Adam Myott had an interview with Jiyeon Yuk about the impact of global economic crisis on tourism and hospitality at the Grand Hyatt Incheon, South Korea. Located a mere three minutes from Incheon International Airport and close to downtown Seoul; the Songdo International Business District and Incheon Free Economic Zone; and Eurwangni and Wangsan beaches, the five-star hotel has been prime accommodation for both leisure and business travellers since September 2003. The new West Tower which opened in 2014 adds 500 new guestrooms to the existing 522 guestrooms in the East Tower with the two towers connected via a Sky Bridge to become the largest Hyatt hotel outside North America.
Q: You were newly appointed as General Manager 8 months ago, I guess you must have been quite busy at work, so please can you tell me how you are getting along.
A: I came to Korea with my family and we have very much enjoyed the period. We think that we are very lucky to have the opportunity to come to a country like Korea. I am an Australian by birth and that’s when I started working in other locations and countries in Asia so coming to Korea has been an interesting opportunity for us.
Q: Do you have any special experience from here in Korea?
A: We’ve come to really enjoy Korea especially now that it is warmer. Winter months were a little bit cold but now there is warmer weather here so it’s a wonderful place to live and to wear T-shirt. And to live and to work. We’ve very much enjoyed the people. The people are very friendly, we think the culture is very interesting and very different from what we’ve become used to, certainly in Australia and Malaysia, Thailand and the very other countries we have lived and worked in. We enjoy the food. We think the food is a very big part for us living here and it’s a place for us to come with the family. We are very excited and enjoying it here very much.
Q: How do you spend your free time?
A: We are a very busy hotel so I spend a bit much time here working. But I also enjoy the game of golf. I try to stay fit so I exercise regularly. I think fitness is an important part of any person’s routine. So I try very hard to stay fit. I enjoy cooking for my family and friends and there is a custard, especially when I have it with a little glass of wine as well. And I enjoy politics and staying in touch with the media here in Korea and the media in Australia. I love to stay in touch with the local politics and others.
Q: What is the most important requirement for your job?
A: Our industry generally is very much of a people business. And what we do, everything that we do involves people. It involves looking after our guests, in doing that. We need to make sure that we have very good people that we work with. And we take care of our people by looking at the work as employer and the way we train them and also the way we treat them as individuals. Having a caring room of team members is very important for us and that helps them to look after our guests which is obviously very important to us. So what are the characteristics? For me, as a hotel manager, is to be a person who understands people and who can work closely with my team and to ensure that we are providing the best experience that we possibly can for our colleagues but also for our guests.
Q: Please describe an episode in your work history including happy and unhappy customers. What went wrong and how did you handle the situation? What did you learn in the aftermath?
A: I think the nature of what we do is that we will on occasion come across people whose expectations we haven’t been able to satisfy. That is the nature of our business and that’s what happens. Sometimes, we expect that it happens. And I think the important thing to me and for us as and our team in that situation is how we handle them. Because, if we are caring hoteliers, if we are hearing people, then we understand that in making sure that our customers have a very good experience and the very first thing of the concerns they might have in a very caring empathetic sort of way is the best way in dealing with them.
If we are, then we run the risk of not addressing customers concerns and not been saying are caring, that will of course make our customers walk away with that feeling of not satisfied with what we are providing them. So in any situation like that, it will always be that, we should listen to our customers and make sure that we understand what their expectations are and if we fall short, to make sure that we are addressing the various areas of our shortfall and to address the situation to never happen again.
Q: Please tell me about the features of Grand Hyatt Incheon.
A: What we see in the future. I think that we are very fortunate with our hotel and that we are in a marketplace operating in a business environment that is very dynamic. Our hotel which is the largest hotel outside of the United States caters to facilities, caters to a number of indifferent important markets. Geographically, we cater to many local Korean as well as international guests. We are looking at the local market. We do quite a lot of local corporate business, local major weekend package business and local large business which is very important to us. Internationally, we also deal with and accommodate a lot of international leisure guests as well as international MICE rooms. So our location here adjacent to the airport with close proximity to Seoul and also to Songdo and Incheon provides us with many business opportunities both from a leisure perspective and also form a MICE perspective. So looking into the future, to take advantage of those important characteristics, physical characteristics of our hotel and the market that we are operating come to line to be capitalized and that is how I see the future.
Q: Do you have any promotion with Yeongjong Island?
A: We work very closely with our developing market place. We are very excited about the future of Yeongjong Island. Already, there is a lot development here with the construction currently of terminal 2 at the airport and we understand that that will be very beneficial for our location. But also for Seoul and for Koreans so we are very excited that it will be up by September next year. Already, I will be honest is a great catalyst for further development on the Island and we have a very good relationships and do a lot of promotional activities with facilities such as the golf course and also the BMW driving facility that is close to us as well. And we in the past for our leisure guests, we’ve been very active in how we cross-promote those different facilities. They are a natural appeal to Yeongjong Island as well; the natures, the local restaurants and the thing we see is driving attraction for people especially from Seoul and we aim to highlight other promotional opportunities as well.
Q: What is the important thing to attract high quality customers with tools?
A: I think our focus as I have mentioned before is the facilities we have at the hotel and we cater very well to a variety of different segments. One of the priority statements for us is taking serious business. And we have very good facilities in our hotel that allows us to cater very well for our customers. We have two large ballrooms, we have a number of smaller meetings rooms to work well, breakfast rooms, we have outdoor facilities, welcome receptionists, we have very good facilities that allow very quality meetings and we work very hard on our skills to make sure we able to provide meetings, MICE class with a very good experience. That is one of the tools we use to attract high quality customers to our hotel.
Another important segment for us are the leisure. Often, many of those guests who come from Seoul, perhaps couples and families who come here for vacation and escape from Seoul and we provide very good facilities. We have 3 swimming pools; one of those is the children’s pool, 2 very good restaurants, playground facilities, ground floor lounge which accommodates our leisure guests very well so once again, those tools are the tools we focus on to attract high quality guests not only from Seoul, but around the world.
Q: I want to seek your opinion. How Economic crisis will affect on the hotel industry tourism? And how about Korea compared to Australia?
A: I am not sure that I have been in Korea long enough to properly understand what to comment on the state of the Korea economy. What is very impressive to me is that, in a country that has worked very hard for the recent generation to become the country that it is today. Aand I could see Korean people are very proud of that as it should be. I would imagine there must be some ups and some downs in any economy and Korea will continue to prosper because of the hard work of the people and the natural attribute of the people and the country. I guess the secret to any business’ success is to make sure that they understand those changes in market conditions and are able to continue work through those. I can say that, that will be the case for my experience in any environment whether it’s Australia or with any other international market place. Staying close to what is going on in your market place, the market intelligence, to understand a little bit about the economic trend and flows is important for me in my position and to make sure that we are reacting accordingly to keep our business strong. That will be very similar to what we are having in Australia as well.
Q: Please tell me any advice for those who are dreaming hotelier in near future.
A: I think hotels provide a very good opportunity for young people. I heard hotels in Korea provide young people with the opportunity to learn many different things. It provide young people with the opportunity to work in different locations and it provides very good career growth. An example, in our organization, we have many Korean people working in Korea in our hotels, obviously in Korea. We also have some people that progress from Korea internationally, and we are very proud of them as an organization. People like me, in my position started my career as a young person working in the hotel operations. I started my career as working in the hotel and that will be the case with me and other hotels around the world. In the many years that I’ve been working in hotels, I’ve had the opportunity to work in a high rate hotels and worked in four different countries and I think they are going to be very fortunate. I see that happening with many young people in our organization. That was the opportunity presented to me. It is an opportunity that continues to present itself to young people. Our organization is growing very rapidly and we always looking for good people we can recruit and train and employ to be one day perhaps, hotel managers or to fill other senior positions eventually in our organization so I think working in a hotel is very good opportunity for young people.