Hong Kong’s Hotel ICON is not exactly ordinary. While guests might not notice anything unusual – and that’s exactly as it should be – the hotel’s mission isn’t limited to simply providing hospitality and generating profits. Hotel ICON is instead wholly owned by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and its primary role is to provide a learning environment for students at the university’s renowned School of Hotel and Tourism Management. The vision benefits both the hotel and the industry as a whole as trainees are equipped with the knowledge and expertise they need to advance the broader field of hospitality.

This approach places Hotel ICON in the unusual position of viewing high staff turnover as a big positive; after all, if graduates are moving on to other companies then the process of developing talent has been a success. However, the current turnover rate for entry level employees remains lower than the industry average of around 25-26%. The hotel also provides opportunities for locals, with 95% of the full-time workforce comprising Hong Kong residents.

With a mission focused on the development of personnel, it is no surprise that Hotel ICON also hosts a number of forums which both students and bigger industry players the chance to reflect on key operational challenges, driving team efficiencies, and meeting guest expectations. Sharing knowledge, industry networking, and learning about the latest technologies and solutions are all essential outcomes of hosting conferences, and have cemented Hotel ICON’s position as a leader in innovative practices, giving its students the best possible opportunities to thrive.

The staff are fully committed to the mission of developing the next generation of hospitality leaders, as Ian Lee, Director of Finance and Administration, explained. “We notice that employee engagement is higher compared to other hotels. We organize numerous social activities all year round as well as a range of CSR activities such as elderly visits, Earth Day, and others. These aren’t just play-time. They help develop stronger interpersonal relationships among the employees and reinforce our company culture, deepening employee engagement. We are a highly employee-centric company, and employee engagement is a vital KPI because it involves emotions and feelings, which would otherwise be hard to measure objectively.”

Another important issue for a hotel with close links to the education sector is diversity, and Ian pointed out that inclusion is best achieved when top management set the standard and employees are involved at every level. “We work with a consultancy to provide training to ensure that staff are aware of the hotel’s vision and have enhanced cultural competence, and we’re also working w**ith insurance companies to offer medical benefits for same sex partners. We’re also meeting our employment targets for employees with disabilities. In December 2017 we are organizing the very first diversity and inclusion conference of the hospitality industry in Hong Kong to raise awareness and call for support among our industry partners.”

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University is known as one of the best in Asia, especially in the field of hospitality, so it is only fitting that Hotel ICON is also rated very highly.Since the hotel’s opening six years ago it has maintained its ranking among the top 5 hotels in Hong Kong based on TripAdvisor reviews, which is testament to our exceptional service and facilities. In 2017 we are ranked as among the Top 25 hotels in Asia,” said Ian.

The quality which has helped to earn such accolades has been achieved through innovation and the hotel’s ‘We Love to Care’ philosophy. “This is a service culture, overlaid with a deep sense of care and commitment for the individuality of guests,” We have** a leadership team who are trendsetters for the hotel, defining tomorrow’s hospitality experts. We are leaders who become mentors, coaches and trainers in supporting this service culture. We encourage new things and surprises for our guests.”

Listening is also a big part of the philosophy. “Guests’ reviews or feedback represent a very important platform for us to learn more about our guests and their preferences, and then to improve on our service delivery and facilities,” Ian commented. “And all the positive comments also inspire and motivate our staff to perform even better.”

If the current record of Hotel ICON is anything to go by, there is much for others to learn from the hotel’s ideas and implementation. Fortunately, Hong Kong Polytechnic University continues to turn out hospitality graduates who are ready to take those ideas and experiences, and spread them a little further around our industry.