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Ten questions with Prakaikaew Na-Ranong of The Slate hotel

Prakaikaew Na-Ranong, also known as Krystal, is co-owner and Managing Director of The Slate hotel in Phuket, a design focused luxury resort inspired by Phuket’s tin mining history. WGSN City by City associate editor Nicole Hurip sat down with Krystal for the inside scoop on The Slate, what’s so great about Lisbon and her thoughts on Airbnb.

 

What’s new with The Slate?

We want to expand Black Ginger, which is our Thai restaurant specialising in street food. We’re doing a pop up in Bangkok sometime this year – maybe in November – and later on, we’ll open a restaurant in Bangkok. Apart from that, we’re also waiting on this light rail system, that’s set to really help with the bad traffic in Phuket.

 

Any industry news you’re excited about?

There are so many new hotels opening in Phuket. It’s not too exciting, but it’s a good thing in the sense that tourists will have more options. Luckily, Phuket is a big island. You have different sections –  the North and the South are about an hour apart, and if you want to stay in a more peaceful area, you go to the North, whereas if you want more nightlife and action, you go to Patong in the South. There will be more interesting projects happening in Phuket, like big shopping centres with movie theatres, spas and restaurants – a self-contained sort of mall. They will open one in the North and two more luxury ones in the middle of Phuket.

 

So there are more retail developments now?

Yes. It will never be at the same level as Bangkok, but Phuket has the same international tourists visiting. That’s why those malls are eyeing the area. Also now there are a lot of Chinese tourists, and they like shopping.

 

Is there a change in the demographic of tourists travelling to Phuket?

Phuket is very seasonal, so in each season you have different types of tourists. In low season, which is now, you see a lot of Australians. A bit of a drop on the Australians, but we still see a big percentage of them. A lot of Chinese tourists; they travel all the time. I think the younger people are travelling more these days. Low cost airlines make it easy for them to travel.

 

What is the design philosophy of the Slate?

The history is based on tin mining, so the design is industrial chic as a concept. We try to put hidden Thai elements in the resort. We don’t put rocks, but instead acid stain concrete with the pattern of bamboo. It has always been like that.

 

Are there community engagement and sustainability initiatives?

I work a lot with artists. We have a gallery called Shades, and I sometimes collaborate with local artists and display their work there. Right now we’re working with a Central Saint Martins student, who will be the resident artist at the hotel. I am going to ask him to produce some artwork using some local inspiration. I like to discover young, upcoming artists because I think they are more enthusiastic to create, hungry to make new things.

We have a water recycling facility in the hotel that recycles water to use in the gardens. This is something that has been around for a long time. We are also going to start giving our guests water in bottles made from plant-based plastics, hopefully sometime this year.

 

Where do you usually go for art?

I travel a lot to Europe, so most of the galleries and museums I like is in London, Madrid. Recently I went to Portugal, Lisbon. Their contemporary museum, Museu de Chiado, is to die for, so beautiful. It’s one of the best museums I’ve ever been to.

 

Is there a property you’ve been to that is particularly memorable?

I like this hotel in Portugal called Teatro, named so because it’s in the theatre district. They have a display of different costumes, and the way they design the hotel is inspired by the theatre. It’s very nice.

 

What are the needs of a modern day traveller?

I think everybody is very mobile now, they all want to be connected. And they want simplicity; everybody goes for experience. Before, the older generation was maybe more into luxury and did not have the need to be connected all the time, but the younger generation want to share their experiences with their friends, and it has to be instant. They create stories, share photos through social media. This is very important – at The Slate we have free wifi, everywhere. Young people now don’t crave super-luxurious experiences, they want experiences that are unique, and they’ll pay for it.

 

What do you think about Airbnb?

I think it is a good thing. I am a hotelier but also a tourist, and when I travel sometimes, it gives you more options. That’s why as a hotelier you have to always come up with something different or competitive, that distinguishes yourself from the rest. Many hotels are annoyed by Airbnb, but I don’t see a problem if you know what you’re doing. If you’re different, people will come to you, so there’s no need to be concerned. I think it’s a good thing for us to have as an option. Even when you travel for business, my staff for example, they go to Airbnb to save costs. Because sometimes you have to spend a lot of days in a city and it will cost a lot. Airbnb is a good option for these purposes.

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