SLICE OF LIFE
As front office manager at Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok, Mari Tanaka is often tasked to address issues that require her to draw from her extensive 13 years experience in the service industry.
The 37-year-old, whose father is Japanese and mother is Thai, speaks candidly about the challenging aspect of her job, saying: "Ensuring that we make each and every guest feel special during their stay is a huge priority for us.
"Our guests come from so many cultures and it is very important that they feel like we understand them and we make them feel like they belong during their time with us. This is a true Four Points experience.
"When it comes to dealing with difficult-to-please guests, it is very important to listen to what the guests' needs are so that they feel like they are in control, and so are able to assist us in delivering the best service to meet and exceed their expectations."
Working for Four Points has also taught her plenty about the challenges and lessons a person picks up while working in the service industry. For Tanaka, the interaction between hotel staff and guests has grown in her additional respect and reverence for other cultures.
In this line of work, she says it is not good to assume, and to ask as many questions to get to the core of what the guest requires. No day is the same and no two situations are the same, she says, so this has taught her to be open minded, more patient and to empathise with guests.
"I was trained at college to understand the service industry," she reveals.
"On-the-job training and learning from my managers over many years has given me a solid foundation in what I do. Every day before I start my shift, I clear my mind to ensure I am focused on the task ahead of me for that day. As front office involves lots of guest contact, I must lead by example, which often starts with a welcoming and genuine smile. I am also ready to give all my attention to our guests. Supporting my team is a high priority for me. We try and have a little bit of fun everyday during briefings so everyone is happy. With less tension in the air, our staff can service the guests better and our guests can feel the positive and happy culture Four Points is renowned for as soon as they come through the doors."
To manage working in the hotel industry, one needs to be confident and open to new challenges, says Tanaka. Change is inevitable, so embrace it. Being flexible with working hours and with how you work can be an advantage. One's body language and tone of voice should also be put in check because the people you are serving might come from a host of cultures and traditions foreign to you.
"Guests remember great experiences, not just great hotels. Hotels is a great industry to be in, with lots of opportunities to travel and work, not only in Thailand but overseas.
"You just have to want it and be prepared to work hard and be committed to succeed," she notes from experience.
If you're wondering who Tanaka looks up to most in the hospitality sector, it is none other than her current boss, general manager Janet McNab. She describes her as "very dedicated and committed to making Four Points not only a great hotel for guests, but a great hotel to work for as an organisation".
As a veteran hotelier, she says McNab divides a large amount of her time mingling with guests to determine whether the hotel is reaching their expectations.
An equal amount of importance is put on spending quality time with department heads and seniors to ensure the entire staff has the right support to deliver an exceptional experience for hotel guests.
"Janet is always smiling and always positive," says Tanaka. "She has taught me to be more collaborative with my team and to always take time to really listen to our guests and associates, to ask as many questions as needed to ensure I really understand the situation, and then I can make better decisions when called to."
Tanaka picks four provinces in Thailand she would personally like to suggest her hotel guests visit.
Krabi has a great beach town and you can get to some of the hidden islands, such as the immensely popular Koh Phi Phi. Despite being a favourite destination for both European and Asian tourists, it has managed to keep its local way of life rather intact. You can still find off-the-beaten-path spots that are not crowded with tourists. There is still much of the original culture and traditions that you can experience. PHOTO: PEERAWAT JARIYASOMBAT
I find provinces in the north of Thailand especially enchanting. Chiang Mai, which is the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand, is well known for great local crafts and antiques. It has some great restaurants serving typical northern-style cuisine, which makes the travel experience all the more special for tourists. PHOTO: AMORNRAT THONGSAN
Chiang Rai also has its individual charm. It is much smaller, so obviously has a more laid-back and relaxed way of life. There are also a number of hilltribes that make their homes within the lush environs of the province. You get great handicrafts, which are influenced by both Thai and Lao cultures. PHOTO: KARN ARYU
A must-visit for many, Koh Chang is a great vacation spot, due largely to its natural beauty and eye-catching beaches. The popular destination has much to offer holidaymakers in the form of accommodation, food and activities. The nature attracts a myriad of wildlife, among them exotic birds. A nice place for trekking. PHOTO: PITI VANITNANT
About the author
- Writer: Yvonne Bohwongprasert