In Her Element: Profile of Karen Merrick

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A soft, lilting accent shared by Sean Connery and Gerald Butler place Karen Merrick in the highlands of Scotland not the tropical beaches of east coast Malaysia. “I was born near Inverness in the north of Scotland,” notes Karen, “where Glenmorangie whiskey is made. I don’t get much chance to drink single malt these days, though”.

Responsible for the 220-room Berjaya Redang Resort, Karen’s hands are always full. Her path to the shores of Redang Island had along it boutique hotels operated by the Mamaison group in Europe in roles involving opening properties, managing sales and marketing and managing property operations.

Later faced with a choice between the Maldives, Johannesburg and Doha, Karen chose to help rebuild 144-room White Sands Resort at the Maldives, which had been damaged by the tsunami. Her next job was on a small island occupying 0.6 kilometres and here she stayed for a year before heading off to manage a boutique hotel in Jakarta in Indonesia.

During this time she visited Malaysia where she met a group of people with a vision to make Redang a special experience for its guests. “Meeting Dato’ Robin and his father (of Berjaya Corporation Berhad), with their passion for diving and the eco-system around Redang and the CEO of Berjaya who had a keen vision for the property made is seem like fate was pushing me toward Malaysia.” Karen took up residence at the Berjaya Redang Resort in March 2008 as the General Manager. “The property is the second oldest on Redang and was looking to rediscover itself. My experiences around properties in Asia, the Middle East and Europe has given me something to embrace and address creatively.”

The plans for the property are exciting, as Karen looks to stay open through the traditional monsoon closure period of November to March. “Last year, we had beautiful sunshine throughout most of that time. The seas were a little rougher but with the airport bringing in guests, it isn’t such a problem.” Karen has her list of over 100 projects including adding more suites and family-designed rooms to the property and major renovations of the board room. “We re-built the dive center and made it more integral to the whole property. We did it by reusing things that existed around the resort rather than demolishing and starting again. It gives the place a nice sense of continuity.”

Keeping with the theme of enhancing the guest experience at Berjaya Redang Resort, Karen has introduced dinners .oating on a pontoon off-shore from the resort and a Robinson Crusoe-themed event where guests are deposited on a small, picturesque island with picnic lunch and a kayak. They are set free to explore for the day and return to meet a boat in the evening. “One group didn’t show up and we had to go looking for them – they were happily swimming and enjoying themselves and had completely lost track of time”.

Karen has settled well into Malaysia and is eager to explore. “My husband and I have both adapted extremely well,” Karen explains, even though she has a rosy glow from sunburn obtained that morning while leading a cleanup of the beach. “We love the food and the people in Malaysia. The tourism industry here has some catching up to do, especially with locations like Bali and the Maldives but the enthusiasm to make the “Malaysia Truly Asia” theme a reality is evident everywhere. We want to make this place more integrated with the natural surroundings while giving all kinds of visitors a truly unique experience”.

Karen has spent the last year placing the building blocks of her vision and integrating these into her team’s practices. During the next twelve months, she is looking to add a .ne dining restaurant overlooking the beach.

The ecology of the place is also on her list. “One evening, a guest was running towards me from the beach. At .rst, I thought he had had an accident but he dragged me down to see a leatherback turtle coming up the beach to lay it’s eggs. It was like watching a moving boulder,” Karen recalls. Turtles have become regular visitors to the beach and in the evenings snorkelers swim out to a patch of sea grass where the turtles come to feed. “We have had issues for the last eight years with the crown of thorns, which destroys the coral. For the last .ve years, Berjaya has sponsored events to clean up the reef and remove as many as possible.”

Clear water, plentiful wildlife, extravagant jungles all enhance this small island in the South China Sea. Karen Merrick has a vision for its future and seems well on the way to achieving her goals.


Source: The Expat November 2010 Issue

Get your free subscription and free delivery of The Expat Magazine.

This article has been edited for

"ExpatGo welcomes and encourages comments, input, and divergent opinions. However, we kindly request that you use suitable language in your comments, and refrain from any sort of personal attack, hate speech, or disparaging rhetoric. Comments not in line with this are subject to removal from the site. "


Click to comment

Most Popular

To Top