1: What makes Hoi An and La Siesta Resort & Spa in particular especially appealing for visitors? Are there certain aspects that stand out for you?
The resort has a very high level of attention to detail, every corner of the resort has been meticulously considered and features artworks not only from Vietnam but throughout Asia. It is a blend of local history, in architecture and regional rituals, and absolute decadent levels of luxury that creates the envy from neighboring resorts. Although this attributes to the resorts uniqueness, it’s the exemplary and consistent levels of customer service that differentiates the resort, it’s often said but rarely delivered, at our levels. Unlike most hotel groups, EHG focuses on service standards and guest experience as an absolute first priority, followed by employee satisfaction, training and development.
As for Hoi An as a destination, well I believe this has been stated and confirmed by the UNESCO listing and is supported by the pride of the local people of Hoi An and Quang Nam Province. Hoi An is truly magical. She has two faces, one for day and one for night. She is light, casual and historically interesting during the day and then transforms herself into a mass of colors, scents and tunes in the evening as thousands of lanterns are lit, of every fabric, pattern and colors you could imagine. The river glows with reflections from launched prayer candles and the town is a buzz with the awe of tourists. There is nowhere in the world that you will find as unique as Hoi An.
2: What kind of changes/policies will you be enacting as GM of the resort?
The resort has the facilities and service standards already and it has been extremely successful since opening, ranked #2 in Hoi An and in the top 25 in Asia which is indicative of the EHG focus and mission statement. My role is to further enhance and develop the resort and implement international standards and systems, firstly in Hoi An and then to our sister property’s in Hanoi. We are expecting to announce further hotels and resorts within the next 12-18 months and these will benefit from the groups now focus on systemized brand standards. I will be driving Sales and working with key senior management to develop distribution channels across the group as well as assisting group departments including Human Resources and Finance. I will contribute to building our corporate identity, quality assurance and brand controls. La Siesta is our largest property and our first 5-star resort so it makes sense to implement, trial and finalize all of this here before rolling it out across the group. It is my goal and that of EHG to get the group to international management levels within 12 months and therefore enable continued growth in Vietnam and eventually internationally.
3: How do you enjoy working in Vietnam? How do you feel it compares to other destinations in Southeast Asia? How does it feel to be back in the country?
Working in Vietnam is incredibly refreshing, it’s invigorating and at times incredibly challenging. It is essential to remain grounded and always remember that you are a guest in their country and regardless of personal views or opinions you must be respectful of local cultures and lifestyles. Compared to other major tourism destinations within Asia, Vietnam offers sincerity, honesty and a true desire to welcome foreign tourists. Vietnam is still waking up to the power of tourism and is shyly facing some major changes. Global brands are starting to appear and rightly or wrongly these will ultimately in time affect the industry and the cultural strengths that you can experience now. Vietnam probably has another 5 to 10 years before it reaches its full tourism potential and I can only hope it doesn’t end up another Phuket or Bali style destination. To be back in Vietnam is like taking a breath of fresh air, it makes you understand what is important in life and it’s not fame or fortune, its friends and family. The tourists come and go but the Vietnamese live here and love their culture, love their homelands and even through hardships have remained strong and proud. Let’s hope that the Western World and its influences don’t destroy its gentle, understated beauty.
4: What’s your take on Elegance Hospitality Group and the way they are setting a high bar for Vietnamese hotel group?
I applaud the groups success. EHG raised the bar before setting it for the industry and to be honest it’s not an easy bar to reach now. Before joining EHG I researched it intensely and then met with the Founder and Chairman Mr. Dan. We interviewed each other and both asked the same question “why should I employ you” and “why should I choose you to work for”. The answers we both gave were similar, we both believe in the core values of our industry and believe that hospitality is about creating and delivery an exceptional experience to every guest every time. Hospitality sometimes gets lost in brand management and focuses on global standards without consideration to geographical influences and neglects to draw on cultural attributes. EHG remains strong and focused on service, service and more service. Our hotels all run at 90% plus occupancies annually and consistently strive to improve, develop and strengthen our brand. La Siesta is blossoming and as I said within the next 12-18 months will internally position itself for international expansion. Mr. Dan and I share a love and a passion for what we do and we do it from the heart and that’s rare in an age where profit and loss and bottom line overpower that ability to deliver hospitality. I have been in hospitality nearly 30 years and worked for leading hotels and resorts around the world and taken some of my hotels and resorts to be award winning and highly acclaimed. Joining EHG has been like finding my home, a place where my years of experience are valued and respected and I am encouraged and empowered to share them. I am already proud to say I am an integral member of the group and in coming years I will also be proud of our united growth and our accomplishments that I know we are going to have.