Through Thick and Thin, Keep Your Staff

Clement Kwok, chief executive of Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels Ltd., the parent company of the Peninsula chain, seems undaunted by the hardships his hotels have faced in the recent past. Through an interview with The Wall Street Journal’s Duncan Mavin, Mr. Kwok discusses running the company through the financial crisis, a time when the hospitality industry saw its greatest challenges.

Running a multi-national hotel chain is a challenge in itself. Regional economies throughout American cities affect business, but so too does a band of rebels seizing a Peninsula in the Philippines. For Mr. Kwok, an economic downturn is still not as tough as finding, training and retaining good staff. In a seemingly cool-headed manner, he says he sees running the business in the long term. It’s hard to account for economics when one only looks at the short term, he explains. He still doubts the world markets are competitive again, but he’s not worried. It’s all part of a cycle. Well how do you manage a company during a downturn? Mr. Kwok states to match costs to the revenues. The wise executive will judge which expenditures are unnecessary. However, with regards to the product, don’t cut back on services or amenities. Your company undoubtedly invested considerable time and money to train its staff, so it makes no sense to get rid of these people.

Beyond marble columns and opulent bedspreads, it is the staff that creates the guest experience. It is their assistance, their response to guests’ problems, and even their camaraderie that keeps the guest coming back to the services. It is the staff that lets the guest enjoy the product. Despite compounded calamities, Mr. Kwok is an undismayed CEO who understands the value in the relationship between the staff and the guest experience. Coyle Hospitality Group’s assessments of staff behavior on the guest experience prove Mr. Kwok’s insight priceless. As Mr. Kwok states, “You have to have a team and an organization that has the ability to handle crises. Once you’ve got that, it doesn’t matter whether it’s rebels in Bangkok, or troops in Manila, or a construction issue in Shanghai.”

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