Home Insider Revealing Secrets of Luxury “Vintage” Yacht Interview with Eric, The Operations Manager...

Revealing Secrets of Luxury “Vintage” Yacht Interview with Eric, The Operations Manager of Vintage

MI : Please introduce our readers about Vintage, Myanmar first luxury yacht hotel.

I am Earic, also called PyaePhyo. I am re- sponsible as an operation manager here. Our board of director (BOD) got an idea to build Vintage in 2011-2012, when Myanmar policy was changed and foreign custom- ers came and visitors surged. Consequent- ly, hotels for them were insufficient and it caused the shortage of rooms. Also the costs of the room were expensive. BOD do many businesses, however, this is the first hotel business. So they decided to build a hotel in Myanmar. But what kind of hotel it is going to be? The hotel must be interesting, a prop- erty that does not take too much time, we would like to establish the first property that have not been in here and also the class must be five-star level. BOD group got that ideas and did a survey. From this, they got an idea to build the first floating hotel in Myanmar. Then, they investigated where they could get a yacht and the land area from related ministries. The land is okay, and there is a jetty in here! At the point, they asked for permission from Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) for long term rental, 60 years, from government. Via the permission of MIC, they got permission from port au- thority and hotel business license was ob- tained from the Hotel and Tourism minis- try. On the other hand, the yacht was found in Finland that was running as a hotel yacht at that time. Thus, they began the business. At the beginning, they had to think how to go in to the market. Five and four stars hotels are very limited in Myanmar. There is a difference in the number of guests and numbers of accommodation available. So they decided to target five stars level mar- ket. Finally, Vintage was born in Myanmar.

MI : When was Vintage founded in Botahtaung Jetty?

Vintage was planned in 2012, a yacht was brought in here in 2013 and it took about one and half years to renovate the yacht, including changing theme that we want, in KyizMyinTaing jetty. Vintage was first launched in June-July in 2014 as a pre-opening and took a test run until Sep- tember. Customers continuously flowed from October, November, and December until now, January.

MI : How did you end up your current position and what is your role as an operation manager of Vintage?

I was trained in Asian-level hotel manage- ment in Philippines and Eco-tourism spe- cialty in Thailand. Formerly, I worked for three hotels and got experiences from them, however, I would like to create or manage a business or concept that is totally different from others. And a new project was started in Myanmar and they needed people. Here, there is no General Manager. Operation Manager takes all responsibilities. There is only management team, including oper- ation manager who deals the whole opera- tion, sales and marketing manager, busi- ness development, customer care, finance director and FMB director. I began working here in June 2014 because I would like to face a new challenge.

There are totally 189 staff in Vintage: 183 local staffs and 6 foreign staff for customer care, FOM, FMB operation, 2 chefs and duty manager. Around 15 sailors are hired in maintenance part to watch rising and falling tide. We also employ many securities to pro- tect a show area, on the yacht and around the yacht. Heads of Department (HOD) di- rectly manages them and operation manag- er deals with the team. Basically, there are meetings one in the morning, and one in the evening. Before starting the work, we take about 30 minutes and ask staffs what was done yesterday, what needs to be done today and what is planned for tomorrow etc. At the evening coordination meeting, I called all department heads and let them talk the problems. For example: house keeping de- partment head reports that a room has poor light and we have to repair it. They also re port on paper but I always call the meeting, listen to many problems and then solve and make decision. An operation manager coor- dinates them to smooth an operation.

MI : How about interior design of the yacht?

It is a concept of BOD. They want to estab- lish a hotel on a yacht. Nowadays, people always keep in touch with modernized ac- cessories. Instead of using the normal ac- cessories, they want to go back to a hundred years when people used yachts to travel and trade. They named the yacht, Vintage and decided to go with a theme that goes back 100 years. For example: leathers are used in chairs, flooring is wood, ropes are used for decoration, gramophones are used too and steel coffee cups are used instead of enamel cups.

MI : Could you tell us the long-term plan and mission of Vintage?

Vintage has emerged six months ago and people are gradually becoming aware of it. We put Vintage in luxury market as we have only 104 rooms. For the long-term plan, BOD of Vintage has a plan to expand to Nay Pyi Taw, Innlay and other countries. As a mission, we have plans to be successful in year one, two and three. Chain hotels may appear in year five or so.

MI : Can you give us room and pricing information please?

Mainly, we have three types of rooms: De- luxe Junior, Deluxe with balcony and Lux- ury Deluxe. Deluxe Junior room is on 1st and 2nd floor and costs about $158 per night. Deluxe room with balcony contains private balcony for sightseeing and costs about $250. There is also Deluxe room without balcony. Luxury Deluxe is situated on 4th floor where the rooms are wider than Deluxe Junior with various kinds of facility and cost about $380. A hundred years ago, there were two rooms for King and Queen to travel by yacht. Like this, we have two special rooms, called King Bay Suite and June Bay Suite in which special services are offered and costs $999. Some guests take the two rooms for wedding anniversary and bachelor night, etc.

There is also a meeting hall which is large enough for 40-50 people and a hall which is joined with restaurant that can host 120 people. On the ground, outdoor party for 500 people can be held at car parking area. On 27th January, Asian marine group booked for maximum 180 people to hold cocktail party on the yacht.

MI : What’s the current occupancy ratio like?

Now it is high season. Average occupancy rate is about 60-70%. As for this month, there will be 100% occupancy for about three or four days. For low season, after Thingyan festival in April, there will be 40- 50% depending on the bookings. But sales department is trying to improve the occupancy rate. The prices will be fixed for com- ing low and high seasons. Currently, most of our guests are from Japan, Europe and China, of which 20-30% are Japanese, Eu- ropean and the rest are Chinese.

MI : What major difficulties did you and your team encounter and how did you solve them?

First issue was manpower which was not stable when hotel had to meet high demand. Now it is stable. Second is guest issue. Some international guests understand but some do not understand. We explained a lot that our hotel is yacht hotel and some of the re- quirements that land hotel can offer are not available. For example: we set a reception on lobby bridge. Upon check-in and check- out, some guests waited at lobby and com- plained that it is hot with no air-condition. We can set up the air-cons but we want our guests to experience travelling on a yacht. Third issue is we want our guests to stay free but not to disturb other guests. For service offers, we are always stand-by. Most guests become familiar with our offers after two or three days.

MI : From a business perspective, what do you feel are the biggest chal- lenges facing you in the next one to three years?

For Vintage, the biggest challenge will be maintenance in the next one to three years. We have started making preparation al- ready. Unlike the land hotels, Vintage has to repair and renovate on land once three or five years. We cannot sell rooms to guests during renovation period. That big chal- lenge will be faced by whoever does business on a yacht.

MI : What is your opinion on future tourism sector of Myanmar?

At present, Myanmar tourism sector is good. I can say it is due to the policy. In the past, visitors did not know about the country and did not have a chance to see and visit Myan- mar. Now they know about the country and they can see (that means can find on the in- ternet) and have a chance to visit here. As for a cultural tour of Myanmar, there are a lot of ancient pagodas in Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan. For adventure and nature-based tourism, we have Innlay lake, Reid lake, Nat Ma mountain, and Than Taung Gyi, etc. These kinds of places do not exist in s European countries due to industrializa- tion. But Myanmar still has them. Previous- ly, foreigners did not want to visit here for some reasons. But now, they are interested to come. If Myanmar progresses steadily this way, she can be better than Thailand. I dare say that because there are many sight- seeing places to see for the first time. Also, a tourist can get different experiences from going to the northern and southern parts of Myanmar.

MI : If you could make one major change in the hotel industry to make it more competitive, what would it be?

To be honest, hotel and tourism ‘ministry’ exists only in Myanmar. In other countries, it goes as a department, not as a ministry. In Myanmar, there are many related minis- tries in making a decision on a place such as Bagan which is related to culture as well. Now, there is a tourism council, led by the Vice-President.

MI : What advice would you like to give to someone looking for visit to Myanmar?

Please do not come to Myanmar just for a visit, come and invest in Myanmar. Here, we are strong in manpower and labor force but weak in ideas and technologies. So, if busi nessmen have a chance, they should start a business, it does not matter if it is big or small. By doing so, Myanmar can get tech- nologies and knowledge. For example, even at this hotel, local workers become more active by working together with foreigners. For a negative point of view, foreigners take away profits from the country. For a posi- tive point of view, local people have competition.