At your service
A hotel general manager finds it rewarding to ensure customer satisfaction.
WORKING in different hotels in Switzerland, Singapore and Malaysia exposed Depesh Seth to various sets of challenges. However, it was in China’s Sichuan province that he encountered an earth-shattering experience, literally speaking.
The year was 2008 and the date, May 12, the day a magnitude-8.0 earthquake hit.
Depesh, 35, was at the time hotel manager and acting general manager of the Sheraton Chengdu Lido Hotel in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan. “The earthquake happened at 2.28pm. The magnitude of 8.0 not only rocked the entire province but tremors were also felt in Beijing and Bangkok. During that period, we were running at a high occupancy of 90%. We were (in the thick of a) crisis and I had to ensure that the welfare of my team and customers were taken care of,” related Depesh, via
The city was in chaos and Depesh and his staff knew they had to take immediate action to bring the situation under control at the hotel.
First, they evacuated the entire hotel and moved everyone to a stadium next door. Then they combed through the hotel building and did a head count of team members and guests.
“Although some guests insisted on going back to their rooms during the evacuation, we had to stand firm for the benefit of their safety.
“We had never been trained in or handled such a crisis before but thankfully, with sheer dedication, selfless professionalism and strong courage of my team members, none of us nor our customers were injured. My team was outstanding and we stood by each other, risking our lives to ensure that everybody was taken care of,” he said.
Depesh later received a special recognition award from Starwood Worldwide (the group that owns Sheraton) for handling the entire crisis professionally and risking personal life.
A former student of St Paul’s Institution in Seremban, Depesh graduated with a Diploma in Hotel and Tourism Management from DCT University Centre in Switzerland in 1993.
He then worked at two hotels in Zurich before coming back to the Asian region in 1995 where he was based in different hotels in Singapore and Malaysia, attached to the food and beverage, and banquet departments.
In 2005, he became hotel manager of Sheraton Chengdu Lido, Sichuan, his first posting in China.
“Chengdu is a great lifestyle city and its motto of ‘A City You Never Say Goodbye To’ truly speaks for itself,” said Depesh, who is single.
In December 2008, he was appointed general manager of the Sheraton Xian Hotel in Xian, Shaanxi province, becoming Starwood group’s youngest general manager in Asia Pacific.
The hotel line is undoubtedly competitive, something Depesh can readily attest to.
“Currently, every city in China is booming and developing at a very fast pace. For hotels, competition is getting stiff and development and availability of talent is not (on par) with the growth of hotels. Hence, recruitment and retention of our great talents is a huge challenge.” Depesh’s current role is multi-prong. “As a general manager, you are required to be a jack-of-all-trades in good or bad times to ensure that you are managing a well-run hotel and ensuring staff and customer satisfaction.”
However, he enjoys meeting people from various backgrounds through his job even though he has to often work during the holiday seasons.
“Most of the time, you are working when everyone is celebrating and cherishing special occasions. However, when customers’ events are successful, there is no comparison to the satisfaction gained.”
Depesh, who likes to read magazines related to travel, trends, adventure and hospitality, plans to make the best of his time in Xian.
“Xian is an amazing city with a rich culture and history that dates back 13 dynasties. It also has the best of both modernity and authenticity,” he said.
Depesh’s personal goals in life include taking a month’s leave to go for the next World Cup in Brazil in 2014.
“And my last job would be to manage a chic boutique hotel at an exotic location before I call it a day,” said Depesh, who likes lounge, chill out and R&B music.