Have a nice stay!

Set on becoming one of Southeast Asia's leading tourist destinations, Singapore must now rely heavily on its hospitality industry to transform this dream into reality. We delve further into the competitive world of hotel management.

By Nazry Bahrawi

Pundits have observed that Singapore’s tourism industry is fast becoming an exciting one, as the nation welcomes an increasing number of visitors from all over the world. The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) recorded over 700,000 visitors to Singapore in September 2005, a 6.9% increase from the same period last year. STB also noted that these visitors spent a longer period of time in Singapore, which amounted to a 10.9% increase compared to last year

Alongside this wave of good tidings is the fact that the Average Room Rate (ARR) for Singapore hotels is estimated at S$139, which translates into a 14.3% increase over September 2004. These fi gures point to a bright future for Singapore’s hotels. Top-notch five star hotels like Shangri-La, The Ritz-Carlton and Fullerton provide a host of job opportunities for those who thrive in a people-centric environment.

But with renowned tourist destinations like Thailand and Malaysia looming over tiny Singapore, it has become imperative for the local hospitality industry to achieve impeccable service standards to stay competitive.

Further impetus will come from the development of integrated resorts in Singapore, which is set to attract even more international visitors to the country.

Service with a smile: Guest Services Manager

When a tourist books into a hotel, that individual will be expecting not just a room, but also a one-stop service centre that can provide for his or her every need. It is the task of a multitude of service personnel to ensure these services are delivered.

Most hotels provide an excellent first impression replete with warmth and hospitality. They rely heavily on the guest services manager to ‘achieve the impossible’ when dealing with hotel guests.

Besides planning schedules and managing the operations of workers at the Front Office, his or her job includes things like finding taxi-cabs, recommending restaurants and interesting tourist spots. A guest services manager is also expected to meet a customer’s request, no matter how bizarre it may be.

A guest services manager has to maintain a wide network of contacts. He or she is the resident ‘Mr. (or Ms.) Know-It-All’, who is not only familiar with the hotel’s management process but also with the happenings around town.

According to Sharon Lee, Communications Manager of Conrad Centennial Singapore, “The Guest Service Manager must have the ability to optimise the financial performance of the department, possess good track records in resolving customer complaints and ensure that guest expectations are met consistently.”

Reporting directly to the General Manager or Managing Director, the Guest Services Manager is also perhaps one of the most glamorous positions in any hotel, because he or she gets to meet the needs of famous celebrities and noted personalities.

Those looking to fi ll this position should possess a Diploma in Hotel Management or its equivalent, with at least three years of relevant working experience. Some front offi ce managers start out as guest services executive or concierges before assuming their positions. The starting salary of a guest services executive with three to five years working experience is around S$2,000 to S$2,400.

Banking on hospitality: Account Manager

Singapore is home to the corporate regional headquarters of many multinational companies. Hotels do a thriving business in providing accommodation and function rooms for corporate work retreats, anniversary functions, dinner and dances, and other corporate events. Singapore’s impressive infrastructure and reputation for safety has transformed Singapore into the preferred venue for many international business exhibitions as well.

Nevertheless, the sales and marketing personnel of any hotel must still work very hard to attract customers. They are ones who bring in the cash. Account managers handle and service corporaterooms and function halls at competitive rates. These proactive individuals need to identify and penetrate niche market sectors, and to capitalise on all available business opportunities.

Perceptive account managers with a good grip on specialised subjects can even work together with choice partners to conceptualise and organise exhibitions. Such events are a bonus because they open up opportunities for raking in extra revenue.

Those vying to work as account managers will need to possess at least a diploma qualifi cation. Sharon adds, “The job scope of an account manager includes servicing existing corporate accounts as well as developing new leads and business opportunities for room sales through cold calls and contacts. These individuals must make on-site and sales visits to prospective clients.”

Senior account managers will usually possess relevant sales experience. Those with experience in managing food and beverage in a hospitality environment can also become involved in drumming up banquet sales. Like any other sales-related job, a lot of an account manager’s income comes from his or her sales commission, on top of a basic salary.

Connoisseur of cuisines: Food and Beverage (F&B) Manager

Restaurants are staple features in most hotels. Sometimes, the restaurants themselves are standalone attractions. Examples of such restaurants include Morton’s of Chicago at Oriental Hotel, Modesto’s at Orchard Parade Hotel and StraitsKitchen at the Grand Hyatt.

“At Conrad Centennial Hotel,” says Sharon, “the F&B Manager’s job scope includes assisting the Director of Food and Beverage in the daily operations of the food and beverage establishments and profitability of these areas, training and development of a team of service providers as well as ensuring customer satisfaction.”

The F&B Manager’s job can be grueling, especially since he or she is the overall-in-charge of food and beverage quality as well as service. Sometimes known as restaurant managers, they can be veterans who have worked their way up the F&B business, and possess many years of hard-earned experience. Educational qualifications such as a Diploma in Hotel Management or a Degree in Hospitality and Tourism also help a great deal in their career development.

A promising future

Luxury hotels in Singapore not only provide career opportunities but also enhanced welfare and benefits. Sharon elaborates, “Conrad Centennial Hotel is part of the Hilton Group of hotels, one of the largest hotel chains in the world. Employees can look forward to career growth opportunities in the long term. It offers a host of staff welfare benefits which include discounted stay at both Hilton and Conrad properties worldwide, duty meals at the Centennial Café for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper, transportation, medical and dental benefits, sports and social activities and also staff recognition awards.”

Sharon also advises polytechnic and university graduates to consider enrolling in the hotel’s management trainee programme, in order to develop their career in the hospitality industry. Such comprehensive programmes will put them through a carefully devised training plan, where they will be rotated through various departments to gain practical experience.

So far, we’ve only explored the key positions in hotel management. This is far from being an exhaustive list. Other positions fall into areas such as housekeeping, tour and travel advisory, and even corporate functions like communications and accounting. Most importantly, all hotel managers must keep up with global trends. New opportunities for growth are constantly appearing in sectors that have not been considered before, such as healthcare tourism. Managers must be savvy enough to spot the trends early to stay ahead of the competition.

Sharon also feels that the outlook for the next few years looks promising because of the expected growth in Singapore’s economy. “As air travel continues to become more affordable, visitor arrivals to Singapore is also expected to increase. This will in turn help to further boost Singapore’s economy, leading to an increase in investment opportunities and tourist visits. More hotels are expected to be opened in the next couple of years, including the much awaited Integrated Resorts, leading to more job opportunities in the hospitality industry.”

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