SPOTLIGHT ON Anchalika Kijkanakorn, Founder & Managing Director, Akaryn Hotel Group

By Sharon Hirschowitz

In a recent conversation with Anchalika Kijkanakorn from Akaryn Hotel Group, the ILHA uncovered the brand’s dedication to marine conservation, their unique approach to luxury hospitality, and how they are continuously evolving to offer sustainable and memorable guest experiences. From their philanthropic endeavors to their tailored guest services, Akaryn Hotel Group is redefining luxury in Southeast Asia.

Your commitment to philanthropy and marine conservation is evident through the establishment of The Pure Blue Foundation. Could you share some impactful projects that the foundation has undertaken to support marine conservation and local communities in Thailand?

The Pure Blue Foundation has undertaken several impactful projects in Thailand. These include coral reef protection programs aimed at restoring and preserving coral reefs in Thai waters, which involve activities such as coral transplantation, reef monitoring, and community engagement to raise awareness about coral conservation.

Additionally, the foundation has supported the conservation of endangered marine species, such as sea turtles, native reef fishes, and shellfish, through research, habitat protection, and community-based initiatives. Our coastal clean-up campaigns address marine pollution and plastic waste, involving community participation and education on waste management and recycling.

We have developed educational programs and materials to raise awareness among local communities, schools, and tourists about the importance of marine conservation, including outreach events, workshops, and educational resources.

AKARYN Hotel Group specializes in managing small luxury resorts in Southeast Asia. How do you ensure that each property maintains a high standard of luxury and uniqueness while aligning with the overarching ethos of the hotel group?

We ensure high standards and uniqueness by establishing and maintaining clear brand standards for service, amenities, design, and guest experiences that reflect our luxury ethos. 

These standards are communicated clearly to each property, providing a framework for consistency and our training program. We tailor the guest experience to the local culture and environment, offering authentic design, amenities, culinary experiences, and activities that highlight the destination’s attractions. Our investment in training programs ensures that staff understand and embody the brand’s values and service standards, requiring 20 hours of training per month. Regular quality control inspections, including 3rd party mystery guest inspections at least once a year and my personal visits to all hotels at least once a month, help maintain quality. We actively solicit and address guest feedback through our daily guest contact report. 

Innovation and differentiation are encouraged across our properties, which may include unique amenities, partnerships with local artisans or businesses, or sustainable practices that align with our brand’s ethos.

Being recognized as a “Hero of Philanthropy” by Forbes Asia is a significant achievement. How has this recognition influenced your approach to sustainable and socially responsible practices within the AKARYN Hotel Group, and how do these principles shape the guest experience?

Being recognized by Forbes is truly an honor that reinforces my belief in providing guests with an authentic and immersive experience. This recognition has strengthened my resolve to engage with local communities, fostering a sense of connection and shared experience that transcends the traditional notion of a holiday. Our approach involves more than just relaxation; it includes actively participating in and contributing to the culture, heritage, and sustainability of the destination.

By involving local communities in our initiatives, we create opportunities for guests to explore, understand, and appreciate the intricacies of the places they visit. Whether learning traditional crafts from local artisans, participating in conservation efforts alongside community members, or savoring locally sourced cuisine, every interaction becomes a chance to connect on a deeper level.

This approach enriches the guest experience and leaves a lasting impact, transforming vacations into meaningful journeys of exploration, learning, and mutual respect, ultimately creating cherished memories and a profound appreciation for the places they visit.

Aleenta Phuket-Phang Nga, Aleenta Hua Hin-Pranburi, and Aleenta Retreat Chiang Mai are distinct properties under AKARYN Hotel Group. Can you highlight the unique characteristics of each resort and how they contribute to the overall portfolio of the group?

I absolutely cherish the notion that each of my hotels possesses its own distinctive character. While some may argue that consistency is key for a brand, I firmly believe that uniformity diminishes the allure of exploration. Why would anyone bother visiting if everything felt the same?

With every property I develop, I strive to encapsulate the essence of its location, enhancing what makes it truly special. Take Aleenta Phuket-Phang Nga, for instance. Nestled along one of the world’s most pristine and secluded beaches, it’s a sanctuary of serenity. Here, the hotel serves as a mere canvas against the breathtaking backdrop of the sea and sky. Our flagship Ayurah Wellness Centre embodies our commitment to promoting the Sustainable Path to Happiness and Longevity, drawing inspiration from the Sanskrit word “Ayurah,” meaning long life.

Aleenta Hua Hin-Pranburi, on the other hand, exudes a bohemian and laid-back vibe, akin to a village within a village. It’s eclectic, relevant, and carefree, with surprises awaiting discovery at every turn. Guests can embark on leisurely bicycle rides through the village, uncovering hidden gems scattered throughout the property. It’s an invitation to embrace spontaneity and adventure.

Meanwhile, Aleenta Retreat Chiang Mai sits at the base of the hill leading to the secretive northern mountain, neighboring the internationally revered Meditation Center and Buddhist Temple of Wat Umong. Here, we invite guests to embark on a journey of retreat, relaxation, and wildlife exploration. Our award-winning spa, recognized by National Geographic, stands as a destination in itself, offering unparalleled rejuvenation amidst the tranquil surroundings.

Each of these properties contributes uniquely to the AKARYN Hotel Group portfolio, enriching it with diverse experiences and narratives. Together, they embody our ethos of celebrating the distinctiveness of each destination, inviting guests to embark on unforgettable journeys of discovery and rejuvenation.

The luxury hospitality landscape is continually evolving. In what ways does AKARYN Hotel Group stay ahead of industry trends and maintain a reputation for excellence, both in terms of guest experience and sustainable practices?

Our hotels have always evolved over time, inventing and reinventing ourselves to answer the different needs from our guests.  This process is not just a duty but a source of joy for me personally. For example, I am not a vegetarian, but I want to show that you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy plant based food, so we created a fine dining plant based restaurant in Phuket, SEASONS, to showcase local ingredients and innovative cooking that respects traditional flavors. 

As I grow older, the importance of living longer and healthier resonates more deeply with me, and I know I’m not alone in this sentiment. Ayurah Wellness Centre was conceived to address this need and interest, offering various pathways to rejuvenation and longevity. Our wellness retreats are designed to integrate seamlessly into everyday life, ensuring that guests can continue their wellness journey long after they leave our properties. It’s about making wellness accessible and sustainable, regardless of one’s surroundings or lifestyle.

By staying attuned to these evolving trends and aligning ourselves with the desires of our guests, we maintain a reputation for excellence in both guest experience and sustainable practices. Our commitment to innovation, coupled with a dedication to holistic well-being, ensures that AKARYN Hotel Group remains at the forefront of the luxury hospitality landscape.