Susanne (Sue) Ultmann
Sue Ultmann, loves her job as Executive Assistant Manager and Director, Marketing Communications at Kalim Beach’s iconic Baan Rim Pa Group and she is also passionate about her favourite charity, Phuket Has Been Good to Us Foundation.
Where are you from originally? Melbourne, Australian born, six generations. I have a small family, my brother, Rob lives in Mackay, my son, John, works with the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne, my 85-year-old father, Noel lives in Phuket and my husband Tom who is here in Phuket too.
What was your work background before you came to Phuket? I worked in advertising in television, radio and the print media, mainly linked to the hospitality and travel industries. I was associate publisher of Travel Week at the time it became Australia’s No 1. Travel Industry newspaper. It was owned by Peter Isaacson, one of Australia’s media icons. Because of the opportunities he gave me to travel, which few women were given in those days, I’m living in Asia today. He was my mentor. He turned 90 last year and I attended his party.
Did you travel much before you finally came to Phuket? For many years I travelled, mainly around the South Pacific and Asia, selling advertising for Travel Week Australia. Then I met my second husband, Tom Ultmann who was a hotel GM in Australia. He wanted to work in Asia and I said I’d go anywhere, but with two stipulations: firstly, that there was an airport and, secondly, that I was not shot at.
So when did you arrive on Phuket? Tom opened a hotel Koh Samui in 1992, and I continued working for Travel Week Australia. Then we worked in Malaysia, Philippines and came to Phuket in 1998 for three months. We established Phuket as a base, Tom returned to Manila in 2000 to do a second contract and I worked in Bangkok launching The BigChilli magazine, but we kept a house in Phuket.
When did you join Baan Rim Pa Group (BRP) In 2001, Bruce Stanley, a freelance writer, introduced me to Tom McNamara, the late founder of the group. He needed someone to sort out his advertising. I was initially not interested as I didn’t think Tom and I would get on. Eventually I agreed to a maximum of three months. We did have our ups and downs. But the job grew and I stayed. It’s now 10 years.
What changes in the business have you seen in the last 10 years? There’s always a change in the type of tourists, but business doesn’t change much. BRP started 21 years ago so it was already an icon when I joined. Our main business comes from tourists, groups and weddings. The other two restaurants in the group are Da Maurizio (started 17 years ago) and Joe’s Downstairs (six years ago). They’re wonderful restaurants and I’m proud to be a part of them.
Where do you live and why did you choose to live there? We’ve always lived in the Rawai / Nai Harn area and bought a villa there seven years ago. It’s our favourite part of the island.
What sort of car do you drive? A white Honda CRV. I love it. It’s my baby.
What do you like most about living on Phuket? Most things! Weather, food, the lifestyle and the multi-cultural society. I enjoy staying fit and go to the gym regularly; four years ago I started running and will run again in Laguna’s ¼ Marathon in June. Not that I’m a good runner – I’m not, I just do it for fun.
What are the most frustrating things about living on Phuket? The traffic, people complaining in general but specifically about immigration. I’ve never had a problem with them, in fact quite the opposite. If you treat them with respect you get it back.
What do you think the future holds for you? At this stage we’re not thinking of moving anywhere, although I can’t predict the future.
How would you evaluate success? Being successful in life is more important than work. I’ve always enjoyed working and am fortunate enough to say I’ve always had jobs that I liked, so I guess that’s successful. I have a wonderful husband, a small but close family, good friends and a really good life on Phuket.
What do you do with your free time? I enjoy walking on Nai Harn Beach in the morning with my husband and our Doberman “Shatzi”, working with my personal trainer, dining out or just staying at home. We lead a pretty casual life.
Are you involved in any local charities, clubs or associations? Phuket Has Been Good to Us Foundation is a passion of mine. Started by my late boss Tom McNamara after the tsunami, it teaches quality English language to more than 700 under privileged Thai children in the Kalim and Kamala Kings schools. The aim is to give these children better opportunities in the future. We also run an after-school and weekend programme called “Coconut Club” for 150 of these children who live permanently at the Kamala school. They enjoy activities such as swimming, surfing, arts and crafts, special outings and we also have birthday parties for all these children on a monthly basis. The foundation is totally run by fundraising.
For more information contact:
Baan Rim Pa Group
Tel: +66 (0) 76 340789 or visit: www.baanrimpa.com