Reflecting on nearly 20 years in the hospitality industry, Amit Majumder, General Manager of world-renowned Jumeirah Vittaveli in the Maldives, recently shared some of the most important hotel management and leadership lessons he’s learned throughout his career. Majumder is one of more than 35 global luxury hoteliers profiled in new hotel management book A Wealth of Insight. An exclusive excerpt of his profile is below.
“Our signature restaurant, Swarna, was initially planned to be a small Tandoori grill, but based on input from our guests, my team and the owners, it was developed into a lavish restaurant consisting of three private cabanas and one chef’s table.”
A PASSION TO SERVE
My first job in the hospitality industry was with Oberoi Hotels and Resorts at Rajvilas as a food and beverage associate, which is a fancier name for a waiter, barman and butler combined. The company put an emphasis on becoming multi-skilled. Early on, I developed a passion for guest service. I also learned the importance of each and every role, no matter how small, and the value of teamwork in achieving success.
AN INVALUABLE LESSON
My first leadership position was at Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf in Dubai, which was a sprawling resort, and was similar to managing a number of small hotels simultaneously. It quickly became clear that with such a large and complicated operation, we had to constantly train and mentor our staff, otherwise we would fail. The best way to do this was through MBWA, or Management by Walking Around. We needed to be as visible as possible to seek feedback from customers and colleagues alike, answering questions and resolving issues swiftly. Walking around and being available to listen, learn and support is one of the most important lessons I ever learned.
HARDWARE VS. SOFTWARE
You can have the best “hardware” any luxury hotelier could imagine, including a beautiful property with impeccable furnishings and a stunning décor. But if you’re lacking in the best “software,” such as a team that doesn’t possess the right attitude, training or passion for service, you will always set yourself up for failure.
KNOW YOUR TEAM, INSIDE OUT
As a leader, respect is earned, and one of the hallmarks of respect is knowing your team well. You must have a complete understanding of their jobs, their pain points, what inspires or motivates them, and how to instill the confidence they need to be empowered and to take full responsibility for their roles.
OPPORTUNITY IN CRISIS
When the SARS epidemic continued to spread in Asia, hotels were practically empty. Apart from a few health officials, there were no guests. People were losing their jobs in the hotel industry all over Asia, and this forced us to think about how best to save the jobs of our colleagues while also how best to handle the crisis. We saw an opportunity and convinced our shareholders to invest in a refurbishment of the property. With an empty hotel, what better time to expedite a renovation, opening renewed as a fresh product that commanded higher rates. In a few months, without any loss or displacement of business, we did exactly that. You must adapt when the goal posts move.
BETTER THAN HOME
Luxury hotels are supposed to be a step up from the consumers’ own homes in every respect— design, décor, technology and facilities. While the well-heeled consumer can change aspects of their home more frequently, luxury hotels often struggle to swiftly bring those changes to their properties on a wider scale.
At Jumeirah Vittaveli, we have an advantage being in the Maldives. Not many people in the world can have an island home, steps away from the most beautiful white sandy beach, clear blue waters and thriving reefs. We coupled that with expansive villas, large private swimming pools and open bathrooms, high-speed Internet, music and video content, twenty-four hour butler service and more. We also realized that people from the city do not generally ride bicycles on a daily basis, so we introduced them on the property and they became an instant hit.
ANTICIPATION IS CORE
True luxury is having what you’re merely thinking about be presented to you before you voice that desire. Every luxury brand invests in, and creates, mechanisms to track the preferences of their guests, but what sets each of them apart is how that information is used. Beyond having guidelines for how best to observe and document preferences, it takes a lot of training, a keen eye, and the right attitude to intuit a need and take action.
A perfect employee for the luxury segment is the one who notices that the bathrobe, for example, is a bit too long for the guest, takes it down to the seamstress to alter its size, and then discreetly places it back on the bathroom hanger.