Phuket, Thailand, January 9, 2024 / TRAVELINDEX / Having retired following 25 years with Banyan Tree Holdings, Ravi Chandran has never been busier. It is not exactly what was planned by the affable former chief executive of Laguna Phuket. But the explosion of growth post-Covid in the hospitality and real estate sectors combined with a savvy business reputation has had his phone ringing off the hook. So, what is he up to these days?
Your name seems to be popping up a lot again these days?
I have always been keen to make a positive contribution to society. This is really what drives me. My father, Cpt. Chandran MBE OBE was a passionate campaigner for social housing who spent his life trying to help those in need. Before he passed away, he set up the Chandran Foundation, which was his way of giving back and making a difference to people’s lives. Now led by my sister, Chitra, the foundation focuses on the welfare of young people in areas of education, nutrition and family. I have been a Special Project Manager for the Chandran Foundation for the last 15 months, and this has been a very rewarding and fulfilling time in my life.
So why did you step down after 25 years with Banyan Tree Holdings?
I loved my time with Banyan Tree Holdings and it was an honour to work directly with founder KP Ho. But after 25 years and Covid I just wanted to slow down a little and move away from the day-to-day. I enjoyed wonderful years with Banyan Tree and Laguna – and though the last two to three years were tough I am proud that we were central to supporting the “Phuket Sandbox” initiative and helping restart Thailand’s tourism industry upon which so many people depend.
After leading Asia’s top integrated resort destination how were you able to relax?
It was a strange experience to start with. After 25 years, I was not used to not working. But I tried to focus the things I never previously had time for. For six months I travelled, exercised and ate well. I am fortunate to live in Phuket, so I took long early morning walks every day, which helped to refocus. I thought I might be bored, but actually I wasn’t – I enjoyed this time immensely and had plenty to keep me busy. Most importantly, I was able to spend time with Waticha Chandran (Chon), my wife, as well as with my cats!
So how and why did you start working again?
Over the years I have been fortunately to make many good friends and it was through this that out of the blue came Urasaya Beachfront Residences, an eco-sensitive project at Sichon Beach in Nakhorn Si Thammarat province. A friend in the music business told me he was planning to develop a collection of high-end beachfront pool villas at Sichon Beach, a stunning sandy strip voted by Lonely Planet last year as one of Thailand’s best. Yet no one knows about it. The project is aimed at people who love Thailand, but want an escape from the main tourist areas. He invited me to visit, and I was sold. Sichon has so much potential; it feels like Thailand 30 years ago – peaceful, authentic, natural. Crucially, the development has coincided with the opening of a new international terminal at Nakhorn Si Thammarat Airport, which paves the way for an exciting new era of sustainable tourism in the province.
How about Phuket where you live?
Again, things have opened up as a result of friends and family. My wife knows the owners of Amora Hotels & Resorts, a family-run hotel group which operates six properties: three in Thailand and three in Australia. The young owner Earp Siriphatrawan contacted me for some help. We spoke and I quickly realised they share my own values; they value people and invest in their team members, many of whom have been with the group for decades. I have agreed to help them move from a traditional legacy hotel group to a modern hospitality company, with plans for expansion both in Thailand and Australia. This February will be the grand opening of Amora Beach Resort Phuket following a THB 500 million investment.
I hear you are also working in real estate – advising on a large 73 rai destination-wellness concept
That’s correct. I was contacted by a former colleague who asked me for some help. Gardens of Eden is an interesting project, a nature-inspired concept that blends wellness, luxury and sustainability. Located on Bangtao Beach, 70% of the total area will be retained as green space, setting a new benchmark for large-scale developments on the island. It is a project that will have a positive impact on Phuket.
So, what’s next?
I am happy enjoying what I’m doing at the moment, having the ability to pick and choose which projects to get involved with that are geared to making positive change. Plus of course enjoying family time.