Steve Lockhart cut his teeth in the industry as an operations manager in the UK launching entertainment venues, which brought him neatly to a new role as Director of Entertainment at Novotel Bangkok on Siam Square. After spending time working with the hospitality giant Accor in a number of different properties, Steve moved to his current position as Cluster General Manager and Brand Ambassador for X2 Pattaya Oceanphere and X2 Vibe Pattaya Seaphere.
What’s the most challenging aspect of running your hotel?
Managing a hotel operation can be rather complex and being Cluster General Manager of two great properties can be quite demanding. I would say each new day brings a host of new opportunities rather than challenges. A key skill you must have is to manage your time as the job can be unpredictable. The administration and paperwork take up quite a bit of your day and it’s very easy to become weighed down with that and tied up behind your desk. I always ensure that I find ‘people time’ every day to spend with guests and staff – after all, this is the number one reason I got into the hospitality industry.
What kind of opportunities do you see here in this location, and what are your unique selling points?
Cross Hotels and Resorts has two fantastic locations in Pattaya, and during the past 14 months I have seen so much growth and development in this area, from funky roadside cafes, and beach side restaurants and bars, to luxury resorts and condominium developments. In the endless search for new beaches and local cultural areas for the Bangkokians, this area is the new upcoming hotspot as it has much nicer beaches, many of which are hidden gems. It’s also much closer than Hua Hin, with only a 90-minute travel time.
X2 is excellent at delivering USPs; we have our brand standard USPs along with those which are property-specific. As Brand Ambassador for X2 Resorts, I am in the fortunate position to introduce and trial new USPs. The latest is our bedding – we have now settled on Tencel, which is an incredibly soft and luxurious fabric.
You are a boutique hotel kind of guy, so what do you see in the boutique hotel segment that could be improved?
The whole purpose of hospitality is to keep the guests happy, and this allows us to build up loyalty with guests for the chief purpose of growing direct bookings. Boutique properties maintain this by creating a unique guest experience whether it be going that extra mile with guest service, offering a cool, hip property design, cutting-edge technology, traditional and cultural experiences, or wellness and being eco-friendly. These are key areas that boutique properties focus on and constantly strive to innovate.
We as a brand are constantly evolving and introducing new guest experiences. The benefit of being in this segment is that we have the freedom to think outside the box which allows us to do things differently, and in many cases better than mainstream brands. This sets us apart from others and allows us to innovate and implement services and SOPs much more quickly than mainstream brands, which helps us to stay one step ahead.
In your opinion, what's the most important factor in getting repeat guests?
As previously mentioned, it all boils down to the guest experience and offering something that leaves guests with a personalized and memorable stay. This is where we at X2 excel. Experiences have been part of our DNA since the birth of our very first property, X2 Kui Buri, 12 years ago. I often read articles from mainstream brands boasting about new experiences they have recently introduced, which X2 were originally doing all those years ago.
I feel that while all factors are equally important, one key factor is our team. It’s important for all of the team members to engage with the guests and communicate with them on a first name basis whenever possible. I recall on one occasion a couple of returning guests had been in our bar. Our bartender, who over the years had built a good relationship with this couple, had been upselling quite a few his cocktail concoctions all evening. The following morning, on his own initiative, our bartender had gone to the trouble of coming in for the morning shift to personally create and serve Bloody Marys to the couple. It’s small touches like this that make the guests’ stay so much more memorable.