|An Interview with the Vice President Mr.Ford, Area Managing Director for South China Under the Starwood Hotels& Resorts Worldwide, as well as General Manager of the Sheraton Sanya Resort
"Hotel consumption and hotel management are both lifestyles. Choosing a hotel is choosing a sort of lifestyle to a guest; while choosing hotel industry is also management is both a part of life." Recently, the vice president, area managing director for South China under the Starwood Hotels& Resorts Worldwide, as well as general manager of the Sheraton Sanya Resort, Mr. Stephen Ford accepted an interview from our journal. His deep understanding of seeking happiness and improvement from the career over 40 years is totally expressed out by his simple words, profound philosophy, exclusive British manners and humor.
Mr. Ford is a wise and romantic ¡°manager¡± of the hotel, treating his career as a sort of lifestyle, and we see Sheraton Sanya Resort keeps running as a market leader among all the 5star hotels in Sanya under the management of Mr. Ford on the foundation of his predecessors.
International famous brand leads the market
There is no doubt that Sheraton Sanya Resort is a famous brand in hotel industry, and as the first resort opened in China by Starwood Group, Sheraton has been always leading the market of Sanya¡¯s hotel industry in the past 7 years. It has been kept a high room rate and has built a strong brand reputation in state receptions.
As the vice president, area managing director for South China, AS well as the general manager of Sheraton Sanya Resort, Mr.Ford is a humble person. He devoted 2/3 of his working time in the management, maintenance, and development of Sheraton Sanya Resort. ¡°Before I came here, this hotel has done very well, and what I should do is just to maintain the achievements of the predecessors, to maintain the operation and a high rate of returned customers, and to penetrate the cooperation and coordination both inside and outside the Starwood, and it is one of the most valuable assets of the group. It has the most loyal ¡°Starwood Preferred Guests¡± and "considerable returned customers¡±. Nowadays, Sheraton has gained more and more middle class guests from China mainland, and the source market has achieved an expansion from high-end to mid-to-high end.
Treat career as lifestyle Life is better when shared
Easygoing and considerate are the first impression Mr. Ford left to us. The interview was delayed from the appointed 02:30pm, due to the sudden failure of our news van. However, Mr. Ford and the Public Relation Manager, Ms. Wang Lijing, have been waiting in the baby when we arrived. Mr. Ford¡¯s gentle smile and British manners made us better off from our uneasiness and regret for late. When our cameraman requested him to shift seats for better light effects, Mr. Ford smiled to consent, and reminded him of rest and drinking water. We read his life attitude of ¡°treating career as lifestyle¡± out of his gentle and graceful manners.
Mr. Ford¡¯s share of career is from different aspects. First, it is the share of holiday pleasure between the hotel and the guests; second, it is the share of experiences among the associates; while the last one is the share of ethical responsibilities between the hotel and the society. A detailed explanation was made by Mr. Ford. He said, ¡°first of all, the share of holiday pleasure between the hotel and the guests is embodied in the culture of the hotel, Sheraton is a ¡®warm¡¯ hotel, it reflects humanity and it is family-oriented.¡± As for the share of experience among the associates, Mr. Ford also has deep understanding. The Starwood Hotels& Resorts Worldwide has its own associates training and development system which enables every personnel from the hotel to improve capabilities and to develop careers so as to strengthen their sense of belongings.
The Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide normally establishes a development program for each associate in-service according to his/her position and capabilities. Out of the program, the associates may find their career direction and capabilities to be improved, while the hotel may provide different training the associates accomplishing their developing goals. All the mentors are senior management leaders of the group/hotels, such as Mr. Ford himself, who is the mentor of 3 colleagues from sister properties in Guangzhou, Haikou and India respectively, and needs to coach the mentees periodically. Furthermore, the associates have promotion opportunities among other sister properties within the group associates¡¯ training system with such high energy storages a lot of management elites for the Group. Mr. Ford told us proudly that Sheraton Sanya Resort can be regarded as one of the hotels with the highest stability and lowest turnover rate of elites in the industry. Most of the associates are happy because the Group operation and its mature training and development system give them hopes for self-development and make them willing to grow up with the Group so as to achieve their own hospitality career goals.
Calmly face to the challenge Experiences from Mr. Ford
Mr. Ford has over 40 years experience in manager of Southern Sun Ltd in both South Africa and Zimbabwe, and Shangri-La Hotels 7 Resorts. He joined Starwood Hotels & resorts Worldwide in 2001 and has been appointed as the vice president, area managing director for South China, as well as the general manager of Sheraton Sanya Resort. His career path has extended to Britain, US, South Africa, and many countries in South Asia. It was 1995 when he first came to work in China and he has been appointed as general manager in many cities in China such as Shenyang, Beijing, and Shanghai.
All of his accumulations from the previous experiences help with the management in Sheraton Sanya Resort. Mr. Ford shared with us some of the recent figures. The percentage of Chinese guests vs. foreign guests has changed to 7 : 3 from previous rate of 9:1,while 70% of the guests are from Russia as a result of the impact of financial crisis to the western source market. He said, ¡°The impact is severe and the profit increment is not as good as expected.¡± Besides, as the newly built international resorts on Shimei Bay, Haitang Bay, and Qingshui Bay, Sheraton will be facing more and more severe competitions. Mr. Ford said, ¡°We are not afraid of competition because it is the characteristic of market penetration. Actually, as a strong backing of Sheraton, Starwood Group plans to increase the number of its resorts in Hainan province to 10 till year 2011, providing the guests more perfect enjoyments in resorts and wider booking options¡±. He is confident about the future of tourism industry in Sanya and the strategic plans of Starwood Group. In his opinion, Japanese, European and American market will revive in the coming few years and Sanya will attract more and more tourists from all over the world by the diversification of the source market and the tourism attractions. As for Sheraton Sanya Resort, the unique geographical location and the outstanding facilities, for instance, the dining facilities of 1000persons capacity and the spacious lawn along the beach, make Sheraton the best choice of MICE market since it is suitable for the high-end customers and it fulfills different needs for big exhibitions and conferences.
At the end of the interview, Mr. Ford said that he has a beautiful Chinese wife. ¡°I love the romantic and comfortable environment in Sanya, here I can swim, speed-walking, and play golf throughout the year, and my wife is enjoying the natural bestow together with me in Sanya. I love China, because the same as Britain, China is also considered to be my home.¡± I imploringly asked him whether we can put the family photo on our magazine, he smiled and answered, ¡°I need to go back and ask my wife whether she agrees¡±. The British manners were apparent from such a humorous sentence.