Nestled on a hilltop in one of Phuket’s most sought-after locations is a unique adult-only boutique hotel specialising in wellness treatments and retreats.
To find out more about Mangosteen Ayurveda & Wellness Resort, Phuket, we spoke with the hands-on hotelier and owner, Hajo von Keller, who runs the resort together with his wife, Rose…
You’ve spent much of your career with Mangosteen, but where did it all begin and how did your career progress to where you are today?
Back in the nineties I was working for our family business, a manufacturer of sporting goods, and travelled often to Asia for work. In 1996 we opened an office in Thailand which quickly became successful, however sadly, the Asian crisis in 1997 put a stop to it all. At the time I had a shophouse, an office, a warehouse, six company cars and 25 staff in Bangkok, but we had to virtually close down and could keep only two staff.
During that time I moved to Phuket, simply because there was not much work and Bangkok was suffering. My father visited over a long weekend and we started to develop the crazy idea to build a resort. Most hotels in Phuket at that time were high-rise hotel blocks – there were very few boutique hotels. We saw a niche, and the rest as they say, is history…
What are the most important elements to attract guests to a wellness hotel?
Wellness resorts range from modern and super luxury to simple and cozy. The products you develop and offer are very important, and it’s also crucial to have the right team to give the personal touch.
While the design is less important, it’s vital to be in the right location but with good accessibility. We chose a beautiful part of Phuket where we can have extensive gardens, peaceful spaces and a secluded tropical feel. This would be difficult to offer in the busier resorts such as Patong or Kuta.
Mangosteen is the name of a tropical fruit. Can you tell us why you named the resort this?
We actually had many crazy brainstorming sessions! We knew we didn’t want a generic name, or a name that describes the location. But finding something suitable was more tricky. I wanted a name that was positive, tangible, Asian, and easy to pronounce – although it’s funny that many Thais find it difficult to pronounce ‘mangosteen’!
Through a process of elimination we came up with mangosteen – it fitted all our criteria and is also known as the queen of fruits. What’s more, it can be made into delicious cuisine and rejuvenating products. All the guest room toiletries and many of our spa products are made from mangosteen – produced by local companies here in Thailand.
Despite Thailand handling the Covid-19 crisis extremely well, the country remains closed. What does this mean for Mangosteen?
It has meant high losses and a lot of frustration. We’ve had no option but to cut staff salaries and borrow more money from the family.
We reopened on 1st August after four months closure and now offer our Ayurveda programmes to locals and expats. It’s a small market but through our connections we have been able to get some good bookings. The local market has really changed – people are not interested in just buying a room with breakfast, they want the full retreat. This works well for our business, and has also been a useful learning curve – learning how to survive through a crisis, and how to adapt our offerings moving forward.
Mangosteen has a number of interesting architectural elements. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Firstly our land and space is such a luxury! We have only 50 rooms on 16 rai of land (over 2.5 hectares). Land prices these days would not allow that – developers would have to build at least 100 – 150 rooms on the same plot.
That means we also have the space for a beautifully large pool – a 680sqm freeform, saltwater pool with a channel around the restaurant and 14 waterfalls.
The roofs of our rooms are unique with big wooden roof spears. The design allows for natural air ventilation so the room stays cool even without air conditioning. And the walls are very thick, you could say ‘rock solid’! They are over 20cm thick, compared to the usual 7cm in Thailand – this helps to keep the cool air inside.
Contact us to find out more about Mangosteen Ayurveda & Wellness Resort, Phuket, Thailand.