Macau Opportunities

Hotels pull in the punters

by Jacky Wong

Karman Yeung, president, The Landmark Macau
Photo: Courtesy of The Landmark Macau

Tourist boom brings surge in new hotels' poaching of skilled staff

Macau's tourism industry has flourished following the liberalisation of the gaming industry in 2002, bringing knock-on benefits to its hotel industry and spurring the region's economy to the highest levels in its history.

Whether brand-new or newly renovated, Macau's hotels are pulling out the stops to pull in the punters. While the newest hotels leverage on their luxurious facilities to keep up their occupancy rates, The Landmark Macau emphasises that its quality services will meet and probably exceed customers' demands.

Established in November 2003, The Landmark Macau is a 22-storey hotel in the city centre. Previously known as Pharaoh's Palace Hotel, it has now become part of the Macau Fisherman's Wharf project co-developed by renowned businessmen Stanley Ho and David Chow.

Quality first

Reviewing the current tourist profile and latest market developments, Karman Yeung, president of The Landmark Macau, says the future success of Macau's hotel industry depends on one critical point — service quality.

He believes that hotel development in Macau has reached a mature stage, and that service levels have now reached international standards. In terms of hardware, facilities and room features are comparable with those in Hong Kong, says Mr Yeung. This means that the industry must now concentrate on its software — service quality as delivered through experienced and caring staff. "We regard these as value-added services," Mr Yeung adds.

Market niches of The Landmark Macau include its wide range of facilities and luxurious amenities, including a Roman-style indoor swimming pool and state-of-the-art gymnasium. Its Egyptian-style casino is Macau's first theme casino, and is a "must-go" for many tourists. The hotel also takes pride in the array of fine dishes served in its restaurants.

Rather than fearing that a possible glut in hotel supply will depress occupancy rates, Mr Yeung welcomes the opposition, pointing out that it will uplift overall service standards while taking the industry to new heights. "Even Macau's four-star and three-star hotels are upgrading their facilities and services to keep pace with overall improvements in the industry," he adds. He regards the ongoing growth of investment in five-star hotels as a testament to faith in Macau's future, adding that the second phase of the Fishermen's Wharf development will include three to five new hotels.

Macau hotels seek hardworking Hong Kong recruits

A key factor in improving service standards in Macau's hotel industry is retaining experienced staff — no easy task when new hotels are head-hunting the cream of the crop.

Louisa Cheong, human resources manager, The Landmark Macau
Photo: Courtesy of The Landmark Macau
Louisa Cheong, human resources manager of The Landmark Macau, says the labour shortage is one of the hotel's biggest concerns as it endeavours to further upgrade its service standards. For example, this March staff churn cost the hotel about eight per cent of its 690 staff.

She points out that as more hotels open in the territory, the law of supply and demand comes into force, with the pool of experienced hotel workers proportionately diminishing, and increasingly attractive offers being made to tempt them away from their present employers.

"Equally worrying is that as the percentage of experienced staff reduces, there will be a proportionate reduction in the quality of services provided to guests and other customers," she adds.

To prevent its best and most experienced staff from being poached, The Landmark Macau employs various staff retention initiatives such as providing ample promotional opportunities so that highflyers get the chance to move up to senior positions; and a job rotation scheme that gives employees a chance to try out various jobs before they choose the one best suited to their personal career goals. To ensure that staff enjoy competitive pay packages, salary scales are set after a comparison has been made with relevant pay and rewards in Hong Kong.

"We are going full throttle to recruit staff for every department to back up our daily operations," says Ms Cheong. "We have vacancies in food and beverage, frontline office, sales, accounting, leasing and even human resources. We are casting a wide net for experienced staff, and that includes talents from Hong Kong willing to make the transition to Macau."

About two per cent of the hotel's current staff are Hong Kongers attracted by the hotel's remuneration packages and better career opportunities. Most of them now hold middle or senior positions.

"Compared with the local workforce, Hong Kong people bring a positive work attitude and an international outlook to their work style, both of which are welcome attributes in the industry," she remarks. "Our hotel industry has become something of a battlefield. Competition is very keen, and employees face more challenges. However, once they demonstrate their commitment to succeed here, they will enjoy better career prospects."

Taken from Career Times 22 June 2007
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