Industry Update
Opinion Article 8 April 2014

5 Hoteliers Offer Their Insight on How to Become Successful in the Hotel Industry

By Dr. Lily Lin, Author of "Interviewing Successful Hotel Managers"

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  • So, you want to be successful in the hotel industry.
  • You figure you have had a good hotel management education.
  • You've done your internships in a couple of the top international hotels.
  • You've been working hard and have spent the last couple of years learning to be an hotelier.
  • You think that you have everything to offer.
  • You want career opportunities and you want them fast!
  • You haven't got the time or patience to wait for your turn — Besides, you know you are ready to take on the big challenge!


But why can't people see your potential?!
Why aren't people jumping at the

chance to offer you the best opportunity in their company? Does it sound familiar?

The problem is that nowadays many jobseekers and young employees are used to seeing instant

success stories on media. They have come to expect the same for their career advancement. Secondly, employers complain that many of them are more interested in 'what a job can do for them — not what they have to offer an employer'. Such an attitude won't get you very far!


average, it takes about 10–20 years to groom a talented individual into a competent and experienced general manager of a flagship hotel in a major city. Here are some pieces of advice offered by five leaders in the hotel industry:

Peter Verhoeven, who

is the Chief Operating Officer of ibis Brands Europe at ACCOR Paris, talked about the secret of his success:
  • First, you need to be passionate about the things you do. It is a marathon, not a sprint. The fuel you need is passion! 
  • I think strong analytical skills and the art of using languages to persuade or influence others are also important. You should be convincing and willing to be convinced. Be a good listener and always have an open mind. 
  • Another important point is the lack of arrogance. If you think that you are better than others, you are in the wrong business. 
  • You must be willing to make personal sacrifices. For example, I would love to be able to spend more time with my family, if I had more time. But you cannot do this job part-time . . . . 
  • High levels of energy also help.

Peter Verhoven overlooks the 727 IBIS Hotels in Europe. 

Ricco M.

DeBlank, the CEO of SHKP Hotels at Sun Hung Kai Properties LTD in Hong Kong, talked about his success factors:
  • When you are young and inexperienced, if you want to stand out, you must be willing to work hard and for long hours — and in the hotel business you know you are paid less than your friends. I remember my father told me that I should always volunteer to take on extra tasks. In time, people will notice that you are a team player and you will be valued more. 
  • I was willing to sacrifice in order to get what I wanted — I dreamed of being a GM. 
  • But, of course, I loved what I did. I enjoy working in the service industry. 
  • Luck, being at the right place at the time, is another factor. Sometimes, you can make your "luck" but it is not always the case.

W Hong Kong is one of the 12 hotels in SHKP Hotels' portfolio. Ricco DeBlank is the CEO of



Idenburg, is the Group CEO of the ADNEC Group in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He is in charge of Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, Al Ain Convention Centre, ExCeL London, Hyatt Capital Gate, Aloft Abu Dhabi Hotel and Aloft London Hotel. Pieter talked about what has contributed his success:
  • After graduating from high school, I went to the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague [in the Netherlands] but I decided that it was not for me. I thought about getting a business degree but institutional learning was not for me either. 
  • I do believe in learning. I learn every day, but for me, this does not need to take place in a classroom. I am receptive and interested in so many things. This helps me pick up new ideas. I am also an avid reader. I read all kinds of books from business books to autobiographies.
  • I believe in trying new things and I am not afraid to take on any job. I have worked in a number of industries; I have been a bartender, waiter, receptionist, agent trainee, ticket agent, supervisor and more before I was given the responsibility to be a manager and later to be in senior management roles.
  • Still, it was a long and hard journey! You need to have courage, so that when you fall, you will get up again with absolute gusto! If you can't find the strength, take a deep look inside to determine whether you are the right person for the job!
  • I respect people who have spent years to get a degree. But I believe that it is not the deciding factor. In my experience and in this industry, vocational studies and experience can be just as valuable, if not more.

Pieter Idenburg is the Group CEO of Abu Dhabi Exhibition Center – the largest exhibition

venue in the Middle East


Silseth, the President & CEO of Nordic Choice Hotels offers the following advice to those who are inspired to become successful in the hotel industry:
  • I would advise them to learn one discipline really well, may it be revenue management, operations management or sales and marketing. Build a platform and then evolve from that platform. If you know a little bit of everything but nothing in depth, you won't be able to make it.


Ortelee, the Vice President Revenue Performance at the Pan Pacific Hotels Group in Singapore said that the person he would hire would have to possess:
  • Analytical skill: He/she must be able to deal with and understand numbers and know what they mean. At a higher level of analytical skill, he/she must be able to turn the available data into a strategy.
  • He/she has to be a logical thinker: Decisions should be made based on objective information.
  • He/she must be curious and willing to ask questions: If you don't ask questions, you are not curious enough. You need curiosity to detect problems and find solutions. You also need curiosity to be able to pinpoint underlying signals on business changes.
  • He/she must be able to see things from the perspective of the employer as well as the employees.
  • He/she must be quality conscious and a top performer in his field. Investors only look for exceptional companies. They do not appreciate mediocrity.

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24 April 2014 — Everyone wants to be successful. But success comes with a price tag. One must be willing to pay the "union due" to join the Success Club. What is it like to be a general manager of a major hotel brand? How do they do it? What golden rules do they .
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