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CityNews in Citylife

Rumours have been circulating for some time about what is going to happen to the old Amari Rincome at the corner of Nimmanhaemin and Huay Kaew roads. For forty years the Rincome was one of the most beloved Chiang Mai hotels and a city landmark – never pretty, but a landmark nonetheless.

Times have changed and even old Rincome has to change with them.

Marc Dumur, Honorary Swiss Consul and former GM of the Amari Rincome Hotel, delineated to CityNews the history of that important corner on a Chiang Mai intersection.

“The land and the buildings belong to the Nimmanhaeminda family, in fact the entire road belongs to the family,” explained Dumur. “The Rincome hotel opened back in January 1969 but before that, in ’67, the soi 1 apartments were built and rented out (so successfully over the years that there was a waiting list of years for the past few decades). The family then put in a pool, coffee shop and more apartments. They then got a bigger loan and built the lower part of the building, and the official opening of the Rincome Hotel was in 1969. Brothers and sisters Kraisri and Chaemchit Nimmanhaeminda managed it all in those days.

In ’72 ItalThai, a construction firm, was hired by Kraisri to add to the building to turn it into a then-world-class hotel. ItalThai already owned Nipa Lodge in Pattaya which they possessed as a payment default, and so Kraisri asked them whether they would be interested in managing the Rincome hotel. It was agreed that ItalThai, instead of getting paid for construction, would become co-owners of the project and be awarded a management contract for 25 years. When the contract ended in ’97, it was renegotiated for a further 15 years.

Dumur explained that the dated hotel was very expensive to run; the electricity bill came to 6-700,000 baht a month, while oil for the hot water was another 3-400,000 baht. A generational change at ItalThai a decade ago brought in a new board of execs as well as a rebrand, to Onyx. While the contract between ItalThai-Amari-Onyx ends this year, last May the Chiang Mai stalwart, a hotel that has seen everything, closed for good a year earlier than contractual obligations, the Nimmanhaeminda family will be compensated until the end of the contract. The hotel was considered dated and a sore in the corporate eye.

Initially Onyx was interested in signing a new contract, but, “it takes 15-20 years to see a return in investment for a hotel, whereas a retail outlet sees a return in 5-10 years,” said Dumur. “Chiang Mai has too many hotels now and Onyx wanted to go the retail route.” The Nimmanhaeminda family initially rejected the shopping mall idea, wanting to continue to run the iconic Rincome hotel, but failed to find investors.

Negotiations broke down and Onyx is now out. The 12 rai of land of the Nimmanhaeminda family is hugely valuable with current estimates at 50 million baht a rai. Not yet willing to sell their land, they have recently signed an agreement with MBK (Ma Boon Krong) shopping mall in Bangkok to build a retail shopping mall and construction will commence in January 2013. The city will reclaim some of the land of the property and the spirit house will be no more.