How to Identify Hotel Superstars

By Ashish Modak General Manager, LUX* Belle Mare | December 03, 2017

A hotel team is a unique combination of various skill sets and different individuals who bring forth their unique identities and styles towards making a guest as comfortable and relaxed as possible. Hotels vary in their offerings, their architecture, the levels of service and brand appeal. However, the one thig that binds all hotels and resorts of whatever style and irrespective of their locations is the people who work for these hotels and breathe life in to those buildings and chandeliers which otherwise would have no meaning. I recently came across a new Bollywood release with a similar title as this essay. The title intrigued me and while I shall not go in to the theme and a synopsis of the movie here, the title got me thinking of who could be considered the secret superstars of the hotel industry – more specifically, in a hotel. Needless to say, when one thinks of hotels, one thinks of the front of house areas and the perfectly groomed smiles of the front desk, the beautifully made Flat-whites by the baristas and the creative geniuses of the chefs who conjure up magic for every new meal.

All the various operational departments of a hotel, no doubt ensure delightful stays for guests’ day in and day out. From a porter who welcomes every guest to the reception team leading up to the room valets and the waiters – everyone has a specific responsibility towards the hotel guests; one that they need to fulfill all the time. These team members are being tested in real time. They are on the stage and the show is always on. There is no off time when on the operational floor. Very often the hotel operations remind me of another movie “The Truman Show”. This Jim Carey movie presents a strong mantra for someone like me who looks at the hotel world from very close quarters. The learning for me as a hotel manager from this movie was clear and simple – “In hotel life, you are always on stage and on camera!” and how very true it is for all of the above job functions that I have mentioned.

But then a thought crosses my mind. Very often the front of house team members are the ones who get all the recognition and fame. These ladies and gentlemen who are in contact with guests walk away with their names on glory boards. But, are these the only ones who make a hotel what it is? An Opera performance is dependent definitely on the star performer; however, can one imagine of an Opera or a play without a 100% contribution of the light and sound technicians, the porters, the make-up artists? Is it not true that there is a strong support system which makes these job roles tick and assist them to be celebrated...? Is it not true that without the hidden gems and magicians in the support departments – the team in the front would never be there in the first place? Whom am I referring to? Yes, indeed the reference is to those hundreds of people who work in hotel support teams like Human Resources, Training, Accounts, Purchase and various other such administrative functions. Imagine a hotel without any of these support areas!

Would a hotel be ever successful without a strong accounting team? Right from processing the salaries on time for the celebrated Stars of the hotel, these secret superstars are involved in every back-end step that results in hotels performing like well-oiled machines. Imagine a hotel without a strong credit and debtor control mechanism. Imagine a hotel without a team duly and diligently looking at all the accounting procedures. Imagine a hotel world without a strong purchase and receiving department. The list of jobs performed at every stage in these areas is endless and each extremely crucial for a successful business operation. The Integrity and responsibility involved in the entire accounting, finance and cost control team is the backbone of the value of ethics and integrity that is so widely discussed in all forums in today’s times. For an analogy, running a hotel without these functions is like asking a cobbler to make a shoe without its sole. Like a sole is to a shoe or a soul is to the body, the finance team are the unsung heroes of this jigsaw called ‘hotel’!

Similar to the Finance department is the critical function of Human Resources. An area which is always belittled as a function as not being in sync with today’s requirements. Very often one finds the human resources function following outdated systems, policies and procedures and the team finding it difficult to sync with the needs of today. This is possibly the half-truth that is spread around venomously without understanding the why’s and what’s involved. The HR department is always trying to catch up with the changing times while sticking to the laws of the land they operate in. It is expected from this function to ensure local laws and expected norms are followed to the ‘T’ and all rules and regulations adhered to in totality.

It is also the natural expectation of every employee that his / her needs are fulfilled on priority and the moment the desired solution is not provided, the HR department is the black sheep in the organization. Here is what I would like to say to all those sincere, truthful and committed HR employees of the world – Continue what you are doing; you are the reason why all the others are working in hotels in the first place. A suggestion would be to bring in an element of innovation and creativity in what you put forth. Like the finance team, you are undoubtedly the secret superstars in the hotel world.

/ SLIDES

This is also an ode to the key support functions of Quality, Training and Reservations. Imagine a cake without a touch of baking powder? Of course, a cake can be baked without adding baking powder to it. The result is a dense, heavy and an unpalatable cake. The role of baking powder or baking soda in cake is to enlarge the bubbles in the batter while baking to give a light fluffy texture to the end product – a role done by the departments mentioned above. Right from the moment, a new team member joins the hotel and through his journey with the company the functions of quality and training literally handhold the employee and help him/ her walk through those early steps and then ensure right nutrients and medications are doled out to ensure confirmation to the hotel standards all the time. At times, the medication prescribed may be bitter but it is all done with the employee’s and hotel’s best interests in mind!

Similarly, but no less critical is the role of Reservations agents – the invisible Samaritans who work behind the curtains making sure every guest gets what he needs! Imagine a hotel without these agents... These ladies and gentlemen often work out of dungeons or back areas in a freezing cold room where all they have for company are their computer screens, telephones and possibly stiff targets set by the hotel management. And then that fear of every phone call being audited, every email response possibly scanned to check for errors and the daily why’s, what’s and who’s from everyone – future clients, past guests and the managers!

As hotel employees, we often forget and side step these critical functions as they are simply bracketed as administration or allied areas and frowned upon as ‘controllers’. Of course, these all functions including secretarial positions (the true backbones of many organizations) are indeed administration functions but has anyone ever seen a ring master in a circus without a whip. The whip is rarely to be used but it is this very whip which ensures the tiger remembers his limits and stays within the demarcated boundaries. Using the cake’s analogy again, it is important that all ingredients in a cake are used in the right balanced quantities and each ingredient goes in at the right stage and all support measures like the temperature of the oven, the baking time etc. are respected by the baker. The support departments from Finance to HR to all administration areas are these key ingredients and support mechanisms without whom the cake is bound to fail.

And then, for a cake to be perfectly enjoyed, the icing on the cake and the cherry on the top are equally important. To me; perfect coordination, understanding of each other’s needs and celebration of every function and every employee in a hotel are these metaphorical icing and cherry. At the hotel I work with, it is a perfectly baked cake with the nicest tasting maraschino and fresh cream icing on the top. How about yours?

Ashish Modak is the General Manager of LUX* Belle Mare, the flagship resort of LUX* Resorts & Hotels and is based in Mauritius. The group operates contemporary luxury resorts in the Indian Ocean where it has 8 properties and 2 resorts in China. Mr. Modak’s profile includes operational excellence of over 20 years in Food & Beverage, Rooms Division and allied areas in some of the finest hotels in Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa including experience in pre-openings and complete refurbishments of hotels, reputed hotel chains, resorts and spas prior to joining LUX* Resorts & Hotels. can be contacted at +230 402-2000 or ashish.modak@luxbellemare.com Please visit http://www.luxresorts.com/en/hotel-mauritius/luxbellemare for more information. Extended Bio...

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