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People The World Is His Oyster: Meet Dr James Mabey

The World Is His Oyster: Meet Dr James Mabey

The World Is His Oyster: Meet Dr James Mabey
By Pichaya Petrachaianan
November 06, 2020
Arriving at a townhouse address with a classic Defender parked out front, Tatler Thailand meets with the managing director Middle East and Asia of Standard Hotels to find out why he calls this country home.

When we ask him Dr James Mabey about himself, he lists out just a few of the roles that keep him occupied—pilot, skydiver, professor, board member, hotel manager and developer, yachtsman and even an amateur cage fighter.

"Anything going into the sky, I want to be piloting it, or jumping out of it," he jokes.

Evident from the vehicle parked at the entrance of his cosy abode in Sukhumvit, James has a passion for vintage automobiles, specifically the Land Rover Defender. “What does Queen (Elisabeth) drive, as well as the Late King Rama IX, Winston Churchill and Marilyn Monroe? The Defender. It’s classic, a beautiful machine and timeless,” James explains. Similarly, while licensed to fly the most modern aircraft, he prefers vintage planes “where you still feel the air around you." You can find him on the weekends in Pattaya flying acrobatic and bush planes, his latest passions.

James posing with his newly restored 1965 Series II land rover..

While the 39-year-old invests impressively in his lifestyle and leisure, his work takes centre stage. He demands excellence in delivering on business objectives at all times. “I am quite laid back generally but when it comes to business, I need results,” James quickly explains before jumping on a short international zoom meeting. As a multipotentialite, he switches between several hats including a hotel developer with 87 projects under his belt, a professor of practice of Hotel Development and Strategy at Hong Kong Polytechnic’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management, and chairman of the SEA Angels Chapter of YPO (Young Presidents' Organisation). YPO is a premier global leadership organisation with more than 27,000 chief executives in over 130 countries whose companies generate 9 trillion USD in annual revenues. 

It’s really an honour to serve as a leader in my chapter, where we believe the world and society can be a better place through the development of better leaders.


His outstanding career path in the world of hospitality and real estate can very well be credited to his diligent nature as well as his jetsetter lifestyle. Having spent years in places like Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai, he is largely settled now in Thailand. “I’ve lived in Thailand more than anywhere else in the last 20 years. I’ve done projects in Phuket, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Samui, Phangnga, all over and also went to school here. I did my first masters degree in hospitality here before my doctorate in Hong Kong." His experience in the different countries has given him an in-depth understanding of the different local cultures and languages including Spanish, Mandarin, Laotian and, of course, Thai. “I usually speak to my team in Thai,” says the globetrotter. “It gets the message through better, without the language barrier, and more importantly shows respect for the local culture,” he explains. 

Dr Mabey navigating his classic 1973 Citabria 7GCAA
Dr Mabey navigating his classic 1973 Citabria 7GCAA

He loves working on active wellness and niche destination projects including a social retreat in Ubud Bali and exclusive surf resorts in Indonesia. And while the whole process of property development and management may require a melange of specialists, James easily navigates the whole ecosystem. “A while ago, I was looking for a hanger, a place to park some planes in the US and stumbled across a huge ranch with a landing strip along the Colorado River,” he says. “I thought the land would perfect for a barefoot luxury resort project,” and so it has become.


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