I had dined with Richard some years ago for this column and the resulting article appeared on February 1, 2019. The world we now inhabit is unercognisable from the halcyon days of glittering hedonism at the Kata Rocks 4th Anniversary Pool Party and Superyacht Rendezvous in 2018 when we last dined together.
I therefore thought it would be fascinating to catch up with Richard again and conduct the first follow-up article in this series, to get his views on what has happened in the intervening years, and where we go from here.
“Kata Rocks is a quintessential vision of tropical perfection with beautiful, white, luxurious villas standing tall upon a stunning rocky headland overlooking the Andaman Sea. Every facet of Kata Rocks breathes elegance and sophistication,” I wrote in my 2019 article.
And despite the ravages of COVID-19, Kata Rocks is still the gleaming white Camelot set on its stunning hillside. However, as we sat down, Richard made an interesting point about the upkeep of such a beautiful resort.
“The rate of degradation and decay of buildings and materials in this part of the world is much greater than elsewhere such as London’s Notting Hill where I started out in property development,” he said.
“The saline environment and extremes of heat and humidity, monsoonal rains, termites and other invaders mean that we have to wage an ongoing war to keep everything pristine. This has been possible for us, as we operated throughout 2020 and the lockdown, with several residents staying here, including myself. But for many properties around the Andaman, the costs of refurbishing back to operational standards will be huge.”
In my 2019 article I also wrote, “a procession of super-models with their retinue of photographers, stylists and paparazzi makes the pilgrimage to Kata Rocks…” Again, I’m happy to report that Richard has maintained his enviable record of attracting beautiful people to grace his resort’s gleaming poolside. This may seem a slightly flippant observation, but I think it’s indicative of Richard and his team’s enthusiasm, optimism and energy, particularly during a pandemic.
To even stage this event in such trying times, takes enormous optimism, and attracting the crowd of beautiful people who were clearly enjoying themselves, is an endorsement of Kata Rock’s brave attitude.
Last December’s Rendezvous was constrained by the difficulties of international travel and boat entry into Thai waters, so it was a smaller, local, armada of craft which participated this year.
“I see this year’s event as a great opportunity to take fabulous images of Kata Rocks, plus the Andaman yachting environment and the Rendezvous itself, then get them into the media, so that the audience for the 2021 event, who will be very keen to travel again, will come flocking back,” Richard stated.
The last Rendezvous event also saw the inaugural Kata Rocks Poker Run on December 12. Starting from the resort, participating speedboats circumnavigated the island, picking up a playing card at each of five designated checkpoints, before returning to Kata Rocks for drinks, burgers and the prize-giving.
It was an enormously enjoyable event and also provides an appropriate metaphor for the situation in which tourism entrepreneurs find themselves. Certainly, Richard holds a number of aces in his Kata Rocks hand such as a stunning resort design and reputation; a great location and geographical catchment area; a strong and experienced team; the inherent attractions of the Thai culture and people, plus his own creativity and optimism which I’ve previously highlighted.
The great unknown is the final fifth card – how and when will we recover from the devastation of COVID-19 on the Andaman’s in-bound travel scene?
Only time will tell whether that fifth card is about to be dealt with the July 1 launch of the Phuket Sandbox Model, though I can think of no more convivial spot than Kata Rocks to play that waiting game.