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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Executive travel: Anantara Layan in Phuket chases UAE corporate customers in great style

Anantara Layan is a great place for your next corporate retreat

Handout images of Layan Residences for Anatara hotel review. (Courtesy-Layan Residence)
Handout images of Layan Residences for Anatara hotel review. (Courtesy-Layan Residence)

Retreating to a tropical island to contemplate the future of your company accompanied by your colleagues has seldom been easier, since Emirates introduced its direct flight from Dubai to Phuket a couple of years ago. The meetings, incentives and smaller conferencing market has always been important business on Thailand’s largest island, and the UAE is just the latest country to have this option.

I was directed to the 87-room-and-villa Anantara Layan to sample the delights of this four-year old hotel, and to discover what its newly completed super-deluxe residency complex can offer the UAE's business elite.

The Anantara Layan rises up a hillside from a beachfront location, giving the new residency astonishing views over the Andaman Sea and surrounding verdant countryside of the national park.

The hotel's fifteen nearly brand new apartments range from three to eight bedrooms. Individually-owned by absentee landlords, they originally cost from $8 to $12 million, and are presently rented from Dh22,000 per night.

These high-ceiling apartments are triumphs of modern minimalist design with a Thai twist. Where better to entertain your colleagues than on the terrace of the presidential suite at the top of the complex, with its own infinity pool and space to comfortably entertain around 50 guests? Boardroom meetings away can seldom have been more opulent or private than in a reception room up here.

The second largest apartment belongs to the founder and owner of the Anantara chain, US-born William Heinecke, who made his $2.2 billion dollar fortune largely in Thailand.

Typically a number of the residency’s apartments are combined for a corporate gathering of up to 30 executives, although smaller groups are more common.

For larger events the hotel recommends its nearby sister property, the Anantara Mai Khao, which has 91 individual pool villas set around lily-filled lagoons, the work of British garden designer Bill Bensley.

I saw its tasteful new 389 square-metre, presidential suite with bespoke Thai silk hangings by Jim Thompson, and a decent conference space for around 100 guests.

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‘We can comfortably handle groups of 50 to 60, though I have one booking for 60 villas for Amway coming up," said general manager Nikolaus Priesnitz.

"Other clients have included Lufthansa (Singapore) and Mercedes-Benz.’

Back at the Anantara Layan, I stayed in a cosy ocean view villa, costing around Dh1,250 a night, which contrasted with the much grander stately home of the main residency complex.

However, there was no compromise here for the executive traveller. The complementary Wi-Fi clocked 13.4 Mbps, two multi-plug sockets on the full-size desk behind the comfortable king-size bed, with both Bloomberg and CNBC among the TV channels.

The room also featured a seating area and terrace suitable for small meetings by the plunge pool. In-room dining offered a club sandwich for Dh66 or margherita pizza for Dh59; Acqua Panna was Dh23 and a Pepsi Dh14.

But hospitality is about much more than room service, dark teak floors and furniture. It was the quality of the Anantara staff that really impressed me most. Their attention to detail is excellent, and everything is always done with a smile.

Where this hotel really benefits from the residency hovering above it on the hillside is in the extras included in this very spacious resort to satisfy its discerning clientele of largely absent landlords.

For example, the resort’s all-day dining restaurant, already renowned for one of the top breakfasts in Thailand, becomes a branch of the iconic Zuma restaurant chain for three months of the year.

You also have an extremely high-end spa, two infinity pools and a full gym, which is admittedly stronger on cardio than weight training machines.

The hotel’s Dee Plee restaurant perched high in the resort, just below the residency, also serves a very high standard of Thai royal cuisine. One of the popular options for team building is a cooking course hosted by its executive chef.

If the owner of your company happens to have a large yacht, then this can be anchored just offshore. Russian steel billionaire Viktor Rashnikov’s ‘Ocean Victory’, the tenth largest in the world, was moored there when I stayed there. Two different more modest boat trips are available for corporate groups.

The only negative complaint I heard about this hotel is that its beach faces on to tidal mudflats, and not the clear blue sea, as some advertising blurb unfortunately once put it.

Well, you can just walk a bit further down the beach to the open water of the Andaman Sea and the tidal water is actually safer for swimming, although the true executive traveler might, in any case, be more focused on the bigger picture from their residency apartment.