Banyan Tree has grown into a globally recognized brand focused on upscale relaxation, wellness and service. The very first property in the portfolio was Banyan Tree Phuket in Thailand, and General Manager Sittichai Jitnatham is proud of how far the hospitality has come.
Announcing new brands and completing renovations at many properties (including his own), Banyan Tree is evolving. Jitnatham talks with Pursuitist about what travelers can expect.
How has the brand evolved over the years?
Working at flagship Banyan Tree Phuket offers a unique vantage point of the brand’s evolution, now operating 93 hotels across the world under seven distinctive brands. Now, there are branded residence projects (Banyan Tree Residences, Dhawa Residences, Laguna Residences, and Angsana Residences), too.
With an emphasis on well-being and the growing need for this segment led to us launching “Beyond,” an online well-being concierge app that offers personalized recommendations based on your lifestyle and well-being needs so that you can keep up with your goals even after you leave our hotels.
As a group, community initiatives offer vocational training courses to empower marginalized local young adults near our hotels. The brand is focused on education to nurture and raise children who are empowered, driven by purpose and community-minded.
What is your favorite area of Banyan Tree Phuket?
My favorite areas are the lush gardens that surround the resort and our recently opened Veya Pharm (the resort’s vegetable, fruit and herb garden) as I always feel a sense of calm and connectedness while there. I started my career at Banyan Tree Phuket in the landscaping department and perhaps that is the reason I am still passionate about our green spaces and the many regeneration projects we have undertaken at the resort.
What is a guest favorite at the resort?
It changes often as motivations for travel or preferences shift every few years. The private pool villas and Banyan Tree Spa always seem to be a favorite among our new and repeat guests.
Who are some of the famous guests that have stayed with you?
Over the years we have had the pleasure of hosting musicians, actors, athletes, diplomats and entrepreneurs from around the world. They include Alicia Keys, Adam Levine, Jean Claude Van Dame, Jessica Jung (K-pop singer of Girls Generation), Zhang Zilin (Miss World 2007), Chow Yuen Fat (celebrated Chinese actor), Rudolf Schenker and David Calabria (captain of AC Milan) are a few that come to mind.
Tell us about the renovation plans.
As we gear up to commemorate 30 years of Banyan Group and Banyan Tree Phuket, we have undertaken several projects. We have just launched Terra Kids Club, a new and improved space with indoor and outdoor activities.
In early January, a new floating restaurant called “Tin” will offer pan-Asian tapas and inventive cocktails. A new beachfront restaurant will launch in the first quarter of 2024.
The Double Pool Villas will undergo an upgrade next year and so will the spa. Banyan Tree’s newest well-being brand Veya opened in Phuket will unveil a new space for hammock yoga and Pilates sessions.
The main lobby and our signature restaurant Saffron will also undergo a facelift next year. This is all in preparation for the milestone anniversary celebrations.
What do you recommend for a first-time visitor to Phuket?
This is a difficult question as Phuket offers the perfect blend of nature, culture and adventure during each season. My recommendations would be Bang Tao Beach (walking distance from the resort) and Gibbon Rehabilitation Center, a must for nature fans.
Big Buddha and Wat Chalong are great for anyone with a spiritual leaning. Old Phuket Town has a vibrant Sino-Portuguese architecture and café culture. There’s also a tour of Chalong Distillery, which specializes in handcrafted Phuketian Rum. They use sustainable products and offer cocktail making classes.
Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist covering hotels, cruises, airlines, and loyalty programs from around the globe.