Checking in on lessons

Education | Trista Yeung 28 Feb 2017

Travel and tourism remain a constant solid pillar of Hong Kong's economy. With last year's tourist numbers still large at 56.65 million arrivals - the bulk from China, according to Immigration Department data - this fuels the need for hotel operations professionals.

Alan Ip Ho-ming, deputy manager for hotel operations and training at the THotel, said continuing growth and promotion of tourism offer bright job prospects to young people. But they also need to be aware that the hospitality industry today is not as glamorous as what it appears to be.

"A lot of hard work is required to operate a hotel successfully. Long working hours and being able to thrive in a stressful environment are a must. There's also a need to be prepared for sudden happenings," he said.

"Keeping guests satisfied is of prime concern. One cannot afford to remain complacent and just expect guests to return to your hotel. You have to make them think that it is worthwhile to come back again and again."

To provide promising hotel operations talent to the industry, the T Hotel was opened in 2011 in Pok Fu Lam to train Vocational Training Council hospitality students in the course of their studies.

The hotel is operated mainly by students under the supervision of experienced industry professionals. Students are required to run all hotel facilities and services, including reception, spa, restaurant and housekeeping.

Ip said the practical training sessions help facilitate the entry of students into some of the industry's harsh working conditions as they discover their weaknesses in the course of training.

"When they interact directly with guests, a million types of situation can happen. Different scenarios will really challenge how they respond immediately and how to use their problem- solving skills," he said.

"The training also offers an opportunity for them to apply theories they learn in the classroom. If they make mistakes, we can correct them immediately, giving them confidence to seek solutions when they encounter the same situation in the future," he said.

Kendrew Lee Kai-chun, a VTC diploma in hotel operations student, is undergoing training in housekeeping services and operations.

He said housekeeping duties are not as easy as he had thought.

"Housekeeping is a physically demanding job that involves numerous varied tasks. You need to learn how to operate different types of cleaning machines to ensure that floors, walls, windows, mirrors and bathroom fixtures are adequately cleaned. On special occasions, such as birthdays or Valentine's Day, we prepare a surprise gift to please guests," Lee said.

The one-year diploma program, which is an extension of the VTC's certificate in hotel operations course, requires every student to work for three weeks in each post at a hotel. This provides students with a holistic understanding of the structures and operations of different departments in a hotel.

Tiffany Maria Tandra, who completed two hotel operations programs, found her interest was in working at the front office as this provides her with the opportunity to meet tourists from around the world.

"Guests will respond to you if you serve them from the bottom of your heart. You have to anticipate what they need and want before they even ask. A simple greeting at the lobby or corridor will already make them feel like they're home," Tandra said.

"I am pleased that there are guests who wish to return and who talk to me excitedly about their next trip."

Tandra is now working as a graduate trainee at the T Hotel. She advised young people who wish to enter the hospitality industry to stick with their passion in spite of the demanding work environment.

"All efforts are rewarded. Nothing compares with the satisfaction of helping guests enjoy an unforgettable memory in the course of their trip," she said.

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