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Tasi Beach management contract nears
IN AN exclusive interview with the Variety, Michael Ysrael, general manager of Tanota Group, revealed that his firm is now in the final stages of negotiation with Thailand’s Dusit Thani Hotel and Resort group for the management of the Tasi Beach Resort and Spa now under construction in Tumon.
“I have the management agreement in my office,” Ysrael said. “The terms have all been agreed to. We’re just working out the details.” He expects to have a formal signing ceremony for the agreement here on Guam in late September. Once the arrangement is actualized, the name of the property is expected to change to the Dusit Thani Guam Hotel & Resort.
Dusit International, the parent company of Dusit Thani, was founded in Thailand in 1946, and has since become one of the region’s leading hotel management groups. At present, the firm operates 19 hotels and resorts in Thailand, India, the Philippines and the Middle East, with nine more scheduled to open soon in the U.S., Thailand, China, the Middle East, India and the Maldives. Within the organization, the Dusit Thani brand is the one used for up-market facilities, including the Dusit Thani Manila Hotel & Resort.
In Ysrael’s words, “They are an old hotel management company that specializes in spa [services] and food and beverage. ... They have phenomenal food and beverage [capability], including numerous schools associated with the Cordon Bleu school of cooking in France.
“They want the entire building. They will manage the spa. They will manage the restaurants and the conference center as well as the hotel rooms.”
With the alliance, Ysrael hopes to bring a new level of hotel service to Guam, one that will be especially attractive to a more up-market clientele, including well-to-do FITs (free and independent travelers).
“We’re looking at different market segments,” he said. “[Right now] we are what I call a limited service destination. We will give you phenomenal beaches. We will give you good weather. We will give you an OK hotel room. Our shopping is phenomenal. There is nothing on Rodeo Drive you can’t find on Guam. And it’s easier to find too.”
On the down side, however, he noted that while Guam’s hotel rooms are “OK,” many of the properties are getting old, and few of the rooms are suitable for more than “upper middle market” guests. Worse, “our restaurant fare is marginal," he added. "It’s not that good. [We have] good beaches, decent hotels, great shopping ... [but we are] very weak on the food and beverage, and very weak on entertainment.”
With Tanota’s new addition to Tumon’s hotel lineup, Ysrael aims to fill in the gaps. In particular, he feels that really outstanding dining is a crucial factor in meeting the expectations of up-market clientele ... and getting them to want to come back to Guam for return visits.
Given Dusit Thani’s close relationship with the Cordon Bleu, recognized as one of the leading cooking schools in the world, and the quality of the food service at their other properties, he is confident they will be able to offer the kind of memorable dining experiences visitors are hoping for.
The facility will have 10 kitchens and six food outlets, including an international buffet restaurant, an Asian restaurant, an Italian steakhouse (to be named “Alfredo’s,” playing on the name of his well-known father, “Al”), and a 24-hour coffee shop/casual restaurant. “We hope they become signature restaurants, that they are going to be the type of thing that people will say, 'I can’t wait to go back,'” Ysrael said.
In addition to the restaurants, banquet service will also be offered in the various rooms of the conference center.
Ever conscious of the need for local talent in Guam’s tourist industry, Ysrael also hopes Dusit Thani will be able to work with Guam Community College to offer a Cordon Bleu-sanctioned cooking program.
Spa service is another area in which Ysrael expects Dusit Thani to shine. They are well-known in Thailand for the quality of their spas, and, according to Ysrael, they will have the advantage of having a spa facility which is designed and built from the ground up exclusively for this purpose.
There has been a lot of buzz on the island about the new property’s conference center, but this is one area in which Ysrael is actually more cautious than most. As he sees it, Guam’s ability to attract larger-scale conferences and conventions is limited by several objective factors.
“Look guys, let’s do the math,” he says. Guam’s hotels are typically filled 60 to 70 percent capacity year-round, which means it is difficult to find enough rooms for larger events. What Ysrael calls “lift capacity” is also a problem. Since the only country from which Guam has a fairly large number of daily flights is Japan, and most flights to and from the island are already fairly well-booked, getting enough seats for larger groups on scheduled flights can be a problem. Charter flights could be booked, but since they would have to return empty, the ticket costs would be high. For events such as multi-national academic conferences, Guam’s U.S. visa requirements could also present a problem for many participants.
Nonetheless, Ysrael thinks the new facility will be an ideal spot for events such as new product rollouts, sales conferences, and incentive trips for multi-national companies. He hopes to have about four to six international events of this type per year, each with about 600 to 1,000 participants. According to Ysrael, it is possible to hold conferences of this scale on Guam now, but with the new center, everything will be able to happen comfortably in one location, including sit-down dinners for all the participants.
Where Ysrael really expects the new conference center to shine, however, is for larger-scale local meetings, parties, conferences, etc., and for smaller off-island groups such as company trips and weddings.
To accommodate the full range of needs, in addition to the larger spaces, the center will have a variety of luxurious banquet meeting rooms, with capacities from 25 to 150 guests, and, of course, Ysrael adds, “excellent food.”