Prestigious careers await world-class candidates

by Susanna Tai

David Brightling, chairman, The Club Managers' Association of Hong Kong

Ongoing demand for graduates of hospitality programmes in the years ahead

Hong Kong's thriving hotel industry offers a range of great careers but, nowadays, graduates of hospitality-related courses have another option to consider. Their skills are just as much in demand with private clubs, which have restaurants, bars and exclusive facilities of a standard to rival any five-star establishment.

David Brightling, chairman of the Club Managers' Association of Hong Kong (CMAHK) and general manager of the Ladies Recreation Club, explains that one difficulty the sector currently faces is the ability to attract good staff. "I have heard that 22 hotels will open in Hong Kong and Macau by 2008, which will put a strain on the supply of fresh graduates," he says.

The CMAHK has therefore set up a scholarship programme as a way of attracting more young candidates. An annual fundraising banquet raises money and the association awards 8 to 10 scholarships a year, valued between HK$5,000 and HK$10,000. Most are awarded to undergraduates studying hospitality courses, who show an interest in a career in the club sector. However, students taking master's degrees and recreation programmes also receive full consideration.

In certain respects, clubs have a distinct advantage which sets them apart from hotels. "There is usually less pressure in the day-to-day work environment," explains Mr Brightling. "People who join private clubs are more interested in connecting with the staff and developing strong relationships. That allows the staff to become part of the fabric of the club."

Information exchange

The CMAHK currently has 49 members who manage city, country, golf, marina, recreation and residential clubs in Hong Kong, Macau and Southern China. Over the past two years, the association has focused on education and professional development, mainly by facilitating the exchange of information between members.

This has largely been done through a series of surveys on topics such as employee compensation, club pricing, subscriptions and user fees. "After formal meetings, members take the chance to exchange ideas and seek advice," says Mr Brightling. "This lets them see how other clubs do things and would handle similar situations."

Since the monthly meetings rotate between different clubs, members can also get a close-up look at other facilities. Already this year, Mr Brightling has visited the Kowloon Cricket Club and the United Services Recreation Club for the first time.

In one sense, member clubs might be regarded as direct competitors, but association members are generally open and willing to share information. There is actually very little rivalry because clubs appeal to different and specific groups. "For example, people who live in Mid-levels and play tennis are most likely to join the Ladies Recreation Club," Mr Brightling notes. "For this reason, the association's members are best described as friendly competitors."

To provide updates on industry trends and developments, the CMAHK arranges talks by guest speakers and publishes a newsletter covering topics such as the latest anti-smoking legislation and the new certification programme for kitchens. "We are trying to give members all the information needed to manage their clubs as effectively as possible," he says

Superior facilities

One noticeable trend is that club users in Hong Kong have become more sophisticated and demanding in the last 10 years or so. In response to this, club managers can now justifiably claim to meet or perhaps surpass the highest international standards. "Private clubs here are truly world-class," says Mr Brightling. "I started my career in yachting and can say that the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club is definitely one of the best of its kind anywhere in the world."

He adds that one thing all the association's members have in common is the desire to make their club a home away from home. "We try to create an environment where people can escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life; a place where they can get away from it all," he says.

Perfect hosts

  • Graduates of hospitality courses in Hong Kong have the option of working for hotels or private clubs
  • CMAHK offers annual scholarships for students taking programmes relevant to the sector
  • Surveys and monthly meetings allow association members to share information and advice
  • Guest speakers and newsletters inform members of the latest trends and developments
  • Hong Kong's private clubs now match the highest international standards
  • Club managers aim to create an environment which feels like a home away from home

Taken from Career Times 07 April 2006
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