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Arijit Ghosh, General Manager of PARKROYAL Suites Bangkok, brings his eclectic experience to a growing brand

by Mahmood Hossain

A stroll at the PARKROYAL.

By Mahmood Hossain

As we walked down the hallway of the 17th floor of the PARKROYAL Suites Bangkok, making our way to a quieter room to hold our conversation, the hotel’s General Manager (GM) Arijit Ghosh remarked, “Oh, Bengali Babu!” which is a term of endearment in the North-Western region of the Indian subcontinent. He had just found out we shared a common background rooted in Bangladesh. Arijit’s family migrated from Mymensingh, a city located 120km outside the nation’s capital; to the serene Himalayan foothills of Darjeeling, West Bengal.

Born and raised in a picturesque town, Arijit ventured off to pursue his hotel management degree at Delhi University; the first in his family to become a hotelier. Interestingly enough, he started his career as a chef, until he came across a few general managers that he’d worked under, who displayed dynamic and entrepreneurial characteristics that eventually spurred him to master sales, marketing, and business development.

“They insisted that even the chefs take on the role of business managers,” explained Arijit on his experience working under these influential general managers. “Under their tutelage, chefs were also empowered to take a leadership position, even though traditionally working in the kitchen wasn’t a front-of-house seat. In reality, chefs also have to deal with guests face-to-face and understand their wants and needs. So, they would insist that chefs accompany the hotel’s sales manager when meeting with clients for various events. That’s when my passion started growing; it’s what sales and marketing were all about. I went from food and beverage to sales, and eventually, learning the entire system and how a hotel functions with every moving piece.”

Only six months into his current position, he tells me what brought him to PARKROYAL Suites Bangkok, located in Sukhumvit Soi 6, just a four-minute walk from the Nana BTS station. “I saw it as a new challenge. PARKROYAL, which is under the Pan Pacific Hotels Group, has seen a recent acceleration in its growth, which coincides with the group’s significant expansion plan. This has enabled them to invest more in PARKROYAL, leading to the planned opening of a second property in Thong Lo by 2025. Because there was more investment in properties throughout Thailand, it actually drove me to make the move to PARKROYAL Suites Bangkok.” We carried on our chat, diving even deeper into Arjit’s story.

You’ve been in Thailand for 15 years now, working with several brands and hotels. What have been the major differences between how the industry was back then, to how things operate now?

Throughout my career, I have worked in the United States, Mexico, and of course, India. The first thing I found was clearly how different the work culture is. What works in the US does not work in Mexico. And what works in India doesn’t work in Thailand. What was obvious to me, and I think every GM or business leader should undertake this process, is that you first need to familiarise yourself with the host country’s culture. You need to learn the cultural sensitivities; it’s absolutely essential. You have to be a part of it, rather than differentiating or alienating yourself from the locals completely. You cannot survive in this industry with that type of attitude.

If you look at India, which we all know is a very large country, domestic tourism is a huge hit. It takes a little over four hours to fly from the north to the extreme south. You can imagine the size and population the industry deals with. In Thailand, it’s more about people finding a value-addition in other provinces than their own. It’s not often you will find people visiting the city when they would rather be closer to nature, such as the beauty of the hilltops or the allure of the beaches on the coastlines. They will be more inclined to visit those areas rather than wanting to search for an inner-city getaway.

Most of the clientele we host are corporates who hold their meetings and attend to other professional responsibilities within the city of Bangkok. They also use the city as an in-between stop before they head over to the next destination. Bangkok has easily become a preferred transit location because of its vibrant and exciting nightlife.

What does PARKROYAL offer guests that differentiates it from competitors?

As Pan Pacific continues to accelerate its expansion plans and invests in many other facets of welcoming guests into its properties, it’s the people who make the greatest contribution to a different experience. The hotel group invests in people, developing their personal and professional skills, and it is critical we make sure these very people, who contribute to our success, are as happy as our guests. Our people are our precious gems; they are truly valued.

When all is said and done, what would you like your impact to be before you leave PARKROYAL?

Well, I want to simply be remembered as a people person. I like to state that we are in a ‘people industry’. Effective hospitality comes from genuine warmth and the ability to go the extra mile for others. This is one of the many major impacts on the guests who arrive in our establishments. I want to continue to champion this and set a higher standard in this regard. We have to always put ourselves in the guests’ shoes, in order to truly understand what it means to deliver flawless service. Additionally, we need to understand what it means to add greater value to hospitality.

As you said, putting yourself in the guests’ shoes, what would you consider to be the top priority when it comes to hosting guests?

First and foremost, be an excellent listener. Second, you need to project warmth and genuineness toward the guests. You are there for them; it’s not the other way around. The guests have multiple choices, but working in a hotel means your only choice is the guests. They can go to any other hotel in the city, so why should they come here? That is why it is essential we create the comfort and security that will connect with the people who walk through our doors.

Given your know-how across the world, how has the experience been with South Asian guests compared to other walks of life?

When you look towards South Asia, our people have more similarities than differences. It’s obviously easier for me to deal with because there are common traits we share as desi people. I have the upper hand in this aspect. Additionally, I speak Tamil, Bangla, Hindi, Nepalese, and other regional languages, which allows me to connect with our guests and make them feel more at home.

I had a knack for learning languages. In fact, I learned how to speak Spanish by working in the US as well as Mexico. This has helped me to have healthy relationships with the Latin community throughout Thailand. I’ve also gotten into several Latin dances and music. This is what I mean by getting involved with the culture to not only better understand people, but to also serve them with greater respect.

What drives your passion in your field, and what fuels you every day?

I take immense pleasure in meeting people from diverse cultures. Working in the service industry, where you are dealing with humans and not necessarily machines, is a priceless experience. I’ve been doing this for so long, that I can only see myself as a hotelier and nothing else. And to be working in a city like Bangkok, you meet all sorts of people. You get to know more about their cultures in a very enriching way. Not to mention the food! I am a huge foodie, so that’s always a plus! [Laughs]

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