As tourism to Vietnam continues to surge and more projects of every type are developed to accommodate the influx of visitors, one hotel management company has implemented an aggressive initiative it hopes will facilitate repeat business, sow the fields for major expansion, and raise the bar on the quality of hospitality country wide.
Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts made its first foray into Asia’s hottest hotel development market in July with the unveiling of Mövenpick Hotel Saigon. However, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, with more than 90 hotels existing or under construction worldwide, made sure its new hotel made its mark on the hospitality front, staffing its latest upscale property with experts at high-level positions and sending 10 employees overseas for an intensive two-week training session.
“With all the people coming to Vietnam and the amount of hotels we’ve plotted for the country by 2010, it’s imperative that we take as many preparatory steps as possible,” said Craig Cochrane, director of human resources, Middle East and Asia. “By making the right personnel moves at the top and putting our local hires through a programme that delivers an understanding of world-class hospitality standards, we feel we’re well on track.”
Even before Mövenpick Hotel Saigon opened, the successful Swiss chain began pooling together talent for the Ho Chi Minh City location. Hubert Klemenz joined the hotel as the general manager, then became Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts’ vice president of operations for Vietnam. Samuel Gunthardt was appointed food and beverage director. Daniel Aeschbach stepped in as the executive chef.
The human resources push was finalised just before launch, when some of the hotel’s best and brightest Vietnamese staffers spent 14 days learning more about their trades at Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts properties in Dubai, Jordan, Qatar and Thailand.
“It’s one thing to read about a company’s philosophy and the job you’re hired to do for it; it’s quite another to live both 24/7 for a couple of weeks,” said Klemenz. “That kind of hands-on experience is not only unique, but invaluable from the standpoint they walk away feeling a heightened sense of responsibility and part of a family. Employee retention is important.”
As Mövenpick Hotel Saigon’s general manager, Klemenz’s job is to oversee the day-to-day at the Ho Chi Minh City site. A 30-year veteran of the hospitality industry, his career includes stints in hotels in Australia, Bahrain, China, Egypt, France, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia and South Africa.
Klemenz has worked for such chains as Hilton International and Sheraton, and, prior to his move to Vietnam, served as Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts’ vice president of operations and human resources for Africa for four years.
Gunthardt’s job as food and beverage director is more straightforward: Oversee management, budget, and operation of the hotel’s F&B outlets, catering services, and kitchen.
A graduate of the Hotel Management School in Geneva, Switzerland, Gunthardt has spent his career employing a variety of hospitality talents. Among the posts he has kept are project manager for a boutique hotel in Vietnam and consultant for Unilever Food Solutions Switzerland.
Like Gunthardt, Aeschbach’s position is focused on food. As the hotel’s executive chef, he develops and adjusts the menus for the property’s three restaurants and ensures that each kitchen provides nutritious, safe, eye-appealing and properly flavoured dishes.
His career as a chef spans 15 years, including a pair of posts with Sheraton in the Middle East and, most recently, the EC gig at Mövenpick Resort and Spa Dead Sea, where he helped the Grill Restaurant win “Best Restaurant in Jordan,” at the 3rd Annual Grumpy Gourmet Awards.
Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts was founded in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1973 and moved into Germany in 1980. In 2003, it was recognised as the “fastest growing hotel chain in the Middle East” at the World Travel Market in London.
The enterprise began its Asian expansion in 2006, when it signed a management agreement with a hotel in Bangalore, India, and assumed operations of a holiday resort in Phuket, Thailand. Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts has five more properties under construction or in development in the region.