We've had the pleasure of interviewing Martin Kunzmann, the General Manager of Amari Palm Reef in Koh Samui.
In this candid interview, Martin covers a broad range of subjects, telling us about some embarrassing moments, his favourite other hotel and a funny encounter with the Italian actress Monica Bellucci.
Hi Martin, we'd like to begin by asking how did you start your career?
Hi Destinology. I began as a drinks waiter in the banqueting department of Hotel Union Lucerne, a grand old hotel in Switzerland.
And how long have you held your current position at the hotel?
Since January this year, although I’d been at the hotel for 3 years prior as the Resident Manager. I have been with Amari Hotels and Resorts since 2007 though, in various locations across Thailand.
What do you love most about your hotel?
The ambience. Because of the layout and our team, it manages to be relaxed, friendly and professional all at the same time. There is always a nice buzz going on, plus it also has a great central location and a lovely beach.
In less than 10 words, how would you best describe your hotel?
Warm and friendly with something for everyone
Have you hosted any memorable events?
Since last year we have been the major sponsor of the Koh Samui International Latin & Jazz Festival held each October, which sees artists from around the world converging on our small island to play great music at a variety of locations for a week, culminating in the main stage event held right on our beachfront. It’s a lot of fun.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
The one which comes to mind is when I was playing Santa one year for our hotel’s Christmas Gala dinner and we had the idea that I would arrive with two pretty Santarinas on the beach by traditional long-tail boat. We didn't plan the finer details of the operation though, and I ended up jumping off the boat into the knee-high water with my santa sack and carrying the two girls ashore as they didn't want their feet to get wet, which was a struggle as my boots were full of water and all our guests were watching, no doubt very amused.
How does your job fit into your family life?
Thankfully I have a wife with a hotel background, so she is very understanding of the working hours and lifestyle. We've recently had our first child, so I always try to maintain as good a balance as possible because family is very important to me.
Have you ever opened a hotel? Did it run smoothly on the first day?
Yes I have, and I'm not sure if first days ever really run as smoothly as you want them to! Thankfully in my case, the unfortunate event happened the day before we opened and never repeated!
Have you ever upset a hotel inspector?
I hope not! Not that I heard about in any case.
What is the most expensive booking made at your hotel?
Probably some of the wedding groups that we get through, especially if they request all the bells and whistles like elephants, releasing of doves or butterflies, fireworks show, flame dancers, DJ, etc.
What is the most generous tip you have seen given by a guest?
Back a few years when I was a concierge, a guest gave me a $50 note for bringing his Ferrari up from the garage. I felt that it should have been me giving the tip for the pleasure of driving his nice car!
If you weren’t working in the hotel industry, what do you think you would be doing as a career?
Running a classic and custom motorbike shop
Have you ever had to sack a member of staff?
Yes, though sometimes necessarily but it's not a nice thing to have to do. I prefer to have a rigorous selection process to avoid this.
What is your favourite hotel you have stayed in and where?
We recently stayed at the Indigo Pearl in Phuket (pictured avove far right), and had a fabulous Spa Villa. That is a very nice resort.
What is the most unusual hotel you have ever stayed in?
When travelling through Canada I stayed at some interesting hostels. One in the Rocky Mountains was an old train carriage, and another in Ottawa was an old restored prison where the rooms were cells. A bit creepy!
Are you happy to mention your worst stay and why?
The worst in recent memory was a hotel in Colombo. Dirty, smelly and generally very grim. Good location though.
What is your favourite menu?
I'm a real foodie, and love all kinds of cuisine. I am quite fond of a good Japanese Kaiseki menu however.
Where do you go for your own holidays to relax?
Either to my home in Margaret River, a beautiful coastal wine-growing region in south-western Australia, or my wife's home in the lovely Moravian countryside of the Czech Republic.
What is the most unusual request that you have received from a guest?
Not quite unusual, but definitely memorable were all the amazing wedding proposal requests. On a couple of occasions were dinners at the top of our water tower! Happy to report though that the lucky lady’s response has always been a big “yes”.
What are amongst the strangest forgotten items left in a guest room?
A lot of regular things like clothing and chargers get left behind, but we did once have an elderly gentleman who left his hearing aid behind, which of course had to be promptly posted to his next destination.
Can you reveal any embarrassing stories?
As a junior manager at a hotel in Sydney, I had an argument with the concierge over who had the right to deliver the luggage of Ms. Monica Bellucci (lovely Italian actress) to her room. He felt it was his occupational right and I thought it my managerial duty. This led to a small tussle over the bags in the corridor, and Ms. Bellucci opened her door to find not one, but two smiling faces delivering her suitcases.
Can you namedrop any illustrious guests?
Here at the Amari we've had a few well known Thai guests stay with us, but we aren't at liberty to give details.
Have you got any funny stories about drunken guests?
Too many to mention!
Who was your most demanding client and why?
There are many, but one of them would be the extremely wealthy Russian who plonked a thick wad of US dollars on the table and demanded a luxury yacht pick up him and his family up from the beachfront for a day of cruising. As there were no such yachts around that area (Krabi), the said was ensured one was promptly sailed over from Phuket.
Have you ever walked into a room at an awkward moment?
Thankfully not! A golden rule of hotels is to always knock loudly or ring the doorbell twice before announcing your entry.
Behind the Scenes
Who is the most infamous character amongst your team?
Not sure if you'd call her infamous, but we have a lady who has been with us for 20 years and is certainly a character well known by staff and guests alike. She is one of the family.
Who has the worst staff dress sense?
Luckily we have uniforms, though off duty there are a lot of frills, taffeta and ribbons involved, but I won’t name names.
Who has bad music taste and why?
I hope I don't offend too many people, but as much as I like my share of Thai rock and even Isaan music, anybody who likes Thai pop music confuses me. There, I said it...
Who is your longest serving member of your team?
Our Director of Finance, who started as a front desk cashier 22 years ago.
What compliment do you receive the most about?
From our returning guests, that it’s like coming back to family
You can see Martin going about his daily duties by booking a stay at the beautiful Amari Palm Reef in Koh Samui with Destinology.