and the mainland, with every region having a distinct personality.”
Finally, how do you think the world of luxury hospitality is evolving?
“To be successful in a fast-moving industry like hospitality means that you can never really standstill. Today’s guest demands are tomorrow’s history, so to be stay ahead of the curve, one must constantly peer over the horizon. One trend that is worth noting is the concept of the ‘conscious travel’, which revolves around the idea of compassion and social consciousness being part of the travel experience. Many see this as a natural extension of ‘transformative travel’, which empowers the traveller to make meaningful changes to their lives.
“In our highly digitalised and tech-heavy world, I also believe it's crucial for all hospitality providers to serve guests in a significantly more connected way, striking the right balance between automated solutions and human interaction. Despite the rapid changes in this space, we know the human element is still paramount, simply because engagement with a person is always a better experience. For example, focus on hiring the best and relevant villa managers for our guests, who support guests with the A-Z of their stay.
“I can imagine that eco and sustainability will continue to play a bigger role across all products and hospitality services in general, with particularly the younger consumers continuing to educate themselves further about how their lifestyle choices, in terms of travelling etc., impact the world environment.
“Undoubtedly, plastic use and pollution will remain a key environmental issue for businesses and supply chains all over the world, including Thailand’s second-largest island, Koh Samui. Plastic pollution is harming oceans and washing up on shorelines globally and Koh Samui’s palm-fringed beaches are no exception. Therefore, we have adopted a plastics elimination campaign whereby we're only using glass and aluminium bottles for drinking water for all guests and staff and all plastic straws have been replaced by paper. Furthermore, we have eliminated plastic amenities in all rooms of every villa by using paper packaging.
“We're also exercising waste separation and adhere to a policy of turning off lights and air-conditioning when staff and guests leave the rooms and have upgraded the lighting to more energy-efficient versions.”