From fruit garden to luxury resort
PHUKET: Many decades ago Vijitt Khoopongsakorn ran a large store right where the Central Market on Ranong Rd, Phuket Town, now stands.
Friday 17 February 2012, 09:44AM
He sold everything from dried prawns and other seafood to fruit and vegetables, which were bought for him by members of his family from local communities in and around Phuket.
When tourism began in the late 1970s, grandfather Vijitt loaded his goods into large woven bamboo baskets and delivered them to the hotels.
Profits were usually invested in land, Mr Vijitt’s grandson Kongsak Khoopongsakorn explains.
Before the tourism boom was the tin mining boom, when people like Mr Vijitt bought land that might yield tin ore, in lots of up to 200 rai, and simply started digging big holes in the ground in search of the metal.
When the diggings yielded no more tin, the mines filled with water, leaving the many lakes that now dot Phuket.
The family also had a factory producing coconut oil, and many rai of land on the shore of Chalong Bay, where they established orchards of mango, durian, jack fruit, guava, coconut and other trees. The fruit was sold at the market.
The resort began in a small way, as low-end tourist accommodation.
The fruit trees in the orchard were thinned out to make room for bungalows, while still leaving enough trees for cool shade.
Initially, a row of 10 bungalows were built for the use of weekenders from town wanting to enjoy the sea
breeze and eat seafood.
As tourism grew, seven thatch-and-bamboo bungalows were built for tourists from elsewhere.
The number of bungalows grew to 28, and then 45 with a swimming pool, as the resort – by now ranked as three-star – was discovered by tourists from overseas.
In 2006, the family decided on a radical step: to aim for five stars for the resort, upgrading from the Vijitt Bungalows to The Vijitt Resort. Mr Kongsak and his brother went to study at a hotel management school near Montreux in Switzerland,
When they were ready, the old Vijitt Bungalows was pulled down and the Vijitt Resort built in its place, according to plans drawn up by a local firm of architects.
“To chain, or not to chain,” was the question the family then asked itself – whether or not to become part of an international hotel chain.
Mr Kongsak’s father, Somsak, thought that his sons would learn more by operating the resort themselves, rather than leaving it to be managed by a large international resort operator.
It has taken four years, but the resort is now making a good profit and has a high occupancy rate.