The Sofitel Magic Lagoon, the luxury resort on the Khao Lak beach symbolic of the massive destruction wrought by the tsunami, is being resurrected in style.
Having been left in disrepair since the waves struck the 79-room property, the resort is on course for reconstruction that could start as early as next month.
Breaking his silence on what would happen to the landmark in Phangnga’s Khoa Lak area, owner Zenyel Atmacan expressed confidence that the hotel would be back on its feet in 12 to 15 months.
“we’re going to open the property at the end of February 2007 at the soonest or May or June at the latest,” the Turkish-German businessman said.
Reduced to little more than a shell by the 2004 wave, the hotel would re-emerge in “much nicer” from to become the “most luxurious and fantastic resort,” he vowed.
The property is among the luxurious resorts in Khao Lak, the hardest hit tourist insurance compensation process, construction time and the anticipation that tourists would take a few years to return to the area in pre-tsunami numbers.
However, a few deluxe hotels that also suffered extensive damage, such as Le Meridien Khao Lak Beach and Spa Resort and La Flora, have been reopened.
Mr Atmacan., who has been involved in the travel business for 19 years, said the cost of the reconstruction would depend on the result of bids by contractors, but would exceed one billion baht.
Banks have approved loans for rebuilding, and the main damage claim of 850 million baht was paid by the local branch of UK-based Aviva Insurance to Magic Lagoon Co, which owns the hotel.
Pending are the environmental impact assessment (EIA) study, development Licence, design drawing and a business interruption insurance claim that has yet to be settled with Aviva.
But Mr Atmacan is optimistic that those factors should not deter the start of reconstruction. “We have enough budgets to bring this property back to life again.”
The property will continue to be run by Accord, one of the world’s largest hotels groups, and is likely to renamed simply Sofitel Khao Lak, rather than Sofitel Megic Lagoon, according to Mr Atmancan.
He did not say how many rooms the rebuilt hotel would offer, though he said 30-40 villas were planned eventually.
Landscaping by a Harvard-trained Thai landscape expert would be a key feature in the new look, he said.
Magic Lagoon will continue to zero in on Europeans, particularly Germans, as its clientele, as it did in the past.
Mr Atmacan said many European tour operators shared his opinion that Khoa Lak should be able to fully recover by the 2007 high season which starts in November.
Many European tour operators are now putting Khao Lak back into their sales brochures since many closed Khao Lak resorts aim to reopen by then.