Weekly Local Biography

  Edward Wateridge

Sometimes when I ask the question, “How did you happen to come to Chiang Mai?”, I am amazed by the answer, by the series of events that came together at just the right moment in time to bring somebody to just the exact point in their life that Chiang Mai is the logical destination.

I sat down and talked with Edward Wateridge on a recent beautiful afternoon near the pool at the Amora Hotel. The poolside bar had opened only the day before, and workers were still bringing in pots of lush foliage and flowers to soften the area and make it inviting. The scents of herbal scrubs and steams occasionally c rept out of the newly opened branch of the Oasis Spa, and were inviting and relaxing. But none of those props were necessary to enjoy an hour talking to Edward, who immediately makes his guests welcome.

He grew up in the seaside town of Bournemouth in England, which was not only a tourist destination but also home to several English language schools that catered to the needs of foreign students. And that brings us to a lovely love story. Edward went to college and met his future wife, who was a young Thai woman perfecting her English and taking hotel studies. Edward was in finance, and his studies completed, entered the industry in the U.K. It turned out to be far more hazardous that he had anticipated as the U.K. entered an economically depressed period and the company folded. So Edward and that lovely young Thai student thought it over. She had just completed her studies and it was time to go home to Thailand. He was young and had definite management and corporate lending knowledge. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”, they decided and off to Bangkok they went eleven years ago.

He had no idea where his career would go, nor did he know what he would find to do in Thailand. But again things happened, and he went to work for an independent company selling corporate training packages. And at the end of one training session, he was offered a position with the Shangri La Hotel in Bangkok. He says that he spent four “very enjoyable” years with the company and received the “best on the job training” he could have possibly asked for in the Human Resources department. Because he was a trainer, he worked with almost every department in the hotel completing training needs analyses and implementing training programs. It was the best possible way to learn about the operations of a five star hotel. Then his colleagues began to move on as their individual careers advanced, and so did he.

Siam City Hotels and Resorts called and he worked in the sales and marketing department for three years. He was groomed in marketing by an accomplished mentor, a skill that he has utilized over and over. When his mentor left, so did he, and went to a start up company out of the United Kingdom named “Ascent”. For a year and a half he worked teaching management training skills and team building while working in sales and marketing. He did consulting. Diethelm, a large and well-established tourism company, began to telephone him. He resisted at first, but then agreed to talk to them. He eventually moved to Diethelm and worked under the tutelage of Armin Schoch, for whom he has great praise as a teacher. He became involved in MICE, the new buzzword in international tourism markets - Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions. He traveled three months of the year to Europe and South Africa, hotspots for this type of tourism. His wife was expecting their first child, and they literally scheduled his birth by Caesarean section to fit into Edward’s travel schedule. Then SARS hit Southeast Asia, closely followed by bird flu and increased violence in the South of Thailand. Tourism in Thailand came to a standstill, and the company was forced to make cuts. Edward’s job went with tourism. He took it seriously, but made the decision to slow down and get to know his baby son. It was a good decision.

It didn’t take long before he was on the job again, this time with the Amora Hotels and Resorts. Most of us know the property in Chiang Mai as the Amora Rydges. Originally opened as the Rydges, named for the Australian hotel management company, the property owner, Amora, soon took over its management. For a year and a half, he was director of sales and marketing and based in Bangkok. He and his family thrived. Then a major opportunity and difficult decision entered their lives. The general manager at the Amora in Chiang Mai resigned, and the job was offered to Edward. His wife’s job and career are in Bangkok, but like many dual career families they knew they would eventually face the challenges of a long-distance marriage. So Edward accepted the offer and moved to Chiang Mai several weeks ago.

He says his predecessor did a fine job of bringing the hotel this far, and now he is “tweaking and refining” certain areas. The pool area is certainly well tweaked. I could adjust to spending my afternoons there quite easily. And I’m not about to forget about that new spa. But there are many things to learn about Chiang Mai and its permanent resident community, many things to learn about related to tourism here. He is certainly up to the challenge, he has a wonderful background for it, but he acknowledges that he misses his family during the week. His little son is now three years old, a bundle of energy, and a delight to his parents.

Edward has found an aikido group at Chiang Mai University, and practices with them two or three times a week. And he’s dusting off his golf clubs, thanks to friends here who are happy to practice with him. We’re delighted that his journey has brought him to Chiang Mai, and wish him “chohk dee”.