Home' micenet eMag : micenet December 2018 Contents I
t’s a given that every hotel opening is going
to be different depending on the market,
the brand and the location. For the Westin
Brisbane complex director sales and
marketing, Michelle Scott, opening new
properties appears to be her thing.
Prior to joining the Westin Brisbane she
opened the Fiji Marriott Momi Bay in her
capacity as director of sales and marketing.
“Having another hotel that you are
managing and striving for success means
you need to be organised and stick to your
critical path because at Marriott we open at a
very quick pace,” she said.
That quick pace translates into Marriott
opening a new hotel every 14 hours.
“It’s a very robust pipeline and there’s a lot
that goes into an opening,” she explains.
“When it comes to opening a hotel in a
developing country such as Fiji there are
challenges you wouldn’t expect. You need to
have that grit and determination to roll up
your sleeves because there is a lot of things
outside of your job description to what you
“You need to understand everything from
industrial relations and awards to different tax
systems, and of pricing things differently. It’s
being creative, looking at a beach and
knowing how to bring it alive for an events
space; going along with the owners and the
builders regarding the landscaping, power,
bathroom facilities and paths.
“It might be that there is only one florist you can work with when you need to organise your
photo shoot for the rooms or you might not be able to get that range of botanicals that you
need to go with the brand, whereas in Australia, it’s quite a different matter.
“Sometimes I think the biggest challenges are your biggest rewards,” she says reflectively.
“W ith Westin we need to ensure that the wellness pillars – eat well and sleep well – are pulling
through the brand and that even at the guest arrival experience they sense it is a Westin brand.
It’s the same with the Marriott; we have pillars such as the design of the room that are in line
with what is a Marriott hotel.
“There is also the fact that with Momi Bay a lot of team members hadn’t worked for the brand
or the company before. On the recruitment day at the resort, which is in a bit of a remote
location, the process started early with more than 4000 people applying.
“The resort hotel owners invested in sending some of the local landowning community to
hospitality school and to university. We then shadowed them in our other Fiji Westin
properties, which for those who hadn’t worked in a hotel before gave them experience in an
“At Marriott we have a taskforce of different associates that come in from around the world to
assist in various capacities – whether it’s in training, setting up, systems, etcetera.”
Keeping an opening team inspired and motivated she describes required a different mindset.
Sometimes you lead with the heart and other times with your head.
“Culturally, Fiji is very interesting because you need to engage and work with the different
villages and the landowning community. Quite a few times I was in the village negotiating and
discussing different things with the elders – sitting with them and drinking kava,” she recalls.
To be on the Fiji Momi Bay opening team, Ms Scott moved to Fiji for 16 months with her
husband and young family, describing the move as an opportunity for her and the family to
socially and culturally absorb a different environment.
“For the children there was a great sense of freedom for them to be able to go to the beach
and swim every day. My husband took leave from his job in Brisbane, my daughter went to an
international school and we lived in the resort.”
Back home in Australia and now at school, her young son was asked to write on his Mother’s
Day card the sort of food that he liked mum to cook? Brightly he replied, “I love it when my
mummy orders room service!”
“Opening a hotel is a very challenging and sometimes frustrating time but it is also very
rewarding. With any hotel opening you are leaving a legacy, setting the foundation and the
Ask anyone who has worked on the opening of a
new hotel and it’s no picnic in the park. We talk
to three industry leaders about what it takes.
OPENING A NEW HOTEL | JILL VARLEY
TO A HOTEL OPENING
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building blocks, and the amazing thing is everyone comes together
because you have this common goal of opening this hotel.”
The InterContinental way
For InterContinental Hayman Island Resort’s Mark Eletr, working on the reopening of the aspirational
resort after sustaining extensive damage during Cyclone Debbie, is still a work in progress.
“The resort which has been in shut down since February last year is now going through a
repositioning exercise. Through this process the new management company InterContinental
Hotels & Resorts (IHG) is strongly committed to putting an international, luxury pedigree back on
the island,” he says.
Explaining the difference between opening a new hotel and doing major renovations to an
existing one, Mr Eletr said: “It Is easy to underestimate the work that is required. You can look at
the property and think it looks fine and yes, we can do this but when you start digging away,
open ceiling spaces and major infrastructure, you find things you never expected. Hence,
something you think might take six months ends up taking 12.
“The original target was to open at the end of this year and now it’s looking more like the
middle of next year. When you are building a new hotel things can be more predictable. You’ve
got a much more structured approach. You are coming into what is often a blank canvas which
starts with the foundations, then the services go in, the hotel goes in, the team goes in and then
you are open,” he explains.
Mr Eletr said the mindset of an opening team compared to an operating team can be quite different.
“The minute a property opens they run, so you want to recruit people who are part of the
opening story and for the continuing journey because they can look back and say, `I built this’.”
Currently the resort has around 100 staff with two to 300 contractors onsite who look after the
village. Many live on the island while others work on an 11/3 (11 days on, three days off) rotation.
“Full employment obviously depends on the business levels when we open. We are hoping in
those first few months we can achieve 40-50 per cent occupancy, getting up to 70 and 80 per
cent towards the end of the year. We would expect that full manning will be between 300-350
staff,” he says.
Questioned about what his hands-on involvement amounted to, he said the diversity of his
responsibility was pretty broad.
“You’re not just dealing with construction, you are dealing with operations, with government
bodies, people awaiting [opening] dates, and weddings that are booked and meeting
confirmations. It’s tying it all together and
getting some semblance of certainty
because you need to communicate to so
many people – to all of the stakeholders, to
the market, and you need to speak with a
consistent voice, with confidence and
certainty so that everyone knows that things
are progressing well.”
“The reward is you are building something
that is not only important to the investors but
it is important to the Whitsunday/Airlie Beach
region. Many of the operators are keen to
see the hotel open up again and also for the
Australian tourism industry landscape to have
a luxury opening in the Whitsundays once
more. You look at that with excitement and
Having a good work/life balance is also a
necessity to cope with the stresses and
strains of a role such as this, Mr Eletr says.
“You need to know your limits; to accept
that you can’t do it all yourself, to leverage
and balance the expertise and the abilities
and the diversity of your team as well as that
of the corporates and the owners. You also
need to keep yourself focused on the
priorities and not get caught up in a lot of the
smaller details.” When it comes to work/life
balance Mark’s love of fishing and water
sports, cooking and dining and entertaining
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