David Martens is an Australian national. He has more than 25 years of experience working in the hospitality industry and in various countries including Maldives, Egypt, Vanuatu and Fiji. Now, he is the General Manager of Centara Grand Beach Resort and Villas Hua Hin, which is the member of Luxury Hotels of the World.
What’s the most challenging in running your hotel?
The hotel has many long time repeater guests who have been staying at the hotel for many years, some up to 50 years. These valued guests have many special requests and preferences and will request the specific room number, which can be difficult to always accommodate. They also request specific tables for breakfast, location of their sun lounge by the pool and even special chairs and furniture to be set up to meet their special needs.
Have you ever been given any advice that proved not to be true?
I was told many times in the early part of my career that if I did not have a degree in hotel management I would not have a career in 5 star hotels, fortunately I did not listen and kept moving forward with learning “on the job”
What was your darkest moment in your career?
It would have to be when I had a fire in a hotel in the Maldives. We had only recently re-opened the resort after a major renovation, we had spent so much time in getting every detail correct and to see the building burn in such a quick instance was completely disheartening. Fortunately no one was injured and we were able to re-open the resort 6 weeks later.
If you could turn back time, what would be the one thing you would have changed in your career?
I would have started working in hotels sooner. I joined hotels by accident as a waiter in hotel restaurant after leaving a six year career in commercial banking. After a short time it was very obvious to me this was what I was meant to do and was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to be able work my way up through most of departments in a hotel before becoming a General Manager
What are your preferred sources when it comes to learning about hotels?
If you mean learning about hotels as a customer, it is through social media and research on review sites as well as word of mouth.
If you mean how to learn the hotel business, I still strongly believe in experiencing the role “on the floor” and learning as you go is invaluable.
Are you a ‘Lobby GM’ or a Numbers GM?’ – And what is the importance of being a Lobby and / or a Numbers GM?
I would have to say I am a lobby GM, because the numbers I did during my banking career and that part of the business, although is extremely important, did not excite me. I prefer to be where the action is in creating the numbers. Walking around the operation several times a day, interacting with the team and engaging with our guests to ensure we are meeting their expectations and if not ensuring we rectify shortcomings as soon as possible. Obtaining constant feedback from all our stakeholders ensures that our strategies we put in placed are leading us in the right direction. I was given advice from a mentor many years ago, that if the product and service delivery was correct the business will come. I still believe in this today.
What kind of marketing tools you find to be effective in PR&Marketing in the hotel world today?
This part of the business is changing rapidly and we need to change with it. Word of mouth and repeat business are still very important and it is in your best interest to protect and maintain this as best as you can. However in this era of technology, social media or PR in some peoples eyes now play an important role in formulating guests perception of what stay may be at your particular hotel. Therefore the traditional format of advertising in print media is becoming less and less attractive.
Now you need to focus more on your customer experiences and try to influence them to talk about their positive experiences on social media sites for all to see. Posting images and “selfies” of your property attracts a different generation and depending upon your properties demographics you need to embrace this style of communication. Although it is hard to quantify a return from these avenues, it is from my experience that consumers today will research their potential hotel stay through many social media sites such as Trip Advisor, Holiday Check, Facebook which influences the choices they make.