The managing director of Thai Odyssey on bouncing back after the lockdowns, international spa experiences and his idea of a perfect weekend.
Options: Congratulations on reopening Thai Odyssey to the public. Do you feel Malaysians really missed their regular massage and pampering sessions?
Din Tan: We received many enquiries about reopening during the lockdowns, and we did get many of our regulars back in our spas during the first two to three months of reopening. We are happy to welcome back our loyal customers as well as new patrons to our outlets. After being cooped up during the lockdowns, many people look forward to easing away their aches and pains through massage. We are thankful that the wellness industry can continue to operate after many months of closure.
Do you feel spa treatments are an integral component of a healthy lifestyle, particularly for Asians?
The main benefit of spa treatments and massages is to relax the muscles, which reduces body aches and pains and improves joint mobility and circulation. Even for physically active people, it is difficult to be completely free of any body aches/tension, especially since many of us do spend a lot of time in front of our computers and mobile devices. Other than physical benefits, treating yourself at the spa does give you mental refreshment; it is a much needed break from a busy lifestyle, during which our customers find solitude and relaxation.
Thai Odyssey is, I believe, the largest Thai massage chain in the country. How many outlets are there and what are your expansion plans looking like
We currently have over 40 outlets strategically located across Malaysia. It is our mission to bring a slice of Thai experience through our authentic Thai spa and massages to more people in Malaysia.
When was it established? Take us through a little of its beginnings here.
Thai Odyssey was established in 2004, at a time when there were very few spa operators with no clear industry leader. Hence, we thought it would be a good space to enter. Our first really successful outlet was at Tropicana Golf & Country Resort, a hit with clubhouse patrons and nearby residents. From there, we slowly expanded throughout the years, mainly opening in shopping malls for their high customer traffic. We are thankful for having a large group of loyal customers who have stayed with us all these years.
How did you navigate your company through the pandemic? What are your plans now that things are opening up?
We decided to prioritise the safety of both our employees and customers by focusing on getting our company fully vaccinated. We also followed the latest SOPs and adhered to the operation hours for the safety of our customers as well as employees. During the lockdown, we focused internally by improving our organisation’s efficiency while our therapists took on extensive training to improve their massage skills.
In appreciation of our customers’ continuous support, we recently launched our loyalty programme, where members can accumulate points to redeem additional rewards. This is our way of showing our appreciation to customers, and we want to give them extra value through this programme, which is also in tandem with our concerted efforts to innovate. The market is always changing. We aim to improve ourselves so that we keep customers excited to return to our spas.
What have been the most important lessons you have learnt from the pandemic?
The pandemic has changed the course of many of our lives. For businesses, it highlighted the importance of being able to react swiftly to a new market environment. We should not take economic stability for granted. As a brand, I am glad Thai Odyssey has been able to withstand the test of time. Building an efficient business model, a quality talent pool as well as an agile team are key to strengthening the resilience of our brand.
Has it changed you personally, or perhaps your leadership style?
Compassion is essential in a crisis. We continued to provide training for our therapists and focused on improving our organisation’s efficiency during the lockdowns.
Apart from Thai Odyssey, what have been some of your most memorable spa and wellness experiences around the world?
In Bangkok, visiting the large spa centres was quite an eye-opening experience. They operate in standalone buildings with multiple floors of treatment rooms. It feels like you are stepping into a four-star hotel, with a lobby full of receptionists waiting to arrange your massage session. In Japan, I visited an outdoor onsen during winter. It was a memorable experience, being in near-unbearably hot water while it gently snowed.
What is your personal wellness routine like?
I try to exercise once on weekends and twice on weekdays, with at least two 30-minute stretching sessions per week.
Where do you hope to travel to now that restrictions have eased and why?
Bangkok and Tokyo because I love the food there.
What are you reading right now?
I recently finished Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It takes us through the entire history of humankind with interesting views from the author.
What are you listening to right now?
Some of Coldplay’s earlier albums.
Describe a perfect weekend for you.
Cooking, exercising and spending time with my family, friends and my dogs.
This article first appeared on Dec 6, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.