Top hote­lier takes down-to-earth ap­proach

Stay­ing close to cus­tomers and un­der­stand­ing their needs are key forHy­att, says its chief

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - By GUOYALI andWANG ZHUOQIONG Con­tact the writ­ers at guo yali@chi­ and wangzhuo­qiong@china

The year 2017 will be the 60th an­niver­sary of Hy­att, which was founded by Chicago bil­lion­aire Jay Pritzker in 1957, when he ac­quired the Hy­at­tHouse mo­tel ad­ja­cent to the Los Angeles In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

But rather than just look­ing to cel­e­brate its ex­pan­sion into a global hos­pi­tal­ity com­pany with widely-rec­og­nized lead­ing brands, the hote­lier is fo­cus­ing on the fu­ture, ac­cord­ing to Mark S. Ho­pla­mazian, pres­i­dent and CEO of Hy­att Ho­tels Cor­po­ra­tion.

Ho­pla­mazian said the fo­cus is not on a par­tic­u­lar ini­tia­tive, but rather think­ing about the next gen­er­a­tion.

He said the group will be ex­pand­ing sig­nif­i­cantly in the com­ing four to five years, op­er­at­ing in 26 new­mar­kets.

“That to me is a very im­por­tant dy­namic, be­cause those are mar­kets which we know our cus­tomers are look­ing to travel to.”

Ho­pla­mazian spoke with China Daily about the com­pany’s strat­egy and its plans for the Chi­nese mar­ket. The fol­low­ing are edited ex­cerpts from the in­ter­view:

You have said the goal of Hy­att is not to be the largest ho­tel brand in the world, but the most pre­ferred ho­tel brand. Why say so?

For us, mak­ing sure that we stay close to our cus­tomer base and un­der­stand what they are look­ing for, while adapt­ing what we do to new ex­pe­ri­ences for our guests, is re­ally key for us.

It’s im­por­tant to be present where our guests are trav­el­ing. We are not try­ing to serve ev­ery­one, ev­ery­where, with ev­ery­thing. What we want to do is to stay fo­cused on high­end trav­el­ers and make sure that we un­der­stand what they are look­ing for.

It is a much more fo­cused ap­proach, as op­posed to just max­i­miz­ing the num­ber of ho­tels.

How has the China mar­ket per­formed for the group so far this year, and how do you see its prospects?

China has con­tin­ued to show sta­ble, pos­i­tive progress. One of the great things we en­joy in China is a very strong rep­u­ta­tion in food and bev­er­age. F&B op­er­a­tions led very strong growth in rev­enue in China, and nearly 50 per­cent of our to­tal rev­enue base comes from F&B, which is one of the high­est in the world. As for room rates and oc­cu­pancy, over­all it’s been pos­i­tive in China.

How has China’s on­go­ing anti-ex­trav­a­gance cam­paign af­fected your business?

Our business is not nec­es­sar­ily de­pen­dent on gov­ern­men­tal business or State-owned en­ter­prise business; it is just a part of the to­tal de­mand in the mar­ket. The good news is that many newho­tels have opened, the new sup­ply is be­ing ab­sorbed, and business con­tin­ues to grow.

When we look at the ram­pup for our new ho­tels open­ings, we see con­sis­tent in­creases in the rev­enue base over time. I would say things have been sta­ble and pos­i­tive over the past year and a half.

How do you dif­fer­en­ti­ate Hy­att’s brands in China, and how does China fit into the big pic­ture for Hy­att?

It starts with how we set the cul­ture and tone in­ter­nally. We have a dis­tinct po­si­tion­ing for each brand that is de­signed around its core cus­tomer group.

We’ve taken time to bring them to life in dif­fer­ent ways. To give an ex­am­ple, ParkHy­att is a con­tem­po­rary, mod­ern lux­ury brand, com­mit­ted to a re­fined, so­phis­ti­cated ex­pe­ri­ence.

We have cre­ated a pro­gram called “Masters of Food & Wine” which brings mas­ter chefs and som­me­liers from around the world and cre­ates a unique pro­gram for dif­fer­ent cuisines. It’s a very char­ac­ter­is­tic of the ParkHy­att brand.

China’s ris­ing mid­dle-class fam­i­lies have con­trib­uted to the strong growth of both do­mes­tic and out­bound travel. In what way is Hy­att ad­dress­ing such de­mand for Chi­nese leisure trav­el­ers — both at home and abroad?

We are see­ing a lot more out­bound Chi­nese trav­el­ers, and that is def­i­nitely hav­ing an im­pact on global travel. One thing that is evolv­ing, here and around the world, is this whole move­ment to­wards ex­pe­ri­ences rather than prod­ucts.

In­creas­ingly cus­tomers, not Age: Ca­reer: Ed­u­ca­tion: Fam­ily: just Chi­nese cus­tomers, look­ing for ex­pe­ri­ences.

In other words, even if you have a great prod­uct, it has to sup­port great ex­pe­ri­ences. It’s not just about hav­ing great rooms, great lob­bies and great restau­rants.

Those things are im­por­tant, and they have to be there to cre­ate a good ex­pe­ri­ence, but it has to ex­tend be­yond ho­tels. are

How do you en­cour­age guest loy­alty?

We try to build a com­mu­nity of trav­el­ers con­nected to our brand. We have a loy­alty pro­gram, the Hy­att Gold Pass­port, which has sig­nif­i­cantly helped to in­crease mem­ber­ship.

More than a third of our business comes from th­ese guests. The amount of time they are stay­ing with us and the amount they are spend­ing with us con­tinue to in­crease.

We also have a pro­gram called “Club at the Hy­att”, which is a mem­ber­ship pro­gram that al­lows mem­bers to have a spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence with Hy­att, even when they are liv­ing at home.

How do you mo­ti­vate and lead in­ter­na­tional staff?

As a com­pany, we are very fo­cused on one cen­tral pur­pose, which is: We care for peo­ple. Ex­press­ing our care for peo­ple comes first through how we hire peo­ple, how we de­velop our col­leagues, and give them op­por­tu­ni­ties over time.

We don’t tell them to con­duct them­selves in a cer­tain way, fol­low th­ese rules and speak in cer­tain way. We want peo­ple to show who they are. That’s true ev­ery­where around the world, and it’s also very much true in China. Cur­rently, we have 14,000 em­ploy­ees in China, with thou­sands more com­ing with new open­ings.

To me, that’s re­ally a huge and im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity for us to make a con­tri­bu­tion, to have a great im­pact on a big pop­u­la­tion of young peo­ple, by giv­ing them ca­reer paths.

What is your phi­los­o­phy? life/business

I am­not sure Ihave just one. I had the ben­e­fit of hav­ing a re­ally won­der­ful mother-in­law. She was a unique per­son and she taught me a very in­valu­able yet sim­ple les­son. She said: “in life, you should have only one set of man­ners.” That meant you don’t treat peo­ple dif­fer­ently de­pend­ing on whether they are su­per im­por­tant, or some­one who is maybe just an or­di­nary cit­i­zen.

You should al­ways treat peo­ple with re­spect. That ba­sic life phi­los­o­phy is very sim­ple but very pow­er­ful.

As an in­ter­na­tional trav­eler, how do you bal­ance work and fam­ily?

Some­times my work life takes over my whole life, and some­times my fam­ily time takes over.

I don’t try to bal­ance them at ev­ery mo­ment in time, be­cause it doesn’t work that way for me. The more im­por­tant thing I find is, no mat­ter what you are do­ing, to be fully present and mind­ful of what’s go­ing on while you are there.

What are your in­ter­ests and hob­bies?

I’m an ac­tive per­son, so I like ex­er­cis­ing. I work out al­most ev­ery day. I re­ally like food and wine. If I am trav­el­ing and I have the time, I also like to go to a gallery rep­re­sent­ing local artists.

I like to see what’s hap­pen­ing in the local art scene, I al­ways find it fas­ci­nat­ing. Also mu­sic, I like to go to places with live mu­sic so I can find the vi­brancy in the local com­mu­nity.

52 2006 on­wards: Pres­i­dent and CEO, Hy­att Ho­tels Cor­po­ra­tion 1989-06: Worked for and then ap­pointed as pres­i­dent of the Pritzker Or­ga­ni­za­tion; Served as ad­vi­sor to var­i­ous Pritzker fam­ily-owned com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Hy­att Ho­tels Cor­po­ra­tion and its pre­de­ces­sors 1988: Sum­mer as­so­ciate, Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group 1985-87: Worked in in­ter­na­tional merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions sec­tor at the First Bos­ton Cor­po­ra­tion in New York 1987-89: MBA, the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago, Booth School of Business 1981-85: BA (eco­nom­ics), Har­vard Uni­ver­sity Mar­ried to Rachel Kohler, hav­ing three chil­dren

How many times have vis­ited China? Which your fa­vorite cities?

I can’t de­cide which city or ho­tel is my fa­vorite. It’s like ask­ing me which of my chil­dren I love more, I can­not choose.

I love ex­plor­ing dif­fer­ent coun­tries, so I like to get around and see dif­fer­ent ho­tels and mar­kets, learn­ing as I go. Ev­ery place I’ve been has such a dif­fer­ent feel­ing to it.

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Mark S. Ho­pla­mazian, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Hy­att Ho­tels Corp.

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