Business of Happiness

Business of Happiness

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CHUA YU XIANG

SENIOR MISSION CONTROL MANAGER

YOTELAIR SINGAPORE CHANGI AIRPORT

How long have you been in the hotel industry? I’ve been in the hotel industry for seven years. I started as an intern in a boutique hotel, and joined a pre-opening team at a hotel after I completed my National Service. From there, I joined the pre-opening team at YOTEL Singapore, before joining YOTELAIR Singapore Changi Airport.

What made you decide to join the hotel industry? I realised that I have a passion to serve, and I get a strong sense of satisfaction when my guests are happy.

How has your career journey been so far? I started my career in hospitality industry as an intern at a small hotel, where I did a little bit of everything. I handled check-ins and check-outs, bell services and escorted guests to their room.

Soon after my National Service, I started working full-time as a Front Office Agent. Thereafter, I progressed to Front Office Supervisor and eventually, I was Duty Manager at the first hotel where I was part of the pre-opening team.

Along the way, I had superiors who guided me through the different systems and processes. As I moved forward in the industry, I became a mentor to my team and helped guide them through the hotel operations and pre-opening process and let them know what needed to be done. I always believe that if you have good superiors, newcomers will feel empowered, which leads to persistence in learning the right way, even when the going gets tough.

Every day presents a different lesson to be learnt, and I appreciate these moments as they contribute not only to my career development, but also to my personal growth.

Can you tell us more about your role and what you do on a daily basis? At YOTELAIR, our designations are all named after designations in the aviation industry. My designation at YOTELAIR Singapore Changi Airport is Senior Mission Control Manager, which is the equivalent of an Assistant Front Office Manager.

I was involved in the pre-opening of YOTELAIR and as the property is new, I had to ensure that my team was well equipped with the necessary skills to manage the Front Office operations. I currently manage a team of 10. My role requires me to mostly show support for the day-to-day hotel operations, and to ensure that everything is running smoothly.

YOTELAir Singapore Changi Airport is the third pre-opening team you have been a part of. What is unique about working in such teams, and what are some challenges you’ve faced? As part of the pre-opening team, we have to start many things from scratch. We set up a lot of the hotel operations and follow through till the eventual opening. It’s a challenging yet fulfilling process.

At hotels that are already established and are fully operational, they have all their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) set up. All you need to do is adhere to the systems that are already in place. But when you’re part of a pre-opening team, nothing is fixed yet. Changes to SOPs or procedures come in almost on a daily basis! That is something that we need to get used to. You need to be able to think quickly and adapt.

Additionally, every pre-opening team is made up of different crew members. This means getting used to different working styles. This is particularly challenging as every team member has his or her own point of view on how best to do things. So we need to sit down and resolve such issues before we start the project. Of course, everyone understands that as the pre-opening team, we are all working together towards a common goal.

How special has it been to work on YOTELAIR’s pre-opening at Jewel Changi Airport? It has been a very unique experience. We have come up with new procedures that have not been implemented before in our other hotels. For example, this is the first time that we’re introducing ‘Daylet’ reservations, which allow people to book stays with us in four-hour blocks, as opposed to typical hotel bookings on a per night basis. It’s a challenge to coordinate such bookings because people can now come in at any time and it’s harder to ensure that bookings do not conflict. Our hotel is also open to the public, and not just transit passengers. Now that Jewel Changi Airport is open, hopefully we are able to drive 100% occupancy in the hotel.

What do you enjoy most about what you do? I enjoy seeing the hotel running smoothly. It also gives me great joy seeing my team working in a positive environment, where they are comfortable, happy and motivated. There’s a real sense of accomplishment when guests tell you how much they’ve enjoyed their stay, and that we’ve created a memorable experience for them.

What’s your most memorable experience in your job? Working in the hotel industry is not easy, and many challenges arise each day. There was an incident where the fire alarm was set off three times in a row past midnight. As the situation can become very chaotic, we had to be firm with our decisions. With the cooperation of the hotel staff and guests, we managed to handle the situation very professionally, explaining to the guests that they were false alarms. The team also ensured that everybody got back to their rooms in an orderly fashion. To date, whenever such challenging situations occur, I am reminded of the camaraderie of the team and how fulfilling it is to have a team that supports you.

How do you think you contribute to a guest’s happiness during his/her stay? In many instances, I am able to anticipate and provide for my guests’ needs without them having to approach me. Simply remembering them when they return can make such a difference to them. I find that it’s all about the little things – offering them a friendly greeting or smile, engaging with them yet respecting their space.

When the job gets tough, what gets you through? A positive mindset certainly helps. I tell myself that tough times are also learning opportunities.

Tell us about the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) Bravery Award that you received last October. How did that come about and how did it feel to be recognised? One of our housekeepers had a sudden heart attack and collapsed. I attended to him immediately with the help of other colleagues and thankfully he’s now in a better condition. Obviously, we didn’t do it for any award, but it does make me happy that the organisation recognised our efforts and I’m grateful.

Do you have any goals that you hope to achieve during your time in the hotel industry? My personal goal would be to always improve and gain as many opportunities to grow as possible, and to be the best I can be in this industry. Besides that, I hope to inspire my team and lead them to greater heights.

What advice would you share with someone who is interested in joining the hotel industry? The industry isn’t a bed of roses, but it is certainly fulfilling and rewarding for those who strive to do their best. Work with an open heart and mind, because hard work and a good personality are always the keys to success.