David Bradley & Gudrun Nienaber
In this interview, David Bradley (Australian) Serial Entrepreneur, Practical Projects Manager and his wife Gudrun Nienaber (German), the boss, tell the story of Sunset Valley and how the project came about in Langkawi.
What do you do?
We own and run Sunset Valley Holiday Houses, a stunning heritage resort located in the centre of the island paradise of Langkawi. We have also developed Sunset Villas, four beautiful Bali-style villas adjacent to Sunset Valley.
How did you get into the industry?
David has been involved in the hospitality industry for many years. He spent more than fifteen years leading Tag-Along 4WD tours all over Australia. (He met his wife on one of these adventures!). In 2011 this dynamic duo established a yacht charter business named Educat Sdn Bhd. This business was based in Langkawi for nearly five years using their own Lagoon 500 Catamaran called “Edu-Cat” and undertook charters incorporating destinations all the way from Langkawi to the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar.
Share with us a story from behind the scenes.
There is never enough room (space) on a yacht regardless of how big it is, so we decided to look for a land base in Langkawi. During this search, we discovered and purchased Sunset Valley in 2012, so for four years, we had a resort and a charter yacht business! We decided to sell our beautiful boat and focus on the resort in 2016. Edu-Cat is now known as SY Sankalpa and is based in Phuket.
What’s a travel memory that stands out?
We both loved the frequent relocation journeys to and from Langkawi and Phuket, sometimes with friends and family members, taking four or five days “island-hopping” the beautiful waters of the Andaman Sea.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
We both enjoyed high flying corporate careers, and since becoming unemployable, we love that “The buck stops here!”
What’s one of your favourite food and beverage pairings?
We both enjoy a cold Tiger after a hot day and have found that Tiger is the perfect pairing with anything! Seriously David loves a good Australian Shiraz with his tenderloin (rare), and Gudrun’s favourite tipple is a NZ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with a delicious smoked pomfret.
What’s one of the most outrageous things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
Many hilarious and outrageous things have happened during our fabulous time together on the yacht charters and, of course, in the resort but in the best interests of our guests, clients and ourselves, they must remain censored and private!
The perfect day off would be… a day out on a beautiful yacht with close friends sailing to nowhere with gourmet food and wine.
A day in the life of an entrepreneur is “always action-packed and exciting!”
What do you do for fun?
The same things we do for work!
What’s something you’d like guests to know about Sunset Valley Holiday Houses?
Sunset Valley holiday houses comprise six authentic Malay kampung houses, all discovered on Langkawi Island, purchased from their owners, dismantled and rebuilt on-site at Sunset Valley. All of our houses are self-contained and feature modern kitchens and bathrooms whilst retaining the original heritage design. So efficient is the design for the climate and location, air-conditioning is very rarely required, and the sounds of nature prevail.
How has the pandemic changed you, your perspective, or the way you operate?
Fortunately, both of us learned in our corporate careers to keep overheads to a minimum and to operate the business very professionally. We have had to cut costs to the bone to survive, but we have kept all of our staff on full pay right through 2021, so when tourists return, we will be ready for them!
What has been the most challenging part of reopening after the pandemic?
Poor communication about SOPs, the Langkawi bubble and how international travellers can return in safety.
What’s something you’d like people to know about being in hospitality as a profession?
Search for your unique selling proposition and promote your distinct positioning and advantages vis-à-vis your competitors and use those differences to attract and keep customers without constantly cutting prices! There is much more to successful marketing than a constant price war!