Cheong has spent ten months with Millennium Hongqiao Shanghai and Millennium Hotels & Resorts. Originally from Singapore, she has a long history working with some of the top international hotel chains in Asia.
How is Millennium Hongqiao positioning itself in the Shanghai hotel market?
Millennium Hongqiao is the first Millennium-brand Hotel in China. With its 369 rooms, the hotel has positioned itself as a 5-star world-class lifestyle hotel which caters to both business and leisure travelers. With our unique layout and spacious landscaped environment with water-features unmatched in Shanghai, we will serve well as a corporate retreat for multinational companies and local business travellers; the sense of arrival is that of an oasis within a heavily-built up city of Shanghai.
With our extensive meeting rooms and banqueting space, the hotel will introduce itself as a hub for meetings or events held both indoor or outdoor. We offer our clients affordable value-for-money accommodation and meeting packages, attentive service with a touch of friendliness and creative food & beverage experiences catering to in-house corporate clusters and the nearby large catchments of up-market condominium residents.
What sort of changes have you implemented since taking over in your new position?
This is a new-built hotel and as the opening General Manager, I have the opportunity to set the hotel standards and build the culture from the onset to support the management company's Core Values - 'Customer & Employee Focus', 'Openness In Communication', 'Emphasis on Teamwork', 'Innovation & Creativity' and 'Driven to Increase Shareholder Value'.
What sort of qualities do you look for when hiring staff?
It is primarily attitude over skills and experience, passion for life, being optimistic and having a great sense of humor. These qualities are great assets to have to make and deliver our brand promise of 'Touching Hearts & Minds', 'Creating the Emotional Connection' and 'Highlighting Delightful & Memorable Moments'.
What are some challenges to operating in Shanghai?
It is unanimous when speaking with fellow hoteliers here that recruiting and retaining of good and qualified staff is at the top of the list. The shortage of trained tourism professionals to meet the anticipated demand for human resources in the hospitality industry here is made worse with immense competition from hotels from other mainland gateway cities. Hotels in Macau are also recruiting from the mainland with attractive packages. Most newly opened hotels here resort to offering higher compensation packages to poach staff from the competition.
How does Millennium train and retain its staff?
We have put in place a series of in-house training programs right from the basic 3-day Orientation Program (which includes a 1-day 'Outstanding Service Experience') at entry point to language workshops and team-building exercises, besides contracting external trainers for specialized workshops. Knowledge received through various forms of trainings set the foundation for employees' career path growth which is essential to staff retention aside from staff recognition programs and competitive compensation packages.
What was the best advice you received when starting out in this industry?
You are not only responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment! Remember also that hospitality business is show business, so put your best foot forward.
How does Millennium Hotels & Resorts plan to expand in the coming five years throughout China?
Millennium & Copthorne will concentrate on densely-populated gateway cities. Our next Millennium-brand property to open will be in Beijing (5-star 520-rooms corporate hotel in the heart of Beijing CBD financial and business district) in early 2008. This is followed very closely by a third Millennium 5-star corporate hotel in Chengdu. There are several more in the pipeline and news will be released at the appropriate time.
What are some challenges to opening a hotel in a market filled with competitors?
Opening a hotel in any market is filled with anxieties before and after the ribbon-cutting ceremony; opening a new hotel under a new brand in a gateway city is even more challenging. Getting the public to know and trust the brand requires more innovative methods. Staffing the hotel with the right people remains the most challenging as this is fundamental to offering personalized service which is core to any luxurious hotel. We need to come up with new features to differentiate ourselves from the competitors.
Source: China Hospitality News