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COVER STORY: PUT YOUR PEOPLE FIRST! A conversation with Maurice Cook, General Manager, Radisson Tianjin
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A conversation with Maurice Cook

General Manager, Radisson Tianjin

By Eric Reid

1 Maurice Cook cover page photoMaurice Cook has been a General Manager in the hospitality industry for the last 24 years, including 15 years in China, where he has opened 5 hotels. He has recently returned to Tianjin to lead the rebranding of the former Tiancheng hotel into Radisson Tianjin Hotel.

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group is one of the world's largest hotel companies with 1,400 locations spanning 115 countries. Their portfolio includes brands such as Quorvus Collection, Radisson BluUntitled, RadissonUntitled, Radisson RED, Park PlazaUntitled, Park InnUntitledand Suites by CarlsonSM. Carlson Rezidor employs 90,000 people worldwide and is headquartered in Minneapolis, Singapore and Brussels.

3 Radisson Tianjin hotel facade
You've recently come back to Tianjin after having stayed away for 2 years. What made you want to return here? What do you see as Tianjin's most desirable qualities as a tourist destination?

The main reason for coming back was the persistence of hotel owners wanting me; it's always nice to be invited back by ownership!

However I'm also quite taken by Tianjin with its striking European style architecture and many grand buildings and mansions. Places such as Italian Town and Five Avenues epitomize this architecture in addition to ancient temples and culture streets.

2 Management teamLeft to right: Charles Ren - Executive Chef / Benny Yuan - Food & Beverage Manager / Linda Liu - Asst. Ex. Housekeeper / Allan Liu - Front Office Manager / Vivian Cui - Human Resources Manager / Zhang Bao - Deputy General Manager / Maurice Cook - General Manager / Colleen Guo - Financial Controller / Adam Ren - Chief Engineer / Diana Zhang - Director of Sales / Li Bo Ru - Chairman Labor Union / Saya Zhai - Public Relations Manager

Could you tell us something about the special facilities at the Radisson Tianjin?

The Radisson Tianjin is one of the oldest hotel properties in Tianjin, having opened its doors in 2008 when Tianjin was just beginning to develop its economy. The hotel's striking architecture and close proximity to the main railway station makes it one of the preferred hotels to stay in the city. The hotel features 270 guest rooms, an all-day dining restaurant, Chinese restaurant, Japanese restaurant, bar, fitness centre, swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi, steam bath, full service Spa and extensive banquet and conference facilities and seven other private meeting rooms.

4 Hotel LobbyWhat are your main goals for the Radisson Tianjin in the coming year?

The hotel was de-flagged back in 2015 and was run by owners using their company name "Tiancheng." The hotel was once again re-branded as Radisson in January this year.

My task for this year is to reinstate all brand standards of operations and market the hotel as a Radisson. We will market the hotel by spreading news that the hotel is once again an international branded property. I would like to see the hotel develop in its wedding business after the addition of second ballroom on the 2nd floor.

5 Grand BallroomHow do you think your experience in China and your previous work here have prepared you for your current work at the Radisson Tianjin?

What I love about working in China is the charming and gracious hospitality of the people. The key to hospitality industry is having the right people, not necessarily the most qualified. It's important to hire people who have a passion for what they are doing. However it is sometimes difficult to find passionate people with a good grasp of English.

With these many luxury hotels in Tianjin, how do you find a competitive advantage? What do you think the level of demand in Tianjin is?

The Tianjin market is over saturated with luxury brands that are unable to yield high room rates, which drives down room prices. Average year-round occupancies in hotels are around the 55%-60% mark with average room rates hovering around RMB 500-600. This year, Tianjin will add another 3,000 rooms mostly out-of-town. The supply of rooms in Tianjin presently exceeds demand.

6 King BedroomFor anyone who doesn't know much about the hospitality industry, what would you tell them? What sort of industry is it and who should consider a career in hospitality?

If you are not a "people person" and don't like being on your feet for long hours, then the hospitality industry is not for you! If you want to make it big in the industry, you'd better start focusing on a hospitality degree right after high school. In hospitality industry, you have to start from the bottom and work your way up. I was 17 when I started working as a bus-boy. It took me 19 years to become a General Manager. Today there's more of an emphasis on the hospitality degree. Hospitality industry can be both rewarding and challenging; there is pressure to aim for 100% customer satisfaction, but wages and benefits can also be quite good.

hl cover 01Could you comment on the Chinese hospitality industry? What makes China different from other places you've worked?

Hospitality industry in China is one of the largest in the world! This increased demand has led to lack of qualified labor. In addition, the one-child policy has led to lack of people who want to do menial jobs such as waiters, room attendants, etc. In the early 80's when international branded hotels made their first foray into China, management was mostly by expatriates. Today due to declining profitability margins and owner demands, hotels run with minimum expatriates. This has created a big demand for local managers with skills. Job-hopping is rampant, and makes it very challenging for the industry to try and maintain the required standards expected from the brand by international travelers.

7 Purple BarWith the rise of services like Airbnb and the so-called "Sharing Economy", what do you think the outlook for the hospitality industry is? What do you see as the next frontier in the Chinese hospitality industry?

Airbnb depends on loyalty and advocacy of its hosts. Users of Airbnb are generally not users of hotel rooms. Consumers are looking for the best available deals in a particular hotel. Wholesalers use this to control the market. It is too hard to control this manipulation in a city like Tianjin that has a glut of rooms with a lower yield and we must take lower room rate than our published rates to fill up rooms and increase RevPAR (Revenue per Available Room).

In my opinion, the next frontier in China is the evolution of apps that link consumers directly to comparable hotels at the lowest actual rate. This is similar to the shared economy concept and the hotel avoids third-party booking fees. This would be saving 10-20% of the room rate going out and cover up for the lower rate. Today, we do not use "rack rates" and rather we call them "daily rates" or "best available rates" which are monitored and set daily based on competitor rate fluctuations.

8 Swimming PoolWhat do you think is the secret to keeping a hotel well managed? What qualities are necessary to become a successful General Manager?

I always tell staff that I put them first and the guests second, which is usually quite amazing to them. If staff is happy, our guests will be happy and that's our ultimate goal, 100% customer satisfaction! I also have a first name policy, no Mr., Sir or Boss. All employees have an equal role in customer satisfaction; therefore all employees should have direct access to me. I highly value employee's feedback and observations. My job as a GM is to respect, support and develop employees while being a good role model and making tough decisions.

9 Chinese RestaurantCould you please mention which activities and events are being planned this year at the Radisson Hotel Tianjin?

The rebranding process is still underway, including the re-marketing of the hotel, which will commence in April and include media events at the hotel. As part of rebranding, we're making over the F&B services with a new daily buffet, new menu cards and renovated private dining rooms. Our Purple Bar and Executive Lounge are also being renovated and refurbished.

For more information about Radisson Tianjin Hotel, visit www.radisson.com/hotel-tianjin

Radisson Tianjin
66 Xinkai Road, Hedong District, Tianjin 300011, China
Tel: +86 22 2457 8888
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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