Name: Jef Kong
Position: CEO/General Manager
Company: Le Grandeur Palm Resort
With over three decades of experience in various disciplines in the hospitality industry, Jef brings hands-on experience and technical know-how to the day to day operations of Le Grandeur. Joining the resort in 2015, Jef enjoys working with and through people; the ability to coerce or motivate people with a strong belief in teamwork. Therefore, as a leader in his hotel/resort he adopts a participative style instead of an authoritative style with his department heads as it is tried and tested that to be productive, one has to empower. Under his leadership, Le Grandeur in Palm Resort, 54-hole golf on one side and a 330 deluxe-resort hotel on the other; while bridged by a dedicated centre for sports, leisure and recreation resort is on track in meeting customer expectations in providing the best service and memorable experience.
How did you get involved in the hospitality industry?
It was actually by accident (laughs). I was in the construction industry and my cousin invited me to join her for a hospitality seminar in Switzerland. I thought why not and was captivated by the things I heard about the hospitality industry. Comparatively, in the construction industry, there is mud, dirt and sweaty clothes while the hotel industry was suits and ties with fine dining (laughs) so yes, that really motivated my decision. So I spoke to my father and convinced him to pay for my studies. This was in 1983 so it was not really expensive and I was also able to work part time to earn some income. I tried to be a waiter but in Switzerland, you must know either French or German to be a waiter so I did the dishes instead and learned French. Long story short, three years from there, I graduated with a diploma and with good hotel experience.
Tell us more about the facilities available at the resort
We are a 330-roomed, 800-acre resort of lush, rolling hill-scape within 5 minutes from the Senai International Airport. We are just minutes away from the Second Link to Iskandar Puteri to Singapore and the main Highways traversing the peninsular from North to South, East to West.
We have 3 golf courses and a driving range, six F&B outlets, a spa, indoor facilities such as the pool-view gymnasium, 8-lane bowling alley, squash, table tennis, billiard and snooker tables, board games to outdoors with the Olympic-sized and children pools, tennis courts, to archery range.
The sports centre is also integral to the resort’s activities for organising teambuilding and corporate activities.
Is the golfing industry gaining traction among the youths?
I would say yes and no. There has been a decline for sure but there has also been an effort to kindle the interest among the youth by the government and some organisations which has been working as well. With Tiger Woods winning, we might see more interest definitely.
Is AirBnb a worry for you?
My personal opinion is that AirBnb is more worrying for consumers than us. For the hoteliers, we are used to competition so it is nothing new. I’m not talking about AirBnb the company, but the individuals who are ‘renting’ out their accommodation. There is no safety regulation, cleanliness is questionable and it’s affecting the neighbourhood. Lately we’ve heard about how the accommodation has been used for vice activities so unless there are regulations put in place, it should be considered as a risky place of stay.
What makes Le Grandeur stand out against the competition?
Our unique selling proposition is our huge space (laughs). We have the space to accommodate big team building activities with many leisurely games to choose from and that is a big attraction by itself.
Our 54-hole golf course is the preferred choice for Professional Golf Malaysia (PGM) as we have been hosting their tournaments since 2015. The standards of our golf courses speak for themselves.
What do you think about the tourism industry as a whole?
It can be better. On a national level, there has been a lot of bad publicities regarding our country and this affects the tourism industry as visitors and investors alike become worried. On the global front, the economy as a whole is facing a slowdown as well.
Apart from that, our neighbours have been working very hard to promote their countries as the preferred destinations and perhaps we have taken things too lightly under the presumption that we will be the choice for tourists. For example, there is no visa fee for tourists from China heading to Thailand. So you can see how competitive our neighbours are in getting the visitors.
Our government officials must be more aggressive when they participate in international travel fairs. Many Japanese and Korean travellers know other parts of Malaysia but many of them have not even heard of Johor at all. Apart from promoting the theme parks, the natural attractions of Johor, which is the greenery, the culture and heritage is a big selling point that is not being sold.
What does Jef do in his free time?
After work, if the weather is nice, I go for a jog. Weekends I spend time with my family when I’m not golfing (laughs). When you have a 54-hole golf course right here, how can I not play the game!
If there is one thing that you would like to change in the hospitality industry, what would it be?
I would like to change the question first (laughs). I rather say the one thing that I would like to see remain in the hospitality industry is the human factor. Advancement in technology is so vast and in China you have hotels with robots but you can never out do the personal element. The human touch starts from the welcoming to the departure and there are no substitutes to that.