Name: Nicholas Tse
Graduation year: Winter Batch 1990
Program: Diploma in Hospitality, Bluche campus
Current positions: General Manager of JW Marriott Shenzhen Bao’an (Greater China) and GM Mentor / Chairman for BMSC (Brand, Marketing, Sales, and Communications) for South China Marriott Worldwide Business Council consisting of 110 hotels. Chairman for the Shenzhen International Brand Hotels General Manager Committee which is under the Shenzhen Hotel Business Association and Shenzhen Tourism Board.
Over the last 30 years, Les Roches alumnus, Nicholas Tse, has worked his way up from Front Office Coordinator to his current role as General Manager Mentor. His career has taken him all over Asia and helped him develop the expertise and techniques that he now teaches to new GMs at Marriott hotels.
If you’re in a rush, the sub-headings alone will give you seven crucial tips to success in hospitality. But if you’re serious about building, a leadership career in hotels (or any business) – you need to read all of Nicholas’ insight. We’ll start with a big one…
Walk around the hotel
Something we hear time and again from successful GMs is how they deliberately immerse themselves in all departments – and corners – of a hotel. For Nicholas, this is essential to understanding how the business can improve.
“I like to walk around the hotel, talk to the staff, and talk to the customers because through talking to customers you can understand what they like or don’t like”, he said. “Most customers are very helpful, they will tell you what’s wrong with the hotel and you can go back to your team, sit down, and see how you can improve.”
“If you make your associates happy, they will deliver happy service to the customer.”
In an ever-cluttered marketplace, where big brands are all trying to stand out and start-ups are constantly disrupting guest expectations, creating a unique offering is a constant challenge. Nicholas believes the team is the key to success. “As we all know, a hotel is a hotel, and a bed is a bed, so what makes a difference is I try to motivate the team to be friendly and effective. At the end of the day as Mr. Marriott says: if you make your associates happy, they will deliver happy service to the customer.”
A leader should learn and teach
All successful leaders invest in continual professional development and lifelong learning. Nicholas sees it as the responsibility of a leader to take this knowledge and share it to develop those around him. “To motivate myself I like to experience, so I like to travel, stay in different hotels, not necessarily Marriott”, he said.
“I also like to read a lot, of books regarding business, hotel designs, and culinary. I like to wine and dine, enjoy different cuisines, see what the markets are doing, and all these ideas I’ll bring back to my own hotel and share with the team.”
Do your homework
Throughout his career, Nicholas has always strived to create memorable guest experiences by understanding individual preferences. “What type of bed he wants, what type of flower he wants to put in the room, what type of food. I try and motivate the team to do the homework, creating the next level experience is all down to preference.”
“You have to be very observant. If we see an orange peel in the dustbin during the evening turndown, we will put a fresh orange there with a little note from the housekeeping lady. So those are the types of attention to detail, you actually don’t know the customer but you’re observing their behavior.”
Listening to customers is key
When you see guests as ‘friends you haven’t met yet’ and aim to treat customers like family, you begin to see new levels of value in their opinions. Rather than relying on a TripAdvisor review or feedback questionnaire, Nicholas takes the time to sit, listen, and learn from guests – however long it takes, as he explains.
“There’s a gentleman called Dr Rossi, he’s an Italian gentleman and he wanted to see me. He was not very pleased with the service, he felt we were not very attentive and he said that we could do better, so I met with him and we spoke for three hours.”
“Listening is very important, some customers will talk to me for two hours and I will listen intensely and then try and resolve their problems. At the end of the day, they have all become my good friends and clients.”
Leading by example
After helping deliver the opening of Courtyard by Marriott in Bangkok, Nicholas headed back to Hong Kong as GM at Marriott SkyCity Hotel. “I remember the first day I walked into the lobby, it was super busy and I saw a lot of customers waiting outside, but there were not enough bellboys to carry the luggage”, he said.
“I ran quickly to the bell counter and I started pushing luggage. By doing this, the team knew that this boss was very helpful; he was willing to get his hands dirty and was willing to help. Without saying too much talk, your actions will speak for themselves and your team will work hard for you, the hotel and the guests.”
Work with passion and empathy
“You need to be very passionate about a job. Customers have their emotions as well; they have a good day and a bad day, so you have to have empathy for the customer.”
“For me, success is making people happy. I like to see people being surprised when you do something for them, whether it’s a big or small thing.”
Thank you to Nicholas for taking time out of his schedule at Marriott to speak to us about his career journey. We wish him continued success and are proud to have him as a Les Roches alumnus.