Hajo and Rose von Keller are partners in more ways than one. Joint Managing Directors and owners of the Mangosteen Resort and Spa, its resounding success owes everything to the palpable rapport that exists between husband and wife. To meet them is to bear witness to a serene and creative relationship at work.
Though Rose comes from an affluent and successful family, she has constantly sought new challenges. Born in Chiang Rai, her education took her to Bangkok where she attended Vittayanukorn and St Theresa Colleges, majoring respectively in Hotel and Tourism and Business Administration. She went on to graduate from UTCC (University of Thai Chamber of Commerce), before specialising in Spa Management at Bangkok’s celebrated Mahidol University.
Her professional career has been remarkable for its breadth and variety. Starting as a secretary in 1991, her obvious talents meant rapid promotion with a range of companies, including The Mandarin Oriental in Koh Samui and The Colony Resort in Kamala. After a foray into real estate and property development here in Phuket, she spent seven years in publishing and event planning with Artasia Press as sales manager. No wonder her English is impeccable. Rose met Hajo in March 2004 and joined forces one year later. The rest, as they say, is history.
Like Rose, Hajo hails from a privileged and entrepreneurial background – his father ran a successful sports equipment company in Munich, Bavaria – but his route to commercial success has been very different. He remembers a thriving business environment at home with his father presiding over meetings; it seemed only natural that he would follow his father and brother into the company. An epiphany of sorts occurred when Hajo came to Bangkok in 1997 to be nearer the main manufacturing base in China, and paid the inevitable visit to Phuket. His father, who had always encouraged his son’s independence and imaginative outlook, suggested that Hajo should consider starting up a new project in this promising environment. The result? The birth of The Mangosteen Resort and Spa.
It was innovative in every way. As Hajo says, he wanted to get away from hotel stereotypes, to create a new-style resort that did not hug the beach’s edge, but would be set apart, preferably on a hillside that possessed panoramic, all-round views of the island. The competitive price of land was also a factor, as was the choice of a location that did not threaten to become – as Patong and Kata were becoming – concrete jungles. Rawai, still relatively undeveloped, ticked all the boxes.
Hajo, with his concern for environmental issues, created a resort that was green, not grey. He decided not only to retain all the existing trees on his hilly site, but to add shrubs, palms, hedges and natural pathways that could unobtrusively both conceal and link the individual villas. Distinctively octagonal in shape, the construction of each villa involved the use of both natural materials and new technology, including load-bearing walls 20 cms thick.
Set in its own gardens, every villa is an individual oasis of tranquility, the air-ventilated floors and high ceilings an embodiment of Hajo’s belief that the climate inside the villas should match the healthy climate outside the eight walls.
The health and well-being of guests is a primary concern. From the outset, a luxurious spa was incorporated in the overall concept and, under the expert guidance of Rose, it has blossomed into a full-scale Ayurveda Spa, a more holistic approach embracing integrated diets, de-tox and anti-ageing programmes.
Since 2017 the Prana Sala has offered activity programmes including yoga and Meditation Classes, such as Singing Bowls Meditation. Indeed, the spa remains a crucial reason for the resort’s stellar status – as long ago as 2005, it had become the first boutique resort in Thailand to receive the official five-star award. But things never stand still with Hajo and Rose at the helm. Recent developments include the construction of a waterfall to provide a tranquil setting for a number of new villas.
Hajo and Rose work well as a team. Hajo is the first to admit that Rose’s contribution is crucial; while he tends to concern himself with the day-to-day running of the business, with marketing and so on, Rose (with her excellent Thai connections, her hotel management background and her knowledge of local and national regulations) deals with everyone and everything from the Or-Bor-Tor to government agencies in Bangkok.
But they never forget that this is first and foremost a family enterprise. Family has always been important to them both. Having received the unstinting support of their families on the way up, they appreciate the importance of familial values. The enterprise is run in an informal way, with every member of staff treated as members of an extended family.
And this concern operates even closer to home. Both Rose’s daughters (she has two grown up children from a previous relationship) have been educated by the couple in Switzerland: Ying holds a master’s degree in Hotel, Resort and Spa Management, while younger daughter Apissara, who is studying Hospitality Management at Lausanne’s famous EHL Institute, has been adopted by Hajo.
Keeping things in the family… No doubt both will, in due course, contribute to the Mangosteen’s exciting future.
by Window Watcher
MANGOSTEEN AYURVEDA & WELLNESS RESORT
+66 76 289399