As the General Manager of Thistle Johor Bahru, Rayan is responsible for the operations and financial profitability of the hotel. Highly accountable for the company’s business and revenue, Rayan works closely with his sales and operations’ teams to implement marketing strategies and ensure operational objectives and profitability are strategically and creatively attained. With 33 years of experience entrenched in the hospitality industry of both resorts and business hotels, Rayan has attained a wealth of experience in applying different strategies to achieve operational, sales and marketing objectives. His leadership skills encompass the strength of communication and team building.
We are spearheading a team of department heads to create a 5-star ambience and capture the essence of the Hotel, which sees the likes of Royalty and Ministers as guests to various functions as well as staying in Thistle Johor Bahru itself. There are two aspects that we are looking into which is the software – the people, and hardware which is the property. We will be embarking on a number of refurbishments and will be commencing with the external façade paintings which will commence on the 1st of May 2018. This exercise would take approximately 5 months and would rejuvenate the image of the Hotel. On 1st January 2018 we commenced with our room renovations starting with the deluxe rooms that would give the rooms a new contemporary look. The renovations will be carried out in stages so as not to disrupt daily hotel operations.
One of the memorable things about Thistle Johor Bahru is the good food at your restaurants. Tell us more about your chefs and your restaurants.
There are 3 restaurants namely the Glass, Oasis and Steps which serve different types of cuisines from Western to continental and Asian. These restaurants are headed by our Executive Chef Mohamad Kamal Bin Damiri who has 9 years of experience also previously with the Thistle Hotel. I’d like to highlight why one of the restaurants was named the Glass. It’s simply for the fact the Restaurant’s tall floor ceiling glass windows that allow our guests to savour nature’s beauty and the picturesque poolside, not forgetting enjoying good food.
We have hired a new Chef, Raja Mohd Hapis, who was previously with the Puteri Pacific Hotel for this restaurant who has the experience in working in international hotels. Currently he is working on a new a la carte menu to further tantalise customers with taste that is distinctive. The Oasis restaurant is situated in front of our pool and captures the changing colours of the skies and the underwater lighting punctuates the night with its own magic. The restaurant serves Italian food and is very well known in Johor. The Head Chef here; Muhammad Hafizi bin Abdullah had previously worked with the Marriott Hotel in Putrajaya. One of its more popular specialities is the oven baked Pizza and the Roast leg of lamb and the various types of spaghetti.
There have been a number of new hotels entering the market and this has increased competitiveness amongst the hotels and has given consumers a wider choice of hotels to choose from and therefore, service standards and facilities are being upgraded to meet consumers’ demands and thus increase their market share. The leisure market in Johor dominates 41% of the overall market mix. This segment comprises of both leisure group and Leisure FIT travellers. Corporate demand trails behind at 30%. Johor Bahru’s hospitality is infused with the foreign market source from China especially with a large number of mixed used development projects being undertaken by Chinese Developers.
What are the challenges that either Thistle or the hospitality industry as a whole been facing?
The challenges facing the hospitality industry as a whole is with the increased number of rooms, whereby the rates are lowered to increase room bookings and this would have an adverse effect on 3-star and lower category hotels.
With 33 years of experience and coming from rank and file of the industry, what are the do’s and don’ts of the hospitality industry in your opinion?
Basically one of the key factors would be customer retention since customers have a wide range of hotels to choose from in Johor, and as such having good quality staff would make the difference as giving attention to guests would lead to retention in guests and create a new market segment, (i.e. retention of guests segment). So the difference would be having well trained staff to meet and excel guests’ expectations. It is also very important to also be humble and the higher you achieve your goals, the more humble you should be.
What is your mantra of training and keeping your staff motivated?
The staffs are always being motivated through various activities. For example, the management and staff luncheon which is held monthly, quarterly townhall meetings for all staff and weekly evening walks amongst a few to name.
What does Rayan do when he’s not busy being the GM of Thistle?
My favourite pastime is basically on restoration of classic cars! I currently have one car which is slowly being restored to its original condition and also watching classic movies of the 70’s and 80’s.