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The Dream Phuket, driven by design

PHUKET: When a brand-new resort opens in Phuket that is so stylish and well-designed that it blends into the landscape so eloquently that you drive right past it, you know times have changed. Enter, The Dream Phuket Hotel & Spa, the Singapore-based Castlewood Group’s flagship luxury development located in Cherng Talay.

By Chris Husted

Monday 14 March 2016, 11:08AM

“The fact that you drove straight past is absolutely brilliant,” says Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, the renowned British homestyle consultant and television personality who oversaw the finishing flourishes to the project.

“It’s all about creating something that becomes instantly part of the landscape of Phuket. The days of creating a great big scary upscale statement in the middle of paradise are long gone, thank god - that’s very irresponsible, ecologically and stylistically.

“And this is all based on the idea of an oasis – an oasis of contemporary modernity within a very naturalistic setting… and that’s the right way round. What you don’t want is that modernity on the outside. You want to feel it is something that organically been there for a very long time.”

The “wow” factor on entering the The Dream is undeniable, as the levels of futuristically styled units rise up on either side, divided at the far end by a five-story wall covered in green vines like a 22nd century Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

“When I designed this with the architects the brief that was given to them was that we wanted this to be the biggest secret never told,” said Chris Comer, CEO of Castlewood Group.

“We wanted people to drive past and look at the ambient lift shafts overnight and see the silhouettes going up and down and think: What goes on in there? Who stays there?

“The idea being is, with the [The Dream] beach club just down a few minutes down the road here, we wanted to have a property that fed the beach club and a beach club that fed the property. And a lot of people who enjoy that kind of F&B offering want privacy, they want to enjoy their time whatever that enjoyment may be,” he said.

The dual service target market is part of the business model The Dream is pursuing. “The days of being able to buy land and create the former standard hotel with expanded room at 900 square feet that you would see in a lot of properties is not financially viable anymore with the cost of land and the cost of construction,” Mr Comer admits.

“We had to build something very carefully that wasn’t another sprawling dark-wood-style resort and that stood out because of its concept, with a very carefully managed use of what is a quite compact space. I think it had to lend itself to something more contemporary and I think it does it well,” he said.

Although the entire complex seems modest from the outside, the design as if by magic offers 174 rooms, suites and villas, including Deluxe rooms of 35sqm, Sky Suites of 82sqm up to 4-room Executive Pool Villas of 185sqm with a 40sqm private pool and 120sqm garden. That’s not including the VU rooftop pool bar, Trilogy restaurant, Indulge bar and Sanctuary spa.

The debut of Dream Phuket Hotel & Spa also cements Castlewood Group’s strategic partnership with renowned New York-based hotelier Dream Hotel Group (previously called Hampshire Hotels Management).

With The Dream Phuket open, team are now focusing on the Indonesian isle of Bintan as their next locale, said Mr Comer.

“This is already in motion, and with this next one I think we can rely on Dream and Laurence’s expertise a lot more than we got the chance to this time. This (The Dream Phuket) was under construction before I got the guys involved,” he explained.

“Bintan is a very unique offering. It’s an uncommon tourist destination, but it’s also fed consistently fed by the citizens of Singapore. It’s approximately 30 minutes on a ferry, and Singaporeans like to get off that island and go to another island, funnily enough…

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“It’s got three international golf courses, which is a pull in itself, and Riau Bintan could be in Hawaii,” he added.

“We’ve got three international marinas in Singapore. I live on the marina down in Sentosa and you see these boats out the back ranging from 250-foot ships to your Sunseeker 30-footers, but there’s nowhere to go in these things. So what they tend to do is they go to Bintan and they moor off, so what we intend to do is go give them somewhere to moor off along with a great hotel offering and a mixed-use residential project.”

The Bintan development will also allow more opportunities for the design team to continue their creative flair, Mr Llewelyn-Bowen noted. “As Chris (Comer) says, it’s an amazing opportunity to do this right from the get-go, right from a blank page, The whole thing can be configured to be original. We can really come up with some extraordinary solutions throughout the entire development,” he said.

But the opening of The Dream Phuket is only the beginning, as it marks the launch of a new brand that will open in selected locales around the globe, explained Jay Stein, Chief Executive Officer at Dream Hotel Group LLC.

Before heading up the Dream Hotel Group, Mr Stein amassed 18 years of experience as Chief Operating Officer of Hampshire Hotels Management LLC.

“We’ve been around almost 30 years as Hampshire Hotels & Resorts and as Hampshire Group, and recently we dissolved that name and called the group Dream Hotel Group,” he explained.

“We have four brands within Dream Hotel Group – Dream Hotels, another brand called Time Hotels, one called Unscripted Hotels, and our luxury offering called The Chatwal (see here), which is the family name of the group founders.

“Our range offers great high-end luxury, but soaked in lifestyle – and The Dream Phuket gives us a closer connection to Asia” he added.

The next Dream to open will be Stateside. “Dream Hollywood (in Los Angeles) will open in July to August this year,” said Mr Stein.

“Another one in the Uptown area in Dallas will start construction by the end of this year and about two years after that it should be open. And with Dream Chicago, we’re pretty close to bringing that deal to contract,” he said.

Dream already features two venues in New York and as this article went to print, a press launch in London was expected to be held within days to announce a new singing for a venture on the Arabian Peninsular.

As the brand moves forward, two properties will be left behind. “We will be taking the Dream flag off our property Bangkok, and with one in India, as both these properties were built before our specifications for the new brand,” Mr Stein explained.

But the key concept is to move forward, specifically in offerings of style. “It's a very brave company that does this, to actually say, ‘We’re going to move on. We’re going to do it better next time’,” praised Mr Llewelyn-Bowen.

“A lot of people would just be satisfied with what they’ve got. I don’t think you can do that at the moment with the level of sophistication that you get in the leisure industry. People have very high criteria for their choice of destination for their holidays.”

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