Personal Profile: Emma Johnson from Overseas Property Portfolio (OPP)

Welcome to Samui Phangan Real Estate Magazines personal profile Emma. You’ve been a long-term Ex Pat on Samui and friend through the magazine for a long time. You’ve seen many changes on Samui and I’m sure our readers will be interested in getting to know a little more about you. Let’s start right here.

When did you first visit Koh Samui and when did you permanently move here?
I’d never actually been to Thailand before. I was a Sales Director of a property company in Europe and I suggested we should branch out to Thailand as the owner spent time here and looking to retire but still have some business interests. Within a few months of arriving in Thailand, our business relationship fell apart as we wanted different things from living here, so I set up shop on my own. I landed in Phuket on 1st April 2008.

Now, I happen to know that when you moved here you had concrete plans about what you wanted to do?
That’s correct, the plan was always to set up a real estate company. I’d been headhunted on several occasions in Europe to do so, so I thought, why not for myself! At first I didn’t know where I wanted to be located so I visited key locations and spent time there and the options were: Phuket – too commercial and similar to where I’d previously come from (Spain), Bangkok – great for weekends but I’ve already done City life (London), Pattaya – just not my cup of tea! Then there was Samui. As I came into land on the propeller plane (not jet planes between Phuket and Samui then), I just knew Samui was for me. The next day I flew back to Phuket, packed my bags and moved to Samui the same day, this was May 2008. My key purpose for moving here was to assist foreigners in the buying process and provide them with advice on the Samui property market. Buying and selling property overseas and as a second home in the sun is a very different purchase than a residential one.

Why did you consider that to be a good prospect for business?
Samui was the most undeveloped “sea side” location I’d visited. If Samui doesn’t have it then it will come…eventually, that’s a key area of growth. There’s also nowhere else in Asia like Samui that attracts people from all walks of life, all corners of the World, all budgets and it has its own special charm. I saw the potential and that was the immediate draw.

Is Samui becoming too built up?
We need growth whether it be a city, town, country or island. Without growth, we don’t move forward. Many feel Samui has changed, of course it has but we need growth to sustain ourselves by means of tourism and businesses. Driving through the middle of the island with its unspoilt tropical green jungle, bumbling around the sleepy roads of the South, just shows that there are many unspoilt areas to choose from, over and above the bustling North East.

Tell us a little bit about your business now?
Well, my business is one that I’m proud of and work hard for and I don’t do it on my own either, I have a great team. Times are not always easy here as buying a second property in an uncertain World economy is not at the top of most buyers list, but that charm Samui offers does bring buyers. I’m always thinking and acting outside of the box, cliché I know but it’s true!

Having worked together with you I know your quite the powerhouse and workaholic! But what do you do in your spare time to relax?
Haha, I learnt from the best…my parents! They had me working in their company over all school holidays from the age of 15. I continue to thank them for that they did as it’s created me in to who I am today. Spending time with friends and family on and off island are important to me and when I do get a day all to myself, I’ll hit the beach and definitely a massage!

Samui has grown from the quiet tropical island we both knew into quite an international metropolis, what benefits does this offer for your clients?
More flights from both Domestic and International have helped a lot, we are an easy weekend destination for those living in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and more recently China! These are all countries with big cities so both tourists and buyers love to come to Samui as it’s much more laid back, easy going and cleaner air. They like the simple life and that’s what Samui should offer. Samui hasn’t really changed, it’s just expanded, better shopping including imported foods and drinks, more restaurants to choose from with varied cuisines, more hotels and high end one’s, attracting a higher end of clientele. Infrastructure always plays a part too. While clients like the laid-back feel here they do get used to some of their creature comforts back home and there’s now more stability with the electric, the water supply which is in planning to install an underwater pipeline from the mainland to Samui, the road improvements and drainage, that is continuously being upgraded.

How do you think Samui compares to other major destinations like Phuket for example?
I don’t think you can compare Phuket and Samui, they are so very different. It’s hard to compare Samui to anywhere else, it’s unique!

Where is your favourite place on Samui?
Oh gosh, that’s a hard question, I have different places for different reasons. I’ll have to go generic on this one and say the beach!

Where do you see Samui heading in the future?
I wish I had a crystal ball, but if Samui continues to grow slowly and patiently, I believe there are some great things to come. The Ritz-Carlton and the second Sala Samui are about to open their doors, the signs have just gone up for a Holiday Inn Express in 2020 next to the Wharf, the continued talks of a marina for the island and the expansion for cruise ship tourism, are just a few highlights to a small island.

Your friends are flying in to Samui for the first and you’re taking them out for dinner, where do you go and what do you order?
It must be Thai…of course! Starfish and Coffee in Fisherman’s Village. This is one of the first restaurants I was introduced to and is consistently good. The food and the setting settles anyone into island life and introduces my friends to real Thai food. I normally order prawns wrapped round lemongrass, wing bean salad, calamari and spring rolls. Next, it’s always a deep-fried fish with chunks of fish just falling off the bone, king prawns in tamarind sauce, a red or green chicken curry and the amazing blue crab meat yellow curry powder, rice and vegetables. Based on the first night, Starfish and Coffee are always the last night’s choice of restaurant by my friends too.