HM sat down recently with StayWell Hospitality Group’s President and Director, Simon Wan, to shoot the breeze about a storied career in hospitality and some recollections from his early days in the game.
What was your first job in the accommodation industry and how long were you in it?
It’s incredible to think back that long ago – I’ve been working in hotels for more than 35 years! My first job in the industry was at the Excelsior Hotel in Hong Kong – a 1,000 room hotel with 10 restaurants and bars including a rooftop nightclub on the 35th floor overlooking Hong Kong Harbour. I was part of an industry graduate program, so I was very fresh, very green, and very enthusiastic. I spent two years there, learning everything I could about how a hotel operates, and it set me up for a lifetime in the accommodation industry.
Can you tell us a funny, memorable or embarrassing story involving you from the early part of your career?
I spent time working at Holiday Inn on Scott Road in Singapore, and it was a very luxurious hotel which often welcomed very influential guests and VIP’s. So influential in fact, that guests included royalty from around the world. It was a very exciting day when I was given the task of welcoming royal guests from England at the front entrance of the hotel, and escorting them to their room – the hotel’s presidential suite, of course.
As I was still a young man at the time, I wasn’t quite as worldly as I might have liked to think, and I mistakenly greeted the wrong people and took them to the presidential suite. Needless to say, the guests were thrilled with their unexpectedly grand accommodation, and it took some very fast talking and all the customer service training I had ever learned to fix that mistake!
What’s the best piece of advice you can give to young people assessing whether hospitality or tourism is right for them as a profession?
A career in hospitality is like nothing else – it’s a dynamic, interesting, and ever-changing industry. But it’s also challenging, it can be exhausting, and it’s an environment that can change instantly, so anyone considering a career in tourism needs to be prepared to deal with those aspects. It’s a career that can take you around the world, and that opens your eyes and your heart to so many people, cultures, and ways of life, so if you’re an extrovert, love to meet and talk to people, and travel around the word then this could very well be the right job for you.