Over the years, the Hong Kong hotel industry has grown so extensively that it now plays a significant part in the local economy. However, people intending to work in this rather specialised occupation should possess more than just the necessary skills and knowledge — they must also be friendly, outgoing, obliging and ever ready for personal and professional upgrade.
Having worked in hotels for years, Anita Lee, who is now human resources manager of Prince Hotel, has much useful advice to share with potential applicants, specially now when the industry is offering a wide range of openings. "The question such people should ask themselves is whether they love serving and working with people. If the answer is 'yes', they are likely to be suited to a career in the hotel industry," Ms Lee says.
In view of the government's continued efforts to bolster Hong Kong's tourism, and with more hotels set to open in Hong Kong and Macau in next few years, Ms Lee believes the industry provides good career prospects and opportunities. However, the challenge facing the industry is for each new hotel to find its place in the diversified market segments by cultivating their unique characteristics and providing customised services to cater to the specific needs of the guest and service profiles they have targeted.
In response to this sophisticated and fast-moving market environment, Marco Polo Hotels recently restructured its sales and marketing team which previously handled the group's sales and marketing efforts for its three hotels in Hong Kong: Prince, Marco Polo HongKong and Gateway. Now, each hotel has its own marketing team.
Sales professionals usually serve as a bridge between clients and company. The basic entrance requirements for people aiming to work as sales professionals in the hotel industry, says Ms Lee, would be good sales techniques, communication and language skills, strong interpersonal networks and outstanding product knowledge. It is also much preferred to have an outgoing and cheerful personality, ideally with some relevant experience in serving people and offering market intelligence to help grasp more business opportunities.
"On top of this, the ability to work well with a team of colleagues is also indispensable not only for sales professionals but also frontline staff. In addition to Putonghua and English, the ability to speak one or more foreign languages is another valuable asset," Ms Lee says.
With the hotel industry now experiencing a boom, Ms Lee believes there will be more opportunities for sales professionals to launch successful careers. Those demonstrating outstanding ability would easily gain promotion and receive impressive pay packages by rising to sales executive and thence to sales manager. At this level, and with an outstanding track record plus several years' experience, various senior posts would then be within such a high-flyer's grasp.
Prince Hotel is very supportive in upgrading the competence of its staff. New recruits must undertake a total of 54 hours' training under the hotel's job certification programme, which is designed to help equip them with essential knowledge related to their current jobs. For example, sales professionals must learn sales techniques, presentation skills, product knowledge and the techniques of brushing up their personal image.
On the frontline
When people walk into a hotel or phone to make inquiries, their first contact is with frontline staff. Whether their response is helpful and courteous directly affects a potential guest's impression of the hotel. This is why, says Ms Lee, hotels always look for frontline staff with good manners who are confident in dealing with people.
For such staff, academic accomplishment is regarded as less important than good language and interpersonal communication skills. Also, they must also be able to cope with the challenging working environment and irregular working hours.
"Career opportunities for frontline staff are plentiful," says Ms Lee. If they perform well and gain several years' experience they may be promoted to guest relations supervisor or other senior positions.
"Working in the hotel industry is dynamic, and the experience is rewarding," she remarks. "It doesn't matter what position you start at. If you can demonstrate your working competence and are hard-working, you will be offered many opportunities in working in other departments or undertaking job rotation to broaden your personal scope and widen your career path."