It has been a long journey since Khun Pramookpisitt first arrived in Phuket 36 years ago. A native of Nakhon Si Thammarat, he came to Phuket after working for a bank in Bangkok. With two university degrees and a keen commercial eye, he quickly sensed the touristic potential of the island’s golden beaches, and – armed with a bank loan – created Ka-Kata Inn, at the southern end of Kata Beach. A bold move, it was an aspirational moment in the success story both of Pramookpisitt, and of Phuket’s tourist industry. His flagship resort has gone from strength to strength.
Kata Beach Resort and Spa (its subsequent title) has long been associated with the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta. After Pramookpisitt rescued it from possible oblivion in the 1990s, his resort became the focal point for the regatta’s activities. The opening night party was, and still is, held there. Maybe Kata Beach Resort’s iconic sculptured elephants are emblems of their owner’s wisdom and enterprise
Khun Pramookpisitt’s empire has since grown apace. His Kata Group owns and operates six other resorts in southern Thailand. In 2012, it launched the Beyond Resorts. Now established at Khao Lak, Krabi and Karon, the innovative brand caters particularly to the high-end couples’ market. Kandaburi Resort and Spa in Koh Samui was also added to the portfolio.
As president of the company, he was awarded, in 2015, the prestigious ‘Tourism and Sports Industry Quality Person of the Year Award’. In conversation, he modestly bypasses the topic, but it is given to those who “lead by example and make a major contribution to Thai society”. As he observed: “The company is in many ways an extension of my own family who I would like to thank for their great support and encouragement”.
The notion of family, both immediate and extended, is of central importance to Khun Pramookpisitt’s philosophy. Involved familial members include his wife, Kee and his son and heir, Pariyawit, who recently completed an MBA in Hotel Management at the Glion Institute in Montreux. Naturally, he hopes his son will devote his future energies to the family business. But as he remarks, the younger generation sometimes cherishes different aspirations and values.
Khun Pramokpisitt has always been devoted to the island community. President of the Chamber of Commerce and of the Tourist Association of Phuket, both positions demanded much in terms of his time and energy. He took on the ‘poisoned chalice’ of heading Phuket Town Football Club, an onerous position which became “a headache”. It’s no coincidence that since his departure, the club has been relegated to the fourth division.
He also acts as Honorary Consul-General of Finland in Phuket, and, without public fanfare, funds scholarships for deserving students, conscious that a good education can unlock so many career doors. He should know: he possesses two degrees himself: a BA in Business Administration and an MA in Public Administration from the University of Manila.
This public concern has seen Khun Pramookpisitt become a prime mover in the initiative to overhaul transport on the island. As co-investor in the Phuket City Development Company (PKCD), he is a key player in plans to create a viable public transport system with smart buses and a light rail system. Not straightforward. In “Honda City” – as he describes Phuket – the motorbike is king, so too the tuk-tuk. The transport waters here, as we all know, are muddied; Pramookpisitt is all too aware there are no easy solutions. That he is on board is a huge plus.
An enthusiastic advocate of Phuket’s tourist potential, Pramookpisitt argues passionately that its seafront resorts offer unmatched facilities – at a fraction of the cost of comparable venues elsewhere, such as the Caribbean. Moreover, he is acutely aware of the changing demographics of tourism.
Increasingly he sees visitors, and in particular those from Chinese-speaking destinations, coming not for sun and sea, but for a metropolitan experience – for shopping and sightseeing. Beyond Patong Hotel aims to cater expressly for such guests: a huge, self-contained complex of 160 rooms with name-brand retail stores, and a superb seafood restaurant. He even plans a special package for Chinese honeymooners.
Pramookpisitt’s hectic lifestyle does not allow much time for leisure pursuits. A trim 68, he is, however, a keen golfer, formerly played off 12, and knows all eight island courses. He cherishes the conviviality that comes with the sport. A Mercedes-Benz enthusiast, he allows himself the luxury of “two or three’’ vehicles, garaged at his house near Wat Chalong.
Pramookpisitt is upbeat about Phuket’s future. He clearly has a devoted team whom he encourages to talk over problems. That he is a caring boss is self-evident: in our meeting, he listens carefully, then responds directly, and without hesitation. Definitely a guiding presence in a crisis.