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
– 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
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