I attended the 2017 edition of the ILTM Conference in Cannes. Over the course of the program, I sought out numerous hoteliers and hospitality experts to discover the latest emerging themes and challenges in the luxury hotel industry.
During the conference, I was eager to discover how different brands chose to approach the issue of digital technology. Below you will find my interview on the subject with Michael Golden, General Manager at the Park Hyatt Bangkok in Thailand.
How do you define the art of welcoming at Park Hyatt Bangkok?
In Bangkok, our concept is that the hotel is your home away from home. Therefore, the goal is to greet guests the way you would if you were welcoming family or friends into your own home. Due to the layout of the hotel and the arrival areas, we’re able to create a very warm and friendly welcome from the driveway. For most of our guests, if we know when they’re coming in or if they’re coming by limo, etc., we do an in-room check-in. What we also like our team to do as they move through the hotel doing their check-in is introduce the guest to key people within the hotel, such as the concierge or myself if I’m in the lobby. We do this so that when these people go off around the hotel, they’ve already met some of the team, so they feel like they’re part of the family.
Once we get them up to their rooms for the formal side of the check-in, it’s a matter of doing that as quickly as possible so that we can get out of the way and let them relax whether that’s around wine or by providing a nice Thai-style welcome drink or amenity, but it’s just to say, “Your home. Get settled. Relax. We’re here if you need us. Go ahead and let us know how we can help.” It’s about getting them in, getting them settled, and creating peace of mind for them as quickly as possible so that they can start to enjoy the facilities. It’s also about trying to keep the formality of that arrival and check-in to the bare minimum to enhance the whole experience. The hotel has amazing architecture, interior design, and art, so even when you’re taking someone through to their room, there’s so much to take in ad so much to look at, so we have to speak as little as possible, actually, to allow people to absorb their environment and what is around them. It’s a very typically Thai, soft, warm welcome inviting someone into the home.
What is your most challenging issue today as a General Manager?
Based on allocation in Southeast Asia, Thailand is actually growing as a luxury destination, so you have a lot of options now for luxury travel. You need to be able to deliver that experience across the board, whether that’s local transportation or other things, so if you want to create those experiences, you need a team who understands that and what a luxury experience is. You need an infrastructure to also help you. In our part of the world, that’s not easy. You need the right people and they need a lot of training. You need government support to help develop that infrastructure and build those luxury experiences as well. That’s coming. At the end of the day, we’re a people business and finding the right people is probably still the biggest challenge. It’s a common challenge.
Especially in that part of the world, people are still expecting a very high headcount style of service. It’s difficult to find the people who can deliver that. You can spend so much time and effort in the training, but the turnover is quite high. Teams that have been trained quite well in hotels like ours are an easy target. If you run a bank or anywhere like that, the first place you go to get your teams is the hotel. You’re constantly competing with these external factors to keep your teams. And with the younger generation, they don’t sit in the roles as long as they used to, so now they want to bounce either jobs or positions or different challenges. It’s getting harder and harder. Work-life balance is hard. The days of expecting people to work 16-18 hours a day in hotels—nobody wants to do that in hotels anymore. That’s all changing now, too, so you have to balance that out. We’re also very business-oriented now, so you have to provide a bottle of wine as well.
Known for his international expertise on luxury hotels through his magazine, Laurent Delporte shares his vision and experiences in the world of hotels on his site DELPORTE Hospitality. He decodes the behind-the-scenes action in the sector: from food and beverage facilities, accommodations, architecture, to the quality of services. He offers interviews, advice, and articles as pragmatic resources that industry professionals and private individuals can refer to in their search for information.