Hotelier Alison Yau says young people who want to clinch a job in hospitality should be passionate about the field. Yau, who is the director of business development at hotel operator Rhombus (HK) Management and general manager of Hotel Soul by Rhombus in Chengdu, in Sichuan, oversees the operation of Rhombus properties in Hong Kong and the company's expansion plans in Asia. She began her career as a frontline hotel employee and obtained professional qualifications from Polytechnic University as she climbed the career ladder.
Why did you enter the hospitality industry? At a young age I wanted to promote the tourism industry in Hong Kong to the world and make my contribution to the sector.
What are your daily responsibilities? As the general manager of Hotel Soul by Rhombus, I am in charge of overseeing preparation for the opening of the hotel next year. I have drawn on my management experience of Hotel LKF to oversee the pre-opening of Hotel Soul. I focus on marketing positioning, budgeting, policy and standards, organisational structure, communication, market research and staff recruitment. My work involves plenty of meetings.
What are your challenges at work? The hotel and tourism sector is heavily influenced by factors including the global financial situation, travel policies and travellers' preferences. I try to stay updated on the latest developments in these areas.
It is also challenging to be a hotel general manager. The process of bringing international best practices [to Hotel Soul] has seen challenges in aspects such as addressing employees' [relatively poor] English-language skills and differences in working styles and attitudes.
It is crucial to lead by example. I am a detail-oriented person and accept only "zero defects". Hotel managers will find working with me a bit like a personal demonstration. Through daily briefing sessions and the sharing of articles, I hope to instil the concept of "zero defects" in all our staff.
What is the best part of your job? Apart from being encouraged by how much trust the Hotel Soul owner and Rhombus have in me, I enjoy developing strategies to differentiate Hotel Soul and hope to make it into a boutique hotel known for its personalised services.
It is gratifying to see improvements in the staff. While we believe in promotion from within, it is a major challenge on the mainland given the high turnover rate. However, I have found that if we make a sincere effort to help them enhance [their skills and knowledge], they will appreciate it and stay. For example, we teach them three new English words every day.
In what ways do you apply what you learned from PolyU's school of hotel and tourism management? I acquired the skills necessary for hotel operations from the higher diploma programme while picking up managerial know-how from the undergraduate course. We also learned to adopt a supervisory perspective.
In the master's programme, I learned to see the connection between the hotel sector and other industries, such as air travel and travel agencies, and I studied to become a leader. I've been applying the knowledge of marketing, strategic planning and China studies to my job.
How would you advise young people who want to enter the hospitality industry? Always be positive and patient. It helps to start from a junior level as you can develop an understanding of operations, and are able to lead by example.
On the up
General manager, Hotel LKF by Rhombus (2007)
Director of business development of Rhombus (HK) Management (2009)