Grand Success

Bangkok’s Westin Grande Sukhumvit is a sure bet with clients

By: Christopher Batin

One of the secrets to a memorable Thailand vacation is choosing a Bangkok hotel that offers a central location, exceptional service, safety and convenience. While that is a large order for most hotels, these traits are the cornerstones of business for the recently renovated Westin Grande Sukhumvit, whose reign in downtown Bangkok officially began in February 2003, with final remodeling completed this year.

Located half a block from the BTS skytrain, and towering above the surrounding Sukhumvit shopping and market districts, I found the Westin to be ideally suited for both business and leisure clients.

“We are thrilled to bring the Westin name back to this city,” said Keith Hardie, general manager. “The newly renovated Westin Grande Sukhumvit will herald a distinct level of luxury to this market and we look forward to offering our guests the luxurious and upscale comforts associated with the Westin brand.”

“Much of our business comes from guests who live in Japan and neighboring countries and fly here for the weekend to do their shopping or business,” said Paul Van Meerendonk, director of sales and marketing. “We have a fast-growing, international leisure and business market visiting, which requires that we offer the latest in technology and service.”
The $9-million-dollar renovation began with the acquisition of the Grand Pacific Hotel. Over two years, each floor was gutted, with new architecture and design upgrades implemented for all 364 guestrooms, 30 suites and a Presidential Suite.

The Grande Sukhumvit has successfully transcended the Westin’s standard of excellence by embracing the warm and friendly, feel-good element of Thai hospitality. Perhaps the hotel’s secret is based in the Westin’s extensive employee training and recognition program, or the hand-selection of Thai employees who not only speak functional English, but also interact with the guests with genuine enjoyment and interest.

The Westin’s ground-floor entrance serves as a transient waiting and screening area. The short elevator ride to the main lobby on the 7th floor is direct and fast. I questioned having a main lobby so high, but noticed the advantage within minutes: Casual conversations were easy, without the noise, heat and fumes of Bangkok street traffic pouring in.

The Westin offers several types of deluxe rooms and executive suites. Request a west-facing room to take in the fabulous sunsets each evening. All rooms are decorated in delightful Thai-influenced designs. Cabinets offered ample drawer and hanger space.

Business guests receive complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails in a private lounge. I enjoyed the ergonomic desk chair, air conditioning, outlet adapters and in-room safe. Each executive floor has its own butler, and the few problems or requests I had were addressed immediately.

The separate bath and shower stall are ultra-modern, with orchid blossoms placed on towels each morning and evening. All that is required for a bath is within reach, from plush bath robes, exotic fragranced soaps and shampoos and hair dryer. Chrome bath fixtures were immaculately cleaned and polished each day.

The air conditioning responded quickly to adjustments and was quick to take off the afternoon heat. A 25-inch flat-screen TV with CD/ DVD player was a plus, allowing me to play a DVD presentation to business guests I invited to the room.

The workstation desk in each room is placed near the large window to allow for available light, and offered a great view of the Bangkok skyline. Internet cable connection instructions were easily labeled and posted.

The Med is Westin’s all-day restaurant that features a wonderful and sumptuous buffet selection of MediterAsian dishes. Big eaters will enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffet, or budget nibblers can order a la carte. The fruit and juice bars offer local delicacies, as well as pastries and tropical delights.

The Workout is the in-house health club that includes an outdoor swimming pool, sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi, juice bar and health food cafe. The exercise rooms have the latest in LifeFitness equipment, and if you need assistance, just ask. The buff-looking trainers obviously practice what they preach.

With a great central location and overflowing Thai hospitality and top-notch service, The Westin Grande Sukhumvit is a hotel you’ll never have to apologize to clients for except maybe for overindulgence.


Hits: Centrally located to major attractions, sky train, nightlife and shopping. My baggage to Bangkok was diverted to London and I awaited their arrival for three days. At least twice a day, hotel staff would advise me of my lost baggage by slipping a note under my door or phoning to update me. The front desk and staff spoke good English, and I enjoyed conversations with waitresses and waiters who exhibited excellent conversational English. When I asked about a specific brand of coffee that was served in The Med, the waitress soon presented me with a handwritten note that had the name and telephone number of the distributor in case I wanted to purchase some to take back to the U.S. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Misses: Encountered a problem upon checkout over an automated charge for Internet usage and an incorrect charge to my room from the bar, but both were quickly resolved.

Plugging In: Wireless capability in the lounge and The Med, and cable-modem connection in each room. Laptops are available for rent for a daily fee, or leave the laptop at home and use the Internet Cafe located across the street. The Business Center is equipped with all telecommunication needs for the single businessman to corporate functions and conventions.

Be Aware: Be sure to specify a non-smoking room for your smoke-free clients as the smoking rooms are often overpowering from the heavy use of European and Asian tobacco products.

Clientele: Capable of handling elite business clientele or tourists who want convenience, luxury and safety in the heart of downtown Bangkok. Don’t expect to find bare-footed trekkers or backpackers here. The hotel gatekeepers keep a watchful eye out for “questionable” traffic.

Rates: On average, deluxe rooms run $129-$180 and $160-$210 for executive rooms. These prices include breakfast and a variety of other amenities worth investigating.

Commission: 10 percent

Westin Grande Sukhumvit

WEB EXCLUSIVE: The Grinch Test

Being the eternal skeptic of travel perfectitude, I became a grinch in the land of smiles. I live in Alaska because I like the cold. It was 98 degrees outside The Westin front lobby. I thought about disliking the people who smiled because they seemed to enjoy the heat. And I had 10 days to put the hotel staff through the client-from-hell tests. I never made it.

I asked the doorman as well as the maid detailed questions about destinations, often acting confused and second guessing them. This hard interaction caused them to become even more friendly and eager to please. Their response was charming as they eagerly opened doors, operated elevators, seated me in my favorite view table in the restaurant and kept my room meticulous, trying to alleviate my discomfort. I even had two fruit plates delivered to my room in one day.

They embraced responsibility for my discomfort, and incessantly kept trying to improve my condition. While waiting for a taxi, I observed them interacting with three rude and obnoxious businessmen, and was disappointed. I thought they were offering me above average treatment because of my discomfort. As I observed, the employees treat everyone with the same gracious smile and service, even when confronted by truly rude guests. I smiled, knowing they had passed the test.

Of course, the staff couldn’t quite figure out how I was able to adapt so quickly to the heat but were nevertheless delighted and greeted me by name for the duration of my stay. C.B.



While in Bangkok, I like to indulge in the local fruits, snacks and stock up on a few toiletry articles I prefer over American brands. And less than 50 yards from the Westin is Robinson Department Store, with a full-size grocery, food court, liquor store and bakery at the basement level, and all at Thai prices.

The lobby entrance is 30 yards from Sukhumvit Road. Have hotel staff catch you a cab. The street vendors along Sukhumvit attract tourists of all types. Do your shopping early, return to the hotel to drop off your goods, and continue shopping.