International Women’s Day
Last month, the 8th March, was International Women’s Day; a day of acknowledgment, respect and appreciation important to men and women collectively around the world.
To celebrate International Women’s day, Swire Hotels conducted interviews with some of the women on our staff whom we find inspiring. Each of these women shared with us their experience as a woman in the workforce and gave advice to people in general about becoming successful in your career.
We started our interviews at The Upper House in Hong Kong with two women who go the extra mile every day for guest experience.
Kristina Snaith-Lense, Hotel Manager, The Upper House
Kristina has been a loyal contributor to Swire Hotels for 7 years now. Her interest in the hospitality industry started at the young age of seven when her parents owned a small restaurant in seaside Cornwall, UK. She spent a summer there observing the way her family worked together to create something magical for others. “I was completely infatuated by the theatrical like aspect of service immediately!” She started with us at The Upper House as Director of Guest Experience, where her expertise on the personal touches of high quality service shone. She then worked with us on The Middle House, as Pre-Opening and Opening Hotel Manager in 2017. Falling in love with the role and with the house’s success, she then moved into the role of full time Hotel Manager of The Upper House. “I am fortunate to work with a group of incredibly passionate, talented and hardworking individuals who continue to inspire me daily,” she says of her current role here at TUH. Kristina emphasizes the importance of knowing your guests, “[it] allows you to create a truly bespoke experience for each individual traveler” and gives some advice on how to approach the more challenging aspects of guest experience; “eliminate the word “no” from your vocabulary and quickly adopt the “can do” mind set. Problem solving becomes second nature over time.”
Yvonne Cheng, Director of Wine, Swire Hotels & Director of Restaurants, The Upper House
Yvonne joined our team in 2010 as Chef Sommelier at TUH, quickly moving into more of a management role of Director of Wine in 2014. In 2017, she then returned to TUH to work more closely and hands on with the hotel as Director of Restaurant and Bar in 2017, growing her love for and knowledge of food and beverage. Although born and raised in the US in California, visiting family over the years, Yvonne has come to consider Hong Kong her home away from home. Yvonne found her passion for wine was a natural progression from her love for food and beverage; “I found wine to be a natural segue from my initial interest in food, where flavour, texture chemistry, history, language and cultural diversity all play together at once. She is always looking to introduce people to new flavours and broaden people’s vocabulary of wine, “I invite visitor to try wines that are not from their home country – I figure a traveling palate pairs well with a new location,” and offered us some advice on the best way to taste wine; “use your eyes and noses first – if the colour is right and the aromas are enticing, move on to the taste… the most important thing to ask yourself is: do I want another sip, another glass?”
Next, we traveled up and over to Miami, Florida, to EAST Miami to visit King Cheung, a member of Swire Hotels staff for the last 10 years, to hear what she has to say about her career in hospitality.
King Cheung, Director of Housekeeping, EAST Miami
King started her career in hospitality right from her very first internship. She began at Swire Hotels in 2009 for the TUH opening and then quickly joined the team as Guest Experience Host in 2011. She transferred to EAST Miami in 2015 to become the Assistant Director of Guest Experience. In 2017, she moved to her current role of Director of Housekeeping where she continues to ensure the smooth process of keeping the hotel in organised, clean and beautiful for guests, employing her guest experience expertise to go the extra mile. King enjoys the positivity and light-hearted attitude of working with Swire Hotels, “we are professional but relaxed… our team is vibrant and eager to help any guests that come stay with us.” “None of our team members wear name tags to ensure our guests remember us by who we are.” Also a young hotel and with a young team, King believes in the potential of EAST Miami and is excited to be such a vital part of its growth; looking forward to where it goes and will take her in the future.
In Chengdu, we talked to Pearl Tan and Helen Peng, two members of the creative teams at The Temple House that ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience at the house.
Pearl Tan, Director of Sales & Marketing, The Temple House
Pearl continues to shine in her leading role at The Temple House with her strong-hearted philosophy on life. Pearl enjoys the environmentally orientated side to The Temple House. One of her favorite memories at the house is when the team got together to provide lunches for the railway construction workers in January this year. Having working for 10 years in many international brand hotels, Pearl felt instrumental cultural influence behind the Houses and they’re development in the China market attracted her. With tourism in Chengdu growing stronger and stronger, Pearl’s role becomes increasingly integral. As a senior female executive, her advice to women just stepping into their careers is, “you must be clear about what you really want. Only in this case you can set a goal and keep working.”
Helen Peng, Director of People Development, The Temple House
Helen has been with The Temple House since its pre-opening. Under her leadership as PD Director, the PD department recruited all the talented and dedicated team that gives The Temple House its signature soul. Helen is described by her coworkers and guests as creative and passionate. When Helen isn’t immersed in her work at the House, she relishes in her love of film and literature, as well as strolling and exploring the streets of Chengdu. There’s always more to discover, even for a local like Helen. Her favourite spots are Taikoo Li, Jinsha Site Museum – a niche touristy spot that displays the ruins of Sanxingdui and educates visitors on the ancient Bashu culture. She encourages young women to have persistence, “although we have to face many choices and temptations, never give up easily.”
Up in Beijing, at EAST Beijing, Summer Xiong, who, like King, has been with us for 10 years, talks about her experience and offers advice.
SummerXiong, Director of Guest Experience, EAST Beijing
Summer has been the perfect Guest Experience Director of EAST Beijing as she is always full of energy and loves health and wellness. She has been working with us for 10 years now and has 15 years of expertise in the industry. She enjoys the free, fun-loving nature of Swire Hotels that allows the team to serve guests in whatever way they can, rather than following regimented protocols. It is a very close knit team at EAST Beijing, “my colleagues are like family members,” she says, “we encourage and inspire each other and share happiness.” Summer has an inclusive, effective approach when it comes to creating the best experience for her guests; “I prefer to treat them like friends… the most important thing is to make them feel as comfortable and free as they are at home.”
Just around the corner at The Opposite House, these two ladies encouraged us to be fearless and daring.
Kylie Lam, Director of Guest Experience, The Opposite House
As Director of Guest Experience at The Opposite House, Kylie is also bubbly, light hearted and full of smiles. She gives off a warm energy that makes all guests feel welcomed and at home. Loving traveling, eating, shopping and pets; The Opposite House has become the perfect home for Kylie and her career. Like many other staff, Kylie also feels that Swire Hotels management has a new fresh approach to service that compliments her work style. Kylie prefers to make friends with guests. “I always meet regular customers who I received in other houses… we are more like old friends.” Kylie is not a local to Beijing. Coming from Hong Kong, she feels in Beijing “there are more opportunities for young people.” Beijing is a fast paced city that is constantly creating and developing. It is one of the art capitols of the world and it’s vibe and culture harmonies perfectly with Kylie’s personality and the personality of The Temple House.
Diana Xing, Executive Housekeeper, The Opposite House
Everything about Diana reflects her funky, fresh and nurturing personality. From her dedication to the hospitality industry and her children to her hairstyle. As a mother of twin boys, Diana knows, not only mess, but what it takes to make a space feel like home. She enjoys the silent service for guests; the seamless efforts that quietly make guest’s experience more memorable. Mental health is very important to Diana and she strives to keep a balanced lifestyle, exercising every morning, spending quality time with family, and engaging her children in her work life, “[I] talk to my kids about my work life so they can know me better.” As a successful working parent, her advice for people in the hospitality industry is, “you need patience, because in the service industry, you are going to sole all kinds of problems every day.”
The Middle House’s, in Shanghai, Sommelier Feifei Lui started with Swire Hotels at The Temple House in the pre-opening team, and then joined The Middle House as the director of wine.
Feifei Lui, Director of Wine, The Middle House
One of Feifei’s favourite perks of working as Director of Wine within The Middle House is the connection she makes with people through introducing them to new tastes and experiences. “I was deeply impressed by a Singaporean couple. Once they were having dinner in The Temple House, and I recommended a bottle of wine for them to pair with their food. They liked it very much. Since then we have kept in touch with each other. Even after I moved to The Middle House, they came over to visit on purpose. I think this is the recognition of my work and I am truly happy.” Feifei started getting into wine whilst she was studying French in Chengdu. She used to help wine brands with translation, giving her an in-depth understanding of the different flavours, regions and descriptions of wine. Feifei has a close group of friends in Chengdu whom are mostly also Sommeliers. “Sommeliers like to eat and drink, we like to stay together and have fun.”
Lastly, coming full circle back to Hong Kong; at EAST Hong Kong, we spoke to Jennifer Cheung and Ming. These two women play different yet equally important roles in the hotel’s operations and success.
Jennifer Cheung, General Manager, EAST, Hong Kong
Jen’s dedication, focus and innovative thinking has helped her move up the ladder in her career extremely quickly and successfully. She joined Swire Hotels just 10 years ago as Director of Sales and Marketing for EAST Hong Kong, then moved to Hotel Manager in 2011 and has been the GM of EAST Hong Kong since 2013. Her favourite thing about EAST, and one of its signature traits, is its strong sense of community and inclusion. Jen’s fondest memories are at the annual party, where all the team members get to com together, “we take this opportunity to have fun.” She believes it is important to enjoy and be passionate about the work you’re doing, “I don’t think people do well in a job they don’t enjoy.” Jen continues to be an integral figure head of the EAST community and her devotion to sustainable hospitality is unwavering.
Ming, Housekeeping, EAST, Hong Kong
Last, but not least, Ming has been one of the most positive personalities on our team since 2010. She is always cheerful and openly enjoys both her personal and work life. She’s well known in the EAST family as keeping people on their toes when it comes to hair colour changes and is yet to find a match for her tolerance and love of spicy food. Ming has won Best Employee seven years consecutively. Like Jen, Ming strongly believes in the importance of sustainability in the hotel and always gets involved in the initiatives, activities and information sessions for the team. She shares her advice for running into obstacles during her work day, “we must be careful and patient. I know sometimes we may meet some troubles, like customer complaints. But don’t worry, just try our best to find solutions and never bring ourselves too many negative emotions.”
So, in the words of these inspiring ladies; remember to stay positive, stay creative and stay determined, and you will find success in your career and your life.
We hope you enjoyed 2019’s International Women’s Day and you took the day to appreciate and acknowledge the women in your life.