Meeting Philippe Guénat is akin to being on a whirlwind tour. Born in 1959 into a historic Swiss banking family dating back to the 14th century, he has packed so much into an eventful life worldwide that you are left wondering whether he has ever had any leisure time. Not that he really needs any of that. His motto is to live life 24/7 and make a success of it.
From early childhood in Geneva, Philippe had two passions and they are both dominant in his life now. One is flying aircraft and he has held a pilot’s licence more or less continuously since the age of 18. The other is the joys of yacht racing as well as navigating on the high seas. He is now managing director of Rayong-based PMG Shipyard which is the largest such business enterprise in south east Asia. Philippe then adds casually, “I was also a skydiver in the Swiss army”.
Professionally, food and drink in the hospitality industry was his chosen field as a young man. He has held top managerial positions in several countries as well as buying several bankrupt hotels in Switzerland. In 1990 he took up the significant challenge of becoming general manager of the newly-constructed Royal Garden Hotel in Pattaya which, together with the adjoining Plaza, was the originator of the entertainment mall concept in the budding resort.
Philippe brought his own brand of adventurous marketing to the Royal Garden concept of that time. The complex housed the first Pizza Hut restaurant in Thailand and the resort’s first scuba diving school Seafari. He organized the grounded DC3 (Dakota) plane to be brought from Bangphra airfield and lodged in the wall of the Royal Garden complex where it famously remains to this day.
During his time as general manager, the first (and perhaps only) Pattaya performance of the Verdi’s opera Aida took place with members of the New York Metropolitan Opera specially brought over from the United States. The 100 years anniversary of the oil company Esso was celebrated with a giant cake with the street procession led by a tiger from Sri Racha zoo. Esso was one of the earliest corporate clients to buy into Pattaya.
In fact, Philippe’s strategies were examples of MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions) before the acronym caught on with marketing gurus. “I have always believed,” he says, “that Pattaya can’t rely long-term on international tourists, but must seek corporate business clients both domestic and international.” One of his pioneer moves was to fly above the area taking aerial pictures of factories and then presenting the corporate owners with professional photos of their businesses from an unusual angle.
Amongst his other early achievements in Thailand was to become president of the eastern chapter of the Thai hoteliers’ association, leading the Bangkok Arts and Crafts Company to become a world leader in silverware stainless steel cutlery and becoming a guest lecturer on business management and re-engineering at the university of Bangkok’s Sasin graduate institute. Back in Switzerland for several years, he was a member of parliament before moving permanently to Thailand in 2013. Philippe now oversees the international business development and strategic partnerships of the huge PMG Shipyard based in neighboring Rayong.
What of the future of Pattaya? Philippe feels that just relying on the return of foreign tourists in the post-pandemic era won’t be an adequate response. He feels that a proper business strategy is needed to encourage the MICE concept which he feels has been sorely neglected in recent years. He also wants to see the Pattaya environment boldly improved. “You can’t have a successful resort with all these broken pavements and eye sores on so many street corners.” In other words, neo-Pattaya needs a thorough spring clean.