A BREAK FOR THE GOOD
Iniala Beach House in Thailand is a luxury resort that has created joy and beauty from personal tragedy
On September 11 2001, Mark Weingard phoned in late for a meeting at New York’s World Trade Center. He was told not to come in as a plane had hit one of the towers. In 2002, he opted out of a trip to Bali with his fiancée Annika Linden. She was in the Sari nightclub when a car bomb outside was detonated. She was among the 202 people killed.
Mark immediately resolved to give something back to a turbulent world that he had survived through pure good fortune. In memory of his late partner, he set up the Annika Linden Foundation, now known as Inspirasia Foundation, a grant-making foundation that works across four countries.
Come 2008, having moved to Thailand, Manchester-born Mark then decided to create a hotel. But this was no mere marketing plan. He had a vision, born of the same idealism that impelled his philanthropic ventures. “I decided that the work I would do wouldn’t focus purely on commerciality; I would try to make a difference in people’s lives,” says Mark. “I didn’t know much about hospitality at the time, I just enjoyed staying at hotels. However, I felt that a lot of hotels were similar in design and never truly represented anything special.”
The site of his own holiday home on Natai Beach near Phuket, Thailand would become the Iniala Beach House, a haven of luxurious tranquillity but one that would also serve a broader social purpose. In the words of William Blake, a “Heaven in Hell’s despite”.
Comprising three villas (each with three suites), a penthouse suite and two one-bedroom pool suites, Iniala Beach House is no bland, run-of-the-mill commercial complex but the combined work of 10 international designers ranging from Spain’s Jaime Hayon and Brazil’s Campana Brothers to Thailand’s own Eggarat Wongcharit. Their designs amount to an eclectic mixture, whether blending with the immediate environment or opting for more daring, modernist constructions. Yet, despite these high aesthetic standards, a high premium is placed on the comfort and convenience of guests, so much so that most guests choose not to leave the beach house at all during their stay.
Iniala draws deeply on Thailand’s extensive resources, its people, culture and cuisine. However, it also embraces international influences; chef Seumas specializes in Nordic and Scottish cuisine at the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, Pärla.
Although Phuket has become a clubber’s paradise, Iniala is set well apart from the urban centre, in a highly preserved area adjacent to both beach and jungle. Yet Iniala is in no sense sealed off from its surroundings. As well as helicopter trips for guests to explore the region and organized trips to local ceramics stores and markets, Iniala has built up a strong relationship with the local community, holding events such as activity days in which children and students from local orphanages and NGOs get to use the hotel’s luxury facilities, including its pool, while learning about the hospitality industry. Furthermore, Iniala donates 10 per cent of its room revenue to the Inspirasia Foundation.
“Nowadays, we spend most of our time at work, so our holiday time should fill us with happiness and make us feel special,” says Mark. “And that’s what Iniala is about – providing unique experiences, while giving back to society and the wider world.”