Career Path

Hip newcomer adopts innovative approach

by Wendy Shair

Lhotel elan - High-tech services and career advancement
Aman Ng, front office manager, L'hotel elan
Photo: Dickie Tam
The hospitality sector these days need to provide more than just quality accommodation, good food and great service. Hong Kong hotels are increasingly turning to innovative technology to attract customers in a highly competitive environment.

With 20 years of experience in the hotel industry, Aman Ng kicked off his career as a receptionist at a five-star hotel. Now front office manager for the soon-to-be-launched L'hotel elan in Kwun Tong, he worked his way up after graduating in hotel management in Australia.

Mr Ng says he advanced his career in the industry—progressing through the ranks of supervisor, guest services manager and assistant front office manager—through a lot of hard work and ongoing learning.

Having joined L'hotel elan four months ago, he is currently deeply involved in pre-opening preparations. The hotel is part of the L'hotel Group, which has a wide presence in Hong Kong and falls under the Chinachem Group. One of his key roles will be to ensure the front-office operation is smooth and providing good services to guests. He will also be an important link between the hotel and guests. "My duties will also involve greeting arriving and departing guests at the reception desk and getting their valuable input on areas that we could improve on. I will also interact with hotel VIPs and ensure they receive impeccable service on arrival and departure."

Close communication with front-office staff and ensuring that any special guest requirements are catered for will also be important aspects of Mr Ng's role. Other duties cover the areas of concierge and guest services and security.

Technology oriented

In preparing for the opening of L'hotel elan, Mr Ng works closely with his colleagues, and is involved with training and planning for the technological features that are part of the hotel's concept.

About 200 staff members will be employed, with Mr Ng overseeing about 40 in the front office, concierge, service call centre and security areas. "I've worked in the industry for a long time, and it was time for me to take up a new challenge and gain some new experience," he says. "Our aim is to recruit people that are energetic, passionate, interested in high technology and want to help promote our hotel's environmentally friendly concepts, which include going green and adopting eco-friendly ways of running the business."

High-tech services on offer will include an e-kiosk with a large touch screen where guests can access advice and tips on shopping, dining and sightseeing choices, he notes.

A range of hotel services will also be digitalised, such as an electronic check-in system, and devices such as iPads and iPod docking stations will be available in all guestrooms. "Our restaurants will also offer e-menus. All these concepts are in response to demand from sophisticated customers, and especially business travellers," Mr Ng points out.

Career advancement

There are opportunities at the hotel for newcomers without prior hospitality experience and university graduates are welcome to apply, says Mr Ng, adding that there is also a management-training programme in place. The group offers promising career paths for high-calibre professionals and, consequently, the staff turnover rate is relatively low. "We train our people to multi-task and we review their performances annually."

Language and cultural training equip employees to serve guests from all over the world, including the mainland. "Overall, the industry environment is good, because more tourists are coming to Hong Kong, and the hotel-business market outlook also looks very positive," he explains, pointing out that a good receptionist can move into a supervisor position within two years. It takes about another three to be promoted to guest services manager, and an additional five to become assistant front office manager.

Rising customer demand poses many challenges. "A front office manager has to be flexible and attentive to help guests solve their problems and to offer multiple solutions," he remarks.

Mr Ng advises prospective hospitality professionals to cultivate a passion for learning and to be willing to work hard. The best performers are those that enjoy talking to people. "Offering good guest service always takes priority, and patience is vital." His policy is to treat guests as friends and colleagues as family members.

"Compliments from guests give me great job satisfaction, but it's also important to be open to complaints and to learn from them. It's greatly satisfying when customers return to the hotel again and again. As a whole, this is a very rewarding industry to work in."

Mr Ng's next career goal is to become a resident manager within five years. "I'm still on a learning curve," he concludes.

Taken from Career Times 30 March 2012, B8

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