Apex Development's Pongphan Sampawakoop's On Building Meaningful Properties
If you ask veteran real estate developer Pongphan Sampawakoop how he became involved in the industry, he’ll tell you it was the result of a sideways step from his intended career in law. The chairman and CEO of Apex Development graduated in law at Thammasat University and first went to work at his father’s legal firm. “When I joined I worked mostly on cases related to housing and urban development,” he says. “It interested me and that’s why I decided to pursue a master’s degree in law at the University of Missouri in the US focusing on the legal side of urban affairs.”
Following his return to Thailand, in 1975 Pongphan built one of the first townhouse projects in central Bangkok at Soi Langsuan. It was the start of a 40-year career during which he has held prestigious positions in the urban development sector, including the presidency of the Thailand Condominium Association and a directorship of the National Housing Authority. In addition, a number of his projects down the years have won real estate industry awards.
Pongphan says that when considering a project, he tries to identify what the area is missing and then looks to plug the gap. “I am always looking for suitable locations to build branded residences, hotels and homes. It’s a real challenge because so many areas are already densely saturated—city centres and tourism hot spots. We need to be creative in order to stand out and we need to enhance value for customers.”
In addition to the mixed-use Mövenpick Siam Hotel at Na Jomtien, the company has worked to promote lesser-known locations and put them on the map. “With the Sheraton Ao Po Phuket project, for example, it was like putting on a fireworks display—it attracted a great deal of attention and helped to promote local and international tourism to the area.”
Of the view that Phuket in particular has become particularly saturated with an overabundance of hotels and resorts, Pongphan has turned his experienced eye elsewhere. “My current interest is in Krabi, which remains relatively untouched and has room for growth as a tourist destination. It’s a very interesting location because it has so many attractive and charming characteristics, from beautiful islands to its various mountain ranges and national parks,” he says.
Being an investor means being able to see growth patterns in an area and potential where others don’t. In Krabi, Pongphan has focused his attention on an area of Hat Yao, or Long Beach, an untouched stretch of coast about a half-hour drive from Krabi’s international airport. It is set to become the location for a hotel and residences project built in partnership with Club Med.
There are also plans for another collaboration with Sheraton in the area. In order to help promote the locations, Pongphan came up with a creative idea that made use of the Club Med project’s geography. “To put Yao beach on the map, we decided to host the Apex World Record Sailing Tournament there. Our overall plan is to promote Krabi as the Emerald of the Andaman,” he smiles.
The first large-scale sailing competition ever held in Krabi, the Apex World Record Sailing Tournament attracted the interest of local and international media alike and was aired across Asia by Fox Sports. When it comes to leisure, while Pongphan occasionally sails himself in his free time, he enjoys playing the guitar and singing. “I started playing the instrument when I was 15 but then lost the habit. It was only recently that I picked it up again. It helps me to relax.”
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