Vol. I No. 3 Saturday 9 November - 15 November 2002
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Weekly Local Biography

 Kanog Suvannavisutr

 

The General Manager of the Empress Chiangmai Hotel and Convention Centre is Kanog Suvannavisutr. He is a man who started his working life thinking of being an engineer, but then diverted into the hospitality industry, eventually ending up applying engineering concepts to his hotel work.

Kanog was born in Bangkok, the only son in a military family. The military presence was on both his father and mother’s side, with his father retiring with the rank of General, but the military life did not interest the young Kanog. He wanted to be an engineer.

He did not go to university, but instead, as soon as his secondary schooling was completed, went to work at the Mercedes Benz assembly plant in Thonburi for one year. To progress towards his engineering dream he then went to Germany, initially to learn German, so that he could work his way up through the ranks of the German automaker.

After a year in the language school he took stock of his position. To become proficient in German he would have to do another year of study, then to qualify as being a suitable candidate for engineering he would have to do another two years to complete High School in Germany, then he would have to do another four years in the auto plant. This was all adding up to be too long for Kanog, but there was another direction he could move towards. Next door to the language school was a hotel training school and this kick-started his interest in the hospitality industry. “By then I had already made up my mind that I wanted to work in this (hospitality) business.”

To join the hotel training school he needed a recommendation from a hotel or restaurant, so he moved to Salzburg and worked in a small hotel there for 12 months, to gain the necessary experience and then commenced his training in the school, which took up the next two years of his life.

After graduation his first job was as a waiter at a famous restaurant called the Eagle’s Nest, a restaurant that had originally been a present from Goering to Hitler. “It was the most impressive place I had ever worked in.” Apparently you had to be careful not to drive off the road on the way there, as there were still live booby traps!

By now, away from Thailand for five years, he wanted to return, and his father arranged an interview with the President Hotel in Bangkok. He got the job and worked there, running the restaurant for two and a half years.

But young Kanog had other ideas. “Chiang Mai was the town of my dreams. The Rose of the North, it had good weather and beautiful girls, and I was still in my twenties!” He was offered the post as the F&B (Food and Beverage) manager for the Rincome Hotel. “I accepted right away.”

To succeed in the hotel business you have to be prepared to travel around, and after a couple of years he had to return to Bangkok to rise up the ladder. After that it was down to Pattaya, to the Siam Bayshore, where he first became involved in the building of a hotel. “I enjoyed it, setting up the F&B department, recruiting, training and then opening.” It was after this stint of duty that he decided that he would get more involved in the actual building of hotels.

This brought him back to Bangkok where he was part of the team building the kitchen department in the new tower block of the Ambassador. With that up and running, he then rejoined the President Hotel, where he had started work twelve years previously, but then succumbed to an offer to become the project manager for a new hotel in Phuket, starting right at ground level and building the entire hotel. This took three and a half years, but after it was completed and opened he returned to his Rose of the North, Chiang Mai.

By this stage he was able to command the position of General Manager, but after six years with the Chiang Mai Orchid he was approached by the owner of the Empress to become involved with the building of that hotel. This involvement was from two years before the opening and has stretched to the present day, fifteen years later.

The involvement with hotel building did not stop, as the Empress group has built two more hotels in Chiang Mai and another in Bangkok, and each time Kanog has combined his duties as the General Manager of the Chiang Mai Empress as well as being the project consultant for the new ones. He has accumulated enough frequent flyer points between here and Bangkok to go round the world several times!

Undoubtedly he has been a success, even though he was typically very modest about this. He did say, however, “I’ve never failed in anything I have done.” But this was not said in a boastful way. He was also the founding president of the Thai Hotels Association, Northern Chapter. His only real regret in life was not going to university after school, but says that he spent most of his life learning practical skills, rather than just theory.

As a hobby, he loves gardening and growing greenery, and his hotel is just filled with flowers. This is partly through the hotel’s participation with the Royal Project for the Hill Tribe people, encouraging them to grow flowers for sale. Kanog admitted that the flower bill for the hotel was more than 100,000 baht every month.

He is now very much at home in Chiang Mai. “I’m happy being the GM at age 55 and running three properties. I still like Chiang Mai and I have settled here. I’ve become a Chiang Mai man.”

So the Bangkok boy who wanted to be an engineer ended up as a successful hotelier in Chiang Mai, and is still loving it!


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