Life at the re­sort

If any­one has hos­pi­tal­ity in his blood it is Barry Robin­son. His par­ents owned ho­tels and mo­tor Inns and he was al­ready work­ing in the business as a young teenager. Robin­son speaks with Bob For­shaw about his love for the ho­tel in­dus­try and how that in­dust

Business First - - CONTENTS -

– If any­one has hos­pi­tal­ity in his blood it is Barry Robin­son. His par­ents owned ho­tels and mo­tor inns and he was al­ready work­ing in the business as a young teenager. Robin­son speaks about his love for the ho­tel in­dus­try and how it has evolved since he first manned a re­cep­tion desk.

LIFE AT THE

RE­SORT

New Zealand born Barry Robin­son was 10 when he had his first taste of the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try. As he watched his par­ents work hard, he was in­stilled with a sense of ad­ven­ture and en­trepreneur­ship, but he also learned the tech­ni­cal as­pects of the business.

“The hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try tech­ni­cally is very sim­ple,” Robin­son says. “To start with you have to be re­spon­sive with peo­ple. It is a re­la­tion­ship-fo­cused business where an eye for de­tail is re­quired. You have to en­sure you hire the right staff, peo­ple with 12 or 13 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in mak­ing the beds the right way and look­ing for ev­ery de­tail to en­sure when peo­ple are en­ter­ing their room for the first time, the room is im­pec­ca­ble. That is a skill that is lack­ing in some places to­day. You also have to work harder than the next per­son. And if you are not re­ally pre­pared to do that then you are not go­ing to be suc­cess­ful. It is go­ing to be harder to get to that su­per­vi­sor po­si­tion. Some­times you need to be able to multi task while en­sur­ing you cre­ate a point of per­sonal dif­fer­ence for ev­ery guest.”

When he started on his own, the ques­tion of whether Robin­son would stay in hos­pi­tal­ity or cre­ate his own path lin­gered. It was the lat­ter choice at first and he bought a small trans­port business in Aus­tralia, which he says did mod­er­ately well. The time was the early 1980s and Robin­son held onto the business for close to a decade be­fore sell­ing out when the hos­pi­tal­ity bug came call­ing.

It was then that Robin­son’s hos­pi­tal- ity ca­reer re­ally took off. He did his ap­pren­tice­ship within the fam­ily business and took that ex­pe­ri­ence fur­ther with sev­eral in­de­pen­dent ho­tels and re­sorts. He stepped out of his com­fort zone to move into cor­po­rate hos­pi­tal­ity and at 27, was ap­pointed to a gen­eral man­ager po­si­tion with Qual­ity Inns NZ. He then went to work for in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions Swis­so­tel and Choice Ho­tels In­ter­na­tional. Choice is one of the largest and most suc­cess­ful ac­com­mo­da­tion fran­chisors in the world. With over 6,100 ho­tels open and un­der de­vel­op­ment in more than 40 coun­tries.

“I went into the cor­po­rate hos­pi­tal­ity world where I hadn’t been be­fore. I had al­ways been fam­ily ori­en­tated.”

The for­mer CEO of Choice Ho­tels New Zealand ap­proached Robin­son to open a four-star re­sort in In­done­sia.

“I thought it was a strange move in those days. It turned out to be a bit of an eye opener go­ing into a dif­fer­ent coun­try. I had a cou­ple of years in In­done­sia to start with and then went to China for about three years. I learnt a lot dur­ing that time. It was a re­ally in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause it was a com­mu­nist coun­try then and China hadn’t re­ally opened its doors to the rest of the world. The Se­cu­rity Bureau mon­i­tored all your ac­tiv­i­ties and it was a steep learn­ing curve as we had to quickly try and learn the lan­guage and grasp an un­der­stand­ing of the cul­ture.”

De­spite the dif­fi­cul­ties the launch into Asia was suc­cess­ful and Robin­son be­came pro­fi­cient in Asian re­la­tion­ships, a skill that is cru­cial in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try to­day.

“One of the im­por­tant things that I learnt in China was pa­tience; in your ne­go­ti­a­tions and in your in­struc­tions to some de­gree.”

This helped when he even­tu­ally had to deal with hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars worth of in­vest­ment and in­vestors in the cap­i­tal-in­ten­sive time­share model and the con­struc­tion of re­sort fa­cil­i­ties through­out the Asia Pa­cific.

When Robin­son moved back to Aus­tralia in 2001, it was for a num­ber of rea­sons. He now had a young fam­ily to take care of and he was lead­ing the ac­qui­si­tion of the Flag Group as MD of Choice Ho­tels Asia Pa­cific. It wasn’t long after he stepped foot back in Aus­tralia that he was ap­proached by a head­hunter rep­re­sent­ing Wyn­d­ham Va­ca­tion Re­sorts Asia Pa­cific.

“I had a look at the company and con­sid­ered why I would want to run a time­share business. But they con­vinced me of its mer­its and that’s when my Wyn­d­ham days started. I get bored quickly and I ac­tu­ally didn’t think I’d be here this long but the in­ter­est­ing thing is, Wyn­d­ham Va­ca­tion Re­sorts Asia Pa­cific has a di­verse range of busi­nesses within busi­nesses. There is the va­ca­tion own­er­ship business, the ho­tel man­age­ment business and a large con­sumer fi­nanc­ing business, which op­er­ates a

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