February 17, 2014 00:00 By BARMUNG AMNATCHAROENRIT
The elderly can sometimes be tough to deal with, especially when it comes to taking care of them properly.
But for Pensiri Panyarachun, doing so became a learning lesson, which later helped spark an idea to launch a business targeted at the elderly.
This was the genesis for Absolute Living (Thailand) Co, operator of Pattaya-based Long Lake Hillside Resort – an integrated long-stay resort for retirees that opened its doors early this month.
Pensiri, who partly owns the company and is its managing director, said the business had showed big potential but the country’s political situation cast a cloud over it, forcing Western clients to delay trips.
Located on 150 rai, the resort is 10 minutes from downtown Pattaya and has 36 villas and a 50-people capacity.
Pensiri has rented the resort for 12 years and after signing an agreement with the owner, she transformed the property into what is today, including constructing wheelchair paths.
Most of her guests are Europeans, Australians, Americans, and Japanese.
Pensiri is eyeing Westerners who are looking for looking for a more affordable place to stay.
She said in many countries the pension had been reduced and countries were in financial trouble.
She said Thailand has options for them, especially repeat tourists who appreciate Thailand’s advanced medical services, friendly people, exotic food, lower prices and strategic location.
She is also targeting foreigners who come to Thailand for medical treatment or plastic surgery.
Thai high-income seniors are also in her sights.
A stay at the resort costs Bt45,000-50,000 per month and Bt120,000 per month for its assisted-living service with 24-hour care.
Guests can stay for a month to a year. A reduced price can be arranged for people staying a long time.
Facilities include a library, a games room, arts and crafts, gardening, and cooking class.
Professional medical staff are on hand to deal with emergencies.
To promote the resort, Pensiri has been at Tourism Authority of Thailand tourism festivals and introduced its service to tour agencies.
She said word of mouth was also an effective marketing tool.
She said there were less than 10 operators providing a similar service in Thailand, so she had a good opportunity to grow the business.
In general, accommodation for elderly people in Thailand was not on a par with international standards.
For example, she said some places allowed up to 10 people to share a room, charging Bt17,000-Bt20,000 per head per month.
For single-bed room, some venues charge Bt30,000 per month, but lack facilities.
Given her resort’s potential, she called on the government to promote the country more strategically with tour operators and ease visa regulations.
She said Thailand should be second to no country in the region as a tourist destination, but at present Malaysia was the top choice for foreign tourists for long stays because no visa is needed.
The Philippines also has an advantage because of the English skills of its people.