Vol. XIII No. 23
Friday June 10 - june 16, 2005

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Local Personalities

Andrew Khoo - Whistle-blower and Skål President

by Dr. Iain Corness

Andrew Khoo is one of those people with ‘presence’. Perhaps it is his size, as he is around 6 foot, very tall for any Asian, even for Singaporeans such as himself. Perhaps it is his fashionably streaked hair or his Hard Rock chain of office which he wears around his neck, being the GM of the Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya. Or then again, it might just be his Hard Rock whistle that he blows at every opportunity! Whatever, you always know when Andrew Khoo walks into any room!

He has been in Pattaya for around five years, overseeing the pre-opening of his Hard Rock Hotel, and then being in charge of this vibrant property ever since. He appears to be ubiquitous. Not a unique factor, as like many GM’s he can be seen everywhere on the property, at any time, checking, endorsing or advising. “I’m not demanding,” says Andrew. “I’m hands on. If you want to move forward, you have to make a work environment, get a strategy and let people get on with it.”

He believes that the above statement also refers to the work ahead of the Skål International Club of Pattaya and East Thailand, the group for which he has just been elected president, thereby getting another chain of office (or chain for his office).

I asked him directly, just why did he put his name up for the position. “Why president? It surely wasn’t for the ego!” he said with a laugh. He continued, “I like the (Skål International) concept of doing business amongst friends. Skål International provides the platform to make contacts, breaks the ice and you can proceed from there.” He is also not a newcomer to Skål International, having first experienced the group in Singapore in the early 1990’s.

Skål is very much more in the news at present, with the World Congress of this association to be held in Pattaya in 2006. “Many hoteliers don’t understand what Skål can bring,” says president Andrew. “We are looking at 1,500 delegates and spouses, so we have to get more local hoteliers on board.”

That brought us to the next topic - his board, or the committee who will have to work with this dynamic man at the helm. “They have diverse backgrounds, which is an important contribution. There is a good mix of Thai and farang, held together by the common cause of well-being for Pattaya. They are all ‘stakeholders’ in this city. They want to see Pattaya moved to a higher platform. We are now seeing a renaissance in Pattaya.”

He firmly believes that his hotel has been a large plus for Pattaya. “The Hard Rock brand has been a catalyst in renewing interest in this destination. Hard Rock has endorsed Pattaya, producing an impetus for people to reinvest and have confidence in the efforts of all the people who will create an interest in this destination once again.”

He can see nothing but benefits for everyone in this city, which can be brought about by a dynamic and active Skål International, and the forthcoming World Congress. “I love this city and the people who are working hard to shape the destiny of this city, and who want to make it a better place. I am committed to seeing Pattaya succeed.”

This is where he can see his committee helping the final goal. “The committee will be very useful to bring in the various business associations, so the wealth will be spread. Government, both local and provincial, plus NGO’s can help to reduce the expenses of the congress participants, making it (the world congress) more affordable which will bring in more delegates and which will in turn benefit Pattaya.”

He becomes quite passionate when extolling the end results that this promotion can bring. “There’s a knock-on effect. It builds confidence that this is an attractive investment location. That in turn has the knock-on effect on (increasing) housing and businesses.”

That led us to another interesting topic - that of zoning of the entertainment areas, which has been a thorn in the side of successive governors and local administrators. Andrew Khoo has a much more pragmatic approach that does not rely on unpopular or unenforceable legislation. “As the city grows, rents in the inner city will increase, which in turn becomes a natural force for attracting better quality business investments. The beer bars cannot afford to pay the higher rents. This will produce its own ‘zoning’ as choice locations bring in quality investments.”

I brought him back to the problem in hand - that of his organization readying itself for a World Congress of tourism professionals descending upon Pattaya. “I like strategy maps. Having just done one for the Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya, I am looking at how I can develop one for Skål.”

Some time ago, in a previous interview done with Andrew Khoo, he explained why, in his life, there is no real time for hobbies. “It’s a passion you feel for your profession. Treat it as a 9-5 job and your hotel is doomed to failure. It teaches you to be humble as you depend on human beings to do the job that you trained them for.” With Skål International, that passion and commitment will also be needed, not just by Andrew Khoo, but by his committee as well.

Despite his sometimes noisy exterior, Andrew Khoo is a quiet deep thinker. He is a Buddhist who speaks several languages, including Hokkien Chinese, Bahasa Melayu/Indonesia but he thinks in English. He is also a man who says, “I love this city.”

“Success in this congress will ensure that Skål International will have its place in the community as a voice to be taken seriously. Membership will be sought, rather than Skål seeking members. I am committed to seeing the Skål brand take its rightful place amongst the various business and charity organizations in this city.” And as a final word, “It’s not a farang drinking club. That’s a misconception!”

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