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(8/2/2010) With the world's attention focused on events in Bangkok, Thailand over the past weeks, during a recent visit to Thailand J. M. Daniels of Balidiscovery.com caught up with old "Bali Hand" Danny McCafferty, the General Manager of the luxurious Dusit Thani Hotel in downtown Bangkok.
McCafferty, who before heading back to Thailand to rejoin Dusit, spent 8 years with the Brunei Investment Agency. the owner of the Dorchester Group who own and operate 4 hotels in Asia, serving in Singapore as Vice President Operations Asia, and in Bali as General Manager of Nusa Dua Resort & Spa. In a long career as a professional hotelier, he also spent 7 years with Mandarin Oriental Group as Resident Manager at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok and General Manager of the Mandarin Oriental Jakarta.
Eager to obtain his perspective on the current situation in the Thai capital, Danny kindly accepted balidiscovery.com's requests for an interview.
The Interview: Danny McCafferty - The Dusit Thani - Bangkok
Balidiscovery.com: First of all, how are you personally?
McCafferty: "Thanks for asking. I'm fine. Enjoying life in Bangkok working with a great team at Dusit Thani Bangkok - the flagship of Dusit International."
Balidiscovery.com: An official state of emergency remains in force for Thailand, while in recent weeks travel advisories from many countries have been lowered or removed for Bangkok. I personally spent the past few days walking, shopping and traveling across the city where the situation appeared very normal. In your opinion, as a resident of Bangkok is it safe to take a holiday in Bangkok at this time?
McCafferty: "I'm glad you had a chance to enjoy Bangkok which remains one of the world's most interesting cities with great hotels. The Bangkok elevated train system (BTS) and the underground (MRT) has made it amazingly easy to travel across the city. The trains are clean, efficient and very inexpensive. There's even a new ultra-modern train connecting the city to our equally modern airport."
"The days of street violent protests in Bangkok were never directed against foreigners who are always accorded deference and respect by the Thais. Those foreign journalists who were casualties during the riots chose, for whatever reason, to be close to the confrontation areas and, sadly, suffered as a result. The current temporary state of emergency appears to be a safeguard measure by the government to maintain stability and public order. Return visitors to Bangkok will notice little change in the City with the exception of increased security checks in operation at hotels and public places and the benefit of police being doubly committed to keep traffic moving on the roads. Like you, I still enjoy walking about the city and carrying on life as usual."
Balidscovery.com: How are your Thai friends and employees of the hotel reacting to the events of the last weeks?
McCafferty: "I wouldn't pretend to be a mind reader, but there is a definite sense of people wanting to put the episodes of the past behind them and start rebuilding Thailand's well-deserved reputation as a 'Land of Smiles' and one of the top tourist and business destinations in the world. Perhaps the strongest evidence of this is the thousands of people, from every walk of life, who turned out to clean the streets and remove the rubble left by the demonstrators. The Thai personality is unfailingly polite and strives to avoid public displays of anger and emotion. One can argue that's why the Thai people have always been polite and accommodating to visitors and that mood has become unfailingly so in recent weeks."
Balidiscovery.com: What's the current situation at Dusit Thani Bangkok?
McCafferty: "It's clearly business as usual. All our restaurants and facilities are open and enjoying good business. Occupancy is building as business travelers and holiday makers return to Bangkok and the Dusit to take advantage of our location at the very heart of Thailand's capital. Dusit International for your information has 5 Hotel Brands namely Dusit Thani, dusitD2, Dusit Princess, Dusit Devarana and Dusit Residence consisting of 32 hotels including 15 hotels outside Thailand, in Dubai, Cairo, Manila, Hainan Sanya (2011), Bahrain (2012), Saudi Arabia (2013) and Bali Indonesia (2011); and 7 Product Brands namely Devarana Spa, DFit, Dusit Gourmet, Dusit Shop, Dusit Thani College, Dusit Executive Development Center & Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Culinary School."
Balidiscovery.com: What is the Thailand tourism industry doing to rebuild business?
McCafferty: "The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has historically proven they are both professional and proactive in dealing with any crisis affecting our industry. Lively discussions are underway in various sub-sectors of the tourism industry examining the pros and cons of various tactical steps to put Thai tourism back on a solid footing. Stakeholders are meeting to discuss strategies and option. There was a lively meeting yesterday (July 28) at Siam Ocean World where Pacific Asia Travel Association members admitted that while discounting is likely to be part of the landscape in the short term, the core attractions of Thailand remain undiminished and recovery will continue at pace."
"If you're looking for a bargain, Thailand has always been excellent value for travelers. Come now and, if you look, you're likely to find even better deals in combination with an obvious eagerness of the locals to make you feel very welcome. Here at Dusit we are offering extremely attractive deals for tourism personnel and their families, and I look forward to welcoming some of your readers to Bangkok."
Balidiscovery.com: Any parting thoughts?
McCafferty: "I think now is a particularly safe time to visit Bangkok. Sporadic situations will surface from time to time. But, the situation remains generally safe. The gracious Thai personality – welcoming to guests and excelling in its hospitality – remains intact. Until business returns to normal, there's no denying that attractive deals and offers are on the table."
"My personal view is that guests returning to Bangkok and the Dusit at this time are experiencing an 'added element' in their welcome. The Thai people know and appreciate that people making their way back to Bangkok in the early days of recovery are much more than mere guest – they are 'friends' demonstrating their faith and trust in the Thai people and Bangkok by making a conscious decision to visit at this time."
"It's very much a Thai view that those demonstrating such friendship and trust, must be rewarded in kind."