By David Ngo
Mar 8, 2022
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY is a good time—though it shouldn’t be the only time—to celebrate strong, fearless women making waves in the hospitality industry. One such powerhouse is Jirapha Krataithong, recently appointed by the iconic W Koh Samui as general manager, a position she’s attained after just a decade-plus in the business. We spoke with Khun Ji, a Thai native whose most recent prior post was hotel manager at W Bangkok, about her impressive journey and how she’s navigated the challenges presented by the global pandemic over the last two years. She also gave us some solid advice for girlbosses everywhere and those aspiring to be one.
T+L: Tell us a little bit about your childhood. What helped you to develop the leadership abilities that got you to where you are today?
Jirapha Krataithong: Born in Sukhothai, I was a farm girl who grew up surrounded by fruit trees. My family raised me with discipline and a sense of responsibility as an important aspect growing up. However, I had the freedom to make my own decision on what I want to pursue, whether to study or engage in sports. This developed my confidence and leadership. Volleyball, in particular, was a major part of my upbringing. This instilled discipline, commitment, and a hard work ethic.
After completing my Bachelor’s Degree, I decided to join a Certification Study and Work Placement Program in Hospitality at Regency College Brighton United Kingdom. I eventually extended my stay in the UK to over three years. This journey opened the door for me to enter the world of hospitality.
T+L: What are some of the challenges you faced in hospitality industry during the last two years of the global pandemic?
Jirapha Krataithong: No one could have imagined the impact Covid-19 would have on the world. None of us in hospitality industry were prepared nor had the perfect formula to handle the pandemic. As a hotel operator, we had to adapt and quickly adjust our business strategies in response to these changes, explore new business opportunities and implement processes and procedures.
T+L: What was something you learned to prioritize during this process?
Jirapha Krataithong: For me personally, it is important to motivate the team to act and adapt quickly and effectively respond to all these changes. During a global pandemic, managing risks is a crucial part of our role as leaders.
T+L: What was it like moving to Koh Samui during the country’s gradual reopening last summer?
Jirapha Krataithong: There was much to digest in these uncertain times: new restrictions, processes, and procedures, including the Sandbox program. [Note: While Sandbox was a pioneer effort in bringing tourists back to Thailand, the country is currently open to international arrivals under an even less strict Test and Go program.] My key takeaways through all these are to stay optimistic, make informed decisions, be agile, act and adapt quickly in any circumstance, focus on things that you can control, foster positive work environment, and stay connected with your team and stakeholders.
T+L: Favorite place to visit in Koh Samui?
Jirapha Krataithong: My kind of relaxing day on the island would be strolling along Fisherman’s Village. This area offers vibrant evening strolls along beachside restaurants, bars and boutiques. If you are a coffee lover, I highly recommend Here Slow Bar Coffee, which provides great coffee with a homey vibe. The Sunset Samui is a great spot to enjoy a beautiful sunset and a relaxing break at the same time.
T+L: What are you excited about for the future at W Koh Samui?
Jirapha Krataithong: At W Koh Samui, our present positioning is amplified by breaking the norms of traditional luxury and focusing on what matters most to our guests: personable Whatever / Whenever service. We want to create memorable “W lifestyle” experiences as W Koh Samui welcomes guests back with a focus on personalize service and offer unforgettable experiences.
I planned to bring back W Happenings to live with the concept of Food & Beverage programming. A thriving local scene introduced through our W Lounge Concept, Woobar and W Happenings will emphasize an exciting combination of an inspired by design, fashion, music and fuel, creating a truly unique setting and guest experience.
T+L: Do you have any advice for women or young girls entering the hospitality industry?
Jirapha Krataithong: As a leader of my hotel and hotel team, it is important to advance and prioritize learning. You have to practice hard work, effort and commitment, and be optimistic in order to pursue excellence. Communication, along with active listening, is the key success in hospitality because it will support you to build solid relationships and strengthen your network more efficiently.
When you are struggling and when you start thinking of giving up, you have to believe in yourself. Do not let failure define you and cloud your direction to pursue excellent. In the hotel industry, guests are sometimes demanding and difficult along with the high expectations that sometimes seems to be impossible to deliver or achieve. A luxury experience includes exceptional quality, stunning facilities and amenities, and epic service. For guests at W, epic service means they don’t need to make any requests because our talents have already anticipated exactly what they want. And if they do make a request, it should be met without them needing to follow-up. Having a luxury mindset keeps you focused on the experiences you provide to guests.
It is important to prioritize your learning because the world is constantly evolving and changing all the times. There are new things, new trends, and new technology so I am encouraging my team to continue learning so that we are able to adapt and adjust quickly in the current fast pace business especially in hospitality. Continuous learning is a great concept in professional development and allow you to explore the new opportunities and grow in your career. More importantly, continued learning will also support your ability to communicate effectively, which is one of the key success markers in hospitality industry.
All photos courtesy of W Koh Samui except as otherwise noted.