Decode the Lesson of Rayong Crisis –Path to a Place that People can Visit Every Day

Normally, during the long vacations, Rayong would have visitors from almost every city, including residents of Rayong themselves. They would come to enjoy the sea, appreciate nature, stroll the old market, visit the museum, taste delicious durians at the orchard, try fresh seafood and shop local souvenirs for friends and family. However, after the news about Covid-19 infected Egyptian soldiers entering the area came out, the business that was recovering from the outbreak of the pandemic came to a recession once again. The spread of the rumors brought the whole country to panic. In this article, Anuchida Chinsiraprapha, President of Rayong Chamber of Commerce and Owner of Golden City Rayong Hotel, will decode lessons from crisis management, the handling of situations that are hard to control as well as the readiness of Rayong that is safe and clean and is prepared to welcome tourists.


Persist and determine to follow the dreams

During Tom Yum Kung Crisis 1997, amidst the plummeting economy, Baht depreciation and bankruptcy of many business and financial institutions, a hotel located right in the heart of city of Rayong still continued their construction to open the business. That hotel was “Golden City Rayong Hotel”.

Anuchida shared that, more than 20 years ago, there were not many big hotels in Rayong and the price was relatively high. Other hotels would be made out of shophouses. There were not medium or small hotels available as options. Anuchida, thus, thought of building a small hotel in budget hotel style. Initially, her family disagreed. But Anuchida did not falter and her husband agreed to let her build a hotel at the end under a condition that “it should not burden the family”.

After approval from her husband, Anuchida immediately moved forward to chase her dream. She used a plot of land next to Sukhumvit road that was planned to build a house for her family to build a hotel. However, during the construction, due to her lack of experience, the contractor left the site unfinished. Anuchida, thus, had to be responsible for the debt of metals and other materials that cost almost 3 million baht. Despite careful calculation and financial plan with only 30% loan to avoid excessive debt, but with the financial crisis, there was almost 10 million baht debt. It was a rough start for a woman in her 37 that she had to decide alone and do almost everything by herself. Nevertheless, Anuchida did not give in to destiny. She thought that if the economy was bad, customers who used to stay in a big hotel would move to stay in smaller hotels to save money. If the economy was good, smaller hotels would also become choices for customers. When there was a mistake or crisis, smaller hotels would be able to survive and pay the debt. Eventually, Anuchida survived all of that with persistence, determination, and financial discipline. It allowed her to pay the debt quickly and continue her business with stability.

Start business during sunken economy –change crisis to opportunity

28 January 1998 was an opening date of Golden City Rayong Hotel. Customers continuously came to stay in the hotel because Tom Yum Kung Crisis pulled the economy down that customers chose accommodation that could save more money as predicted. In the beginning, the hotel focused on customers who would stay for a long period of time, especially Japanese employees who came to install machinery and technology. There were a few Korean customers and later on, the hotel gained Thai businesspeople and engineers from various factories as customers.

When guests went out to work, the hotel would open windows in the rooms to “air the room”, allowing the air to ventilate in the room. As for the beds, bed sheets would be taken off to wash or “air the bed”. The hotel has been following the ritual for more than 20 years. Also, all rooms would have safety boxes available. If it was a room for long-term stay, there would be a sink installed for simple food preparation. There was research on customers before designing the rooms to fit and answer the demands of different groups of customers that the hotel was acknowledged on hygiene, convenience, and safety.

As for public relations of the hotel, Anuchida had done very little on advertisements because she wanted the hotel to sell itself. She emphasized more on customer service and cleanliness that the hotel made good impressions on customers and the reputation of the hotel spread through word of mouth. When the hotel was trusted by customers, Anuchida further developed the hotel, so that customers would continue to spread the news. And when the business is stable enough, she would gradually expand the hotel while anticipating the future economy all together.

Change for growth

When the domestic economy started to revive, there were more people entering the manufacturing industry. More hotels, apartments, and houses were opened in accordance with the rising demand. Golden City Rayong Hotel also expanded from a small hotel on 4 000 square meters plot of land to a hotel with an area of 56 000 square metres in the present. There are more buildings for accommodation and for seminars. Anuchida, therefore, had to think about the direction of her service strategy because solely providing accommodations will force her to compete in the market share with other hotels. She then decided to change the hotel to become a hotel for seminars. She decreased the ratio of long-term stay customers as well as increased facilities and equipment for seminars. This makes the majority of customers to be customers to stay for the seminar.

Seminar groups came with a limited budget and they mainly used the accommodation. To construct a new building, the size of the rooms would have to be bigger to accommodate customers that wish to stay as 3 people in a room and every room would come with a working table. The profit per customer was considered low because, in every seminar, there would require electricians, sound technicians, receptionists, and cleaners. Moreover, there were more leftovers and waste. Equipment like a projector was high in cost and has a limited lifespan. The challenge of the hotel is, thus, to attempt to gain enough customers to prevent any loss. At the same time, the hotel cannot neglect cleanliness that is the core standard of the hotel.

Strength of Golden City Rayong

Operating business alongside the society is the strength of Golden City Rayong Hotel. Apart from being the owner of the hotel and President of the Rayong Chamber of Commerce, Anuchida is also the president of Pracharath Rak Samakkee Company. She, thus, tried to help the community by purchasing local products and used them in the hotel. There was a zone for local stores to display and sell their products within the hotel that helped to generate profit for the community. During the Covid-19 crisis, the hotel purchased local products in the community to replenish the Sharing Box to help those who were in need.

Besides, Anuchida thought of how to reduce waste by making fertilization for organic vegetables that were grown for the hotel out of daily leftover food. It is agriculture that employees help to take care and grow in order to know the value of what they are doing and know how each type of vegetable is grown. Also, customers will get to eat clean and safe organic vegetables. Even the hotel’s famous dessert-like “Golden Roll” is made from bread with banana, jam, and cream filling, fried till golden brown. Anyone who gets to try will ask for the second. The banana used in that dessert is grown by the hotel. There was a lecturer who came for the seminar. They saw the bananas and said that they were beautiful. So, they asked the employees where these bananas were bought from. When they knew that bananas were grown by the hotel, they asked if they could have a photo of the banana trees.

Another group of customers came to hold their wedding ceremony. The hotel can create any kind of ceremony as clients wish that is unlike any other. The hotel has a large area that could accommodate up to 150 round tables with a recommended dishes such as braised fish maw in red gravy, Hong Kong noodles, hot and tender pork knuckle, and shark fin that the hotel keeps and prepared to ensure that customers get to eat clean and chemical-free food.

Measures against Covid-19 situation

After the government announced a lockdown policy as a measure to contain the spread of Covid-19, hotels across the country are affected. Some hotels had to temporarily close to avoid the lack of capital because of the disproportionate expense and income. However, Anuchida decided not to close the hotel because there were still long stay guests that were working in the city and they could not leave at about 10 rooms. Closing the hotel means deserting the customers. Anuchida considered customers as benefactors. Despite the hotel going through a hard time, it had to be opened. Staff, themselves, also played their parts to help the organisation. They took turns to work to reduce costs. For staff who were in need, Anuchida would find them jobs ranging from renovations, big cleaning, and gardening, so that everybody could survive this hardship together.

Having financial discipline and having gone through difficult situations since the establishment of the hotel, Anuchida led her life and business carefully. If she had to loan money for business expansion, she would not overuse the money, not use it for the wrong purpose and repay as soon as possible, so that when a crisis happened, she would not have to face difficulty. Apart from that, Anuchida encouraged and shared lessons with entrepreneurs that are affected by the spread of Covid-19. She shared that they should be strong and careful because crises could always happen. Do not only look at opportunities or the positive side of the business but anticipate the consequences of unstable growth. This will help to reduce loss.

Decode Rayong lesson –raise awareness, remain calm

Originally, Rayong people are not working in the manufacturing industry but they will mainly work in the service industry and restaurants. Their income, thus, increases and decreases according to the number of tourists and the national economy. News about Covid-19 infected Egyptian soldier entering Rayong put a break to the revival of the city. It was clearly shown that many restaurants and residences were canceled. The area that was still able to attract visitors was Koh Samet. However, with a safe distancing policy, Koh Samet could only accommodate up to 30 – 50% of what they usually could. Hotel business had quite a high cost at around 50 – 60% or more. When there were very few tourists entering the city, the business could not survive. So, Rayong people would have to help one another to use the local service. In some resorts, there were more than 30% of Rayong customers. This shown that Rayong people attempted to establish trust within their own city.

The surprise of Covid-19 news is a lesson that should be thought thoroughly. So that, history will not repeat itself from unclear communication that news recipients did not know what is true and what is not. Anuchida shared about the way to communicate sensitive matters from Rayong model as followed:

  • ·Gather facts as fast as possible before sending out messages. For example, how many infected individuals there are, if they wear masks at all times, where they stay, means of traveling, places they visit, if they are in contact or converse with others, etc. This information could be confirmed from the security cameras and by the eyewitnesses. When facts are confirmed, news receivers will not make guesses that will result in unmanageable rumors.
  • After gathering information, messages have to be delivered clearly and followed by establishing understanding. For example, there was an infected individual who traveled just to a mall. They spent a few hours there without touching or eating anything. Information like whether those who are closed to them are quarantined, the chances of them being infected, how their accommodation and places that they visited are disinfected will have to be revealed to avoid people getting panic.
  • Specialists or medical doctors play an important part to spread an understanding of the virus to the people. They will also need to regularly suggest methods for people to take care of themselves from getting infected. For example, educate people on how to wear masks correctly to reduce the chances of getting infected, spread the news that traveling across borders is still doable, etc.

Rayong is a city with about a hundred kilometre coastline. However, each beach will have different styles of lodges to select. Their attractions would be fresh seafood at an affordable price, beautiful beaches and crystal clear seas, Pak Nam Prasae area that people can cycle to view the local community, old towns, museums, and many old markets to visit. During the fruits season, there is agricultural tourism that is organized for tourists to buy fresh fruits right in the orchard. There are also up to 200 restaurants with delicious food that are guaranteed by the Rayong Chamber of Commerce. Moreover, there is a race organized by government and private organizations. There are city races, orchard races as well as nature races. For entertainment enthusiasts, stay tuned for news on Samet in Love, a music festival by the sea, which might be organized once again. And for food lovers, Rayong will be an answer that can be visited whole year long.

Today, Rayong is ready to grow stably. It will be a city that will cross people’s minds when they are planning on their next trip.

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Citation: SCB TV Episode: “Decode the Lesson of Rayong Crisis –Path to a Place that People can Visit Every Day” by Anuchida Chinsiraprapha, President of Rayong Chamber of Commerce and Owner of Golden City Rayong Hotel.