The Executive Committee (ExCom) at Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts has kick-started its ‘Grand Tour of Asia’ with a visit to Bangkok. ExCom is led by Olivier Chavy, President and CEO of Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, Craig Cochrane, Senior VP Human Resources, Paul Mulcahy, Senior VP Commercial, Floor Bleeker, Chief Information Officer, along with Andrew Langdon Senior Vice President Asia and Chief Development Officer.

The two-and-half-week mission aims to meet colleagues, hotel owners, and key partners in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The Bangkok leg of the tour started on August 20 and will run until September 6 before the team heads next for Malaysia and the rest of Southeast Asia to conduct similar meetings.

The briefing started with an overview of the general outlook of the group; Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts currently operates 10 hotels and resorts in seven Asian destinations. In addition to its five hotels and resorts in Thailand, the company manages one property in each of China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.

However, growth is in the pipeline with 17 new projects already signed, all of which are on track to open by 2020, confirming the near-term expansion of the Asian portfolio to 27 properties. The breakdown of these newly signed projects is as follows: Vietnam (five), Thailand (four), Malaysia (three), Bangladesh (two), and one in each of China, the Philippines and the Maldives.

We will have at least 30 properties under our management in Asia by the end of the decade, and looking beyond 2020, we expect our property development activity across the continent to become a bigger percentage of our total portfolio,” said Andrew Langdon, Chief Development Officer, and one of the ExCom members taking part in the ‘Grand Tour of Asia’.

We are on track to open four new hotels and resorts this year – two in Thailand in Chiang Mai and Khao Yai, one in the Philippines – Boracay – our second property in the country, and another in Chifeng City, Inner Mongolia – our second hotel in China,” he added.

With a significant number of new openings in the region, Senior VP Human Resources, Craig Cochrane, talked to about the particular challenges the company faces in adding to its Asian network. He explained that one of the issues lay in freedom of movement, which can be a little more restricted than in some parts of the world. “One thing that we take very seriously is training and development, but when the opportunities aren’t there in one country when you’ve trained someone, they can be very frustrated and choose to move on. It’s not so easy for someone who developed their career with us in Thailand – we can’t just say there’s an opening at our property in Vietnam because it’s very difficult with visas and work permits.”  

Another challenge is that all companies need to work in a common language, and ours is English. Thailand is more advanced than some, so if we develop a great training program it will be in English – but does it lose its impact when we roll it out across a region?” he added.

One reason for optimism was the fact that the company’s service standards do appear to translate readily across cultures, with staff from across the region, and further afield, having little difficulty in adapting to Mövenpick’s requirements. On the other hand, Craig pointed out that educational standards differ widely, and in some locations people have simply never been familiarized with ideas such as food hygiene, which form a key component of international standards. “They’re not huge challenges but they’re things you don’t have to think about in some places but in other places you do,” he observed.

The concerns many hoteliers in Asia have about the ease of recruiting staff were less of a worry for Craig. Compared to Germany, where it can be difficult to find anyone at all who is willing to work in hospitality, Craig believed that Thailand does have a pool of potential recruits. “The base level for entry positions is a good attitude, and everything else we can teach,” he said. “It can be a little difficult to find qualified people, but it’s incumbent on us to show what you can achieve in this industry. In Asia it’s perfectly legitimate to have a career in hospitality, which maybe isn’t the perception in Europe.”

With a strong record on employment opportunity and diversity, the belief that contented staff will lead to satisfied guests, and some of the highest staff engagement scores in the industry, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts appear well-placed to thrive in the Asian region.