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COVER STORY: A Hot Spring Oasis
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A Hot Spring Oasis

Dialogue with John Huang
General Manager, All-legend Hotel Business Division, Tiens Group

BT 201810 Cover story 01温泉绿洲
和黄约翰的对话
天狮集团奥蓝际德酒店事业部总经理

黄先生最近被任命为天狮集团奥蓝际德酒店事业部总经理,他的使命是在西方和中国积累丰富的经验,成功重新开幕酒店。

感谢您在您的酒店接待我们。你能介绍一下奥蓝颐泉度假酒店吗?

奥蓝颐泉度假于2015年开业,位于武清开发区的天狮国际健康产业园区。距城际火车站8公里,距天津国际机场45公里,距北京首都机场也不远。酒店占地面积60,000平方米,拥有800间优雅时尚的客房,设有酒吧,餐厅,拥有可容纳7000人的国际会议中心和3000人的宴会厅。除此之外,酒店的商务中心,精品店和生态花园,让它成为了商业活动的最佳选择。

你是如何开始职业生涯的?

我与其他酒店经营者有着截然不同的背景。大多数人从学校毕业时,他们从接待人员变为酒店工作人员。但我不是,我来自服务背景。在大学里,我的专业实际上是物理学。毕业后,我在桂林的一家电子学院工作了两年,但我的父母是大学英语教学的专业人士,所以我可能也受到他们的影响。与同龄的其他人相比,我的英语非常好。当我们有外国游客时,我为他们担任翻译,将他们带到酒店 。

是什么激发了你搬到加拿大?

我认为这是我在酒店业务中可以达到的最高水平。如果你不是来自海外,那你就无法获得更高的成绩。另一个原因是因为我想在国外体验生活。我在加拿大住了6年,也在酒店工作。我在前台工作,担任夜间审计员和房间服务员。在中国,我只有销售经验,但在加拿大,我在所有部门工作。这种经历拓宽了我的视野。

您在加拿大的经历中有哪些不同的酒店经营方法可以在中国实施?

加拿大与中国相比,劳动力成本要高得多。 例如,如果我们只有20个房间,在加拿大,我可以要求房间服务员只工作3个小时。在中国,法律体系不以这种方式支持这一点。人工成本是目前酒店的最高费用,公用事业反而是第二位。作为经理,我真的需要考虑如何控制这些领域的成本。

是什么让奥蓝际德酒店如此独特?

我们是天津少数几家拥有温泉的酒店之一,设有室内和室外温泉游泳池。我们还有非常庞大的会议设施。这对酒店来说很少见。我们不仅拥有这些一流的设施,而且我们的地理位置优越,因为它位于天津和北京的中心,因此可以吸引来自这两个城市的人们。 我们现在正在考虑建设更多的设施,如篮球区和迷你高尔夫球场。

可以告诉我们一些关于奥蓝际德酒店如何计划吸引和留住客人的活动吗?

现在我们正在考虑采用管家或贵宾服务。我们目前正在与一家外包公司交谈,该公司可以提供海外员工,可能来自菲律宾。

奥蓝际德酒店如何吸引大量人来天津参观?

会议和活动经常吸引我们的客户。今天我们可以达到酒店容量的70%,明天也许只有100间客房的住客。 9月初左右,我们通常会从印度,斯里兰卡和许多国际人士中获益。我们仍然拥有相同的500名员工,但我们也会在高峰时段召集其他兼职员工。

保持员工积极性的秘诀是什么?

我认为这不是一个秘密。 我们必须将每个人视为团队合作伙伴。我们必须互相尊重,良好地沟通,我个人需要激励我的员工。很多时候人们会抱怨工资太低而且收益不够好。如果你做得好,你会得到奖励。如果有机会,你会获得晋升机会。但是,我不能承诺工资变动或奖金。我能做的是我可以创建一个高效的工作部门。

您如何看待天津酒店业的未来?

在天津,几乎所有的知名品牌都已经在这里。未来唯一的事情是每个品牌都有自己独特的功能。酒店就是一家酒店,如果它没有什么不同,它就无法生存。我们都需要给客户一个选择他的理由。在加拿大,他们可能会开车30分钟找一家好餐馆,为什么在中国不会呢? 我以前在西安市中心的一家酒店工作,没有淡季。它全年运行70%。对于那些类型的酒店,我只需要控制费率,而不是流量。

你如何平衡自己的优势和劣势?

这是一个挑战。 改变习惯很困难。 我在国际酒店工作的时间很长,所以我非常习惯所有标准化的东西,比如复杂的物业管理系统。现在我只能最大限度地利用我可以获得的数据。

奥蓝际德酒店的下一步是什么?

我们需要做很多事情。我正在努力提高这家酒店的效率。我试图通过提供更好的服务标准让团队更快乐。 当然,对我来说这似乎不是一个很大的挑战,因为我有很多经验。我需要大家以团队的形式工作。 酒店有自己的标准,我们旨在更像国际酒店而不是当地酒店。

BT 201810 Cover story 03Having recently been appointed General Manager of All-legend Hotel Business Division, Tiens Group, Mr. Huang is on a mission to bring his extensive experience gained in both the West and in China to successfully undertake its re-launch. Previously having been tucked away in Wuqing District, Mr Huang is ready to share with us his ambitious plans to bring one of the only resorts providing hot springs in Tianjin into limelight.

Thanks for welcoming us to your hotel. Could you introduce us to All-legend Hot Spring Resort?

All-legend Hot Spring Resort opened in 2015 and is located in TIENS International Health Industrial Park, in Wuqing Development Zone. We are 8km away from the intercity railway station, which is 45km away from Tianjin International Airport and is also not too far from Beijing Capital Airport. This hotel has a huge area of 60,000m² boasting of 800 elegant and fashionable rooms with bars, a restaurant and not to mention an international conference centre that can accommodate 7000 guests and a banquet hall that can accommodate 3000 people. In addition, the hotel’s business centre, boutiques and ecological gardens ensure that it is the best choice for commercial activities.
BT 201810 Cover story 09How did you start your career?

I have a very different background from other hoteliers. Most people, when they graduate from school, enter the hotel staff through reception, but I didn’t. I came from serving staff. In university, my major was actually physics. After graduating, I worked in an electronics institute for 2 years in Guilin but my parents were professionals in the university teaching English so I was perhaps influenced by them. Compared to others of the same age, I could speak English quite well. When we had foreign visitors, I acted as an interpreter for them - taking them to the hotel and then picking them back up again. It gave me more opportunities to practise my English.

Working at the institute was a bit boring and so I decided to change my job to working in that very hotel, the Sheraton, in Guilin. I first approached them and I was invited to take an exam. Everyone had to have an exam to test their verbal and written English at that time. I never saw the score. They said I was the number 1 at that time but the institute I was working at said I couldn’t switch jobs. I couldn’t quit. I had to find other means. I worked in that hotel in Guilin for 3 years and then moved to Guanxi Holiday Inn, from there to the Harbin Holiday Inn and then on to the Hilton in Nanjing. After being involved in the opening of the Hilton, I found another opportunity in Guangxi in the Shangri-La as the director of sales and marketing. After that, I migrated to Canada.
BT 201810 Cover story 02What inspired your move to Canada?

At that time, there was a certain environment, and I thought that was the highest I could go in the hotel business. If you were not from overseas, you couldn’t get any higher at that time. Another reason is because I wanted to experience life in a foreign country. I lived in Canada for 6 years all of which I spent working in a hotel. I worked in that front office, as a night auditor and as a room attendant. That work was quite different from what I was used to in China. In China, I only had experience working in sales, but in Canada, I worked in all departments. This experience broadened my views and enabled me to adopt some of the methods I used there and bring them back here.

What different methods from your experience in Canada did you try and implement back here in China?

One example would be in Canada, the labour costs are a lot higher as compared to China. There’s no such thing as a CCTV room in Canada. This duty is performed by an operator. When you pick up the phone, you can still see the monitor. In China, this is all separate. I adopted this when I opened the Sheraton in Hangzhou, mainly to save labour. One of things I can’t change in China, however, is labour. You can’t pay per hour; you can only pay per month. In Canada, they are paid hourly. For instance, if we only have 20 occupied rooms, in Canada I can ask the room attendant to only work for 3 hours. In China, the law system doesn’t support this. Labour costs are the highest expenses in the hotel right now, utilities are second. As a manager, I really need to think about how to control these areas.
BT 201810 Cover story 04How do you manage to balance owners’ expectations with keeping the team motivated and still ensure customer satisfaction?

It’s all about managing expectations. Communication is the key. As a manager in a hotel, every owner has a different expectation. It all boils down to performance, whether you make money or not, save money or not. Most owners look at it from these perspectives. You have to balance performance, guest satisfaction, not just for the short term, but for the long term as well. If the guests are happy, the employees are happy, which means that they will come and work more efficiently.

Customer expectation is very challenging for the current industry right now because hotel turnover is extremely high as compared to other industries. People come and go. If I train employees, they might leave in 3 months. We are just constantly training our staff. That is difficult when aiming to maintain high customer satisfaction. Also we must take into account problems with HR. This is the root cause of the issue, as the hotel industry is developing too fast. There aren’t enough qualified people. Finding a graduate for a director role is not ideal as they don’t have the necessary experience.

How do you go about being able to keep a stable and well-trained team?

First give them clear direction on what they should be doing. Give them enough support. Sometimes as a manager, I’m sitting in the office and they won’t come to me, so I need to spend more time and go to them. Showing them that their boss is also their partner and their team member is what I learned in Canada. The western style is: I talk to everyone. When I was working as a room attendant in Canada, the general manager still spoke to me. The employees in the west are more casual. I try to create a similar culture whenever I open a hotel. I tell the staff that no one is a boss in the hotel. We are all the same. If we don’t perform well, if we don’t have good customer satisfaction scores, everyone is in trouble.

If the hotel has a very poor performance, that’s a management problem. Management includes me. This way of talking to four different directors for them to go off and have four different meetings really isn’t my style. I try to cut down the layers of communication and be more direct. I like to go down to the bottom and find out what really is an issue. In this way, I can help solve it myself.
BT 201810 Cover story 06What makes All-Legend Hotels so unique?

We are one of the few hotels in Tianjin with an indoor and outdoor hot spring swimming pool. We also have very huge conference facilities. That’s rare for a hotel. Not only do we have these great facilities, but our location is great as it’s in the middle of Tianjin and Beijing and so can attract people from both cities. We also cover a huge area. This gives us a great advantage when thinking about possible expansion. We’re thinking now of building more facilities, such as areas for basketball and mini-golf. We have a large compound here so we can do more activities as compared to other city hotels. That’s our most competitive advantage.

Tell us something about actions, events and activities planned by All-legend Hotel to attract and retain guests.

Right now we are thinking of adopting a butler or VIP service. We are currently talking with an outsourcing company that can provide staff from overseas, potentially from the Philippines. They are more specialised in housekeeping and rooms and they are very dedicated. I’m trying to form a team to provide a service from your arrival to your departure. Not only would they pick you up, but whenever you make a reservation, the butler does everything for you. He checks you in, arranges food and so on. All services become one person’s responsibility. There will be no need for different people to get involved.

How does All-legend Hotels attend to large numbers of people coming to visit Tianjin?

Our employees cope very well. The season varies a lot but conferences and events often attract our customers. Today we could be at 70% of the hotel’s capacity and tomorrow maybe only 100 rooms will be occupied. Around early September, we usually get a lot of international visitors from India, Sri Lanka and many from mainland China. We still have the same 500 staff, but we also call in other part time members of staff during peak times.
BT 201810 Cover story 08What is your secret to keeping your staff motivated?

I don’t think that is really a secret. As long as we do the basics right, everything else will fall into place. We must treat everyone as a team partner. We must respect each other, communicate well and I personally need to motivate my staff. A lot of the time people will complain that the salary is too low and the benefits aren’t good enough. If you do well, you get rewards. When there is a chance, you get a promotion. However, a General Manager can’t promise salary changes or bonuses. What I can do is I can create a productive work department. You get good results if you have good incentives. If you sell certain coupons, you get a 50 Yuan reward. We are running a business, so we cannot allow the hotel to be empty every day. Do more, sell more, and get more.

What do you think about the future of the hospitality industry in Tianjin?

In Tianjin, almost all of the well-known brands are already here. The only thing in future is that each brand will have its own unique features. A hotel is a hotel, if it’s not different, it can’t survive. They will all need to give the customer a reason to come. In Canada, they might drive 30 minutes to find a good restaurant, why not in China? It also depends on the whole economic situation. If the economic activity is poor, people won’t come. I previously worked in a hotel in downtown Xi’an that didn’t have a low season. It was running on 70% all year. For those kinds of hotels, I only need to control the rate, not the traffic. For All-legend Hotel, people may say it’s very remote and there’s nothing to do here. I can’t move this hotel to downtown Tianjin, so we have to enhance the atmosphere. We can’t die, we need to survive.

You are aware of the transformation of Tianjin over the past few years. Where do you think the city should focus to maintain its successful development spree?

For me, 10 years ago Tianjin was completely different to how it is now. There weren’t so many high buildings or shopping malls. Tianjin downtown was not at all developed. 10 years ago, Wuqing was nothing. Nowadays, Tianjin is more developed, but the culture is still the same. In the past, no one would go to a 5 star hotel and have afternoon tea or just stay for one night, but now this is very common. People of Tianjin just need time to change their mind-set. During holidays such as Spring Festival, those in southern China often go to hotels and book a private room to dine, but here it is very quiet. No one dines out or goes to a hotel. Tianjin should focus on incorporating culture, while trying to modernise at the same time. It would benefit greatly from more overseas exchanges with overseas cities as this city is still very conservative.
BT 201810 Cover story 07How do you balance your strengths and weaknesses?

That’s always a challenge. Changing habits is difficult. I have worked in international hotels too long so I’m very much used to everything being standardised, such as sophisticated property management systems. With local hotels, there’s virtually no system. Maximising how much data I can absorb is not a problem in international hotels, but here it is. My strengths working there are probably my weaknesses here.

What is next for All-legend Hotels?

We need to do a lot of things. I’m trying to make this hotel more efficient. I try to make the team happier by having better service standards. Of course, it would seem that that’s not a big challenge for me as I have a lot of experience, but that’s only on paper. I am really grounded. I need all the employees to work as a team. The hotel will have a standard with the aim of being more like an international hotel than a local hotel.
 

Thank you Mr Huang, for agreeing to interact with our magazine. You really have brought western teamwork ideals to China. Your down-to-earth comments on the challenges and problems ahead were refreshing to hear, while your ambitious plans have got us eagerly waiting to see what is in store for All-legend Hotels. We will be excited to learn of your success in future.

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