In this issue we feature Michael K.W. Bay, an entrepreneur, consultant of hospitality and service related industries; and the Liaison Committee with the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Johor Chapter. Previously, he was the CEO of a Johor-based chain of Wellness and Skin Care Spa.
For over 10 years, Michael was the CEO behind the operations as well as sales and marketing of the first back-to-nature SPA resort in Johor. He had always been in the service and hospitality industry with concentration on sales and marketing as well as recruitment.
What inspired you to enter the hospitality industry?
I did not start as a hotelier but as an operator and in the process it opened my eyes on the many windows of opportunities for growth in the hotel industry.
The adventure began when I was first asked to deal with government authorities, architects, and engineers to get a Spa resort of 3-star standard running within a short period of two years. The first challenge was to start running without an operating license and I had to find my way through all the red tapes and bureaucracy to get it done. I grew with the experience and was even called by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture to be part of the panel members involved in providing star-ratings for spas in 2014 and later to cover hotels.
I learnt how crucial it was to ensure and maintain the right set of standard for services, facilities and amenities for spas as well as hotels, in order to stay on edge by providing an experience (rather than on product alone) which is essential to the growth of tourism.
In what position did you start?
Unlike other GMs I did not start from the bottom and move upwards. I was more fortunate because I learnt it all from top to down right from managing a resort with minimal resources to dealing with shortages of staff at a crucial event.
Although at the top, I too had to learn things the hard way. I had to once resolve a company tax audit issue at the eleventh hour or face action by the authorities, and then to deal with staffs fighting with difficult guests during a major function.
We can have the best 5-star rated hotel and facilities but without staffs’ support, nothing will work in the long run. The challenge is your character in relation to working with others and to be hands-on in problem solving, regardless of your status or qualification within the organisation.
Relate ONE example of an incident that made you feel that being a hotelier is the right job for you?
When a guest walked up to me and said, “I needed this vacation so badly and sincerely thank you for everything and for making it so memorable,” all with a warm, genuine smile.
I must reiterate that compared to all industries that I have embarked into over the last two decades, the hotel industry is by far the most adventurous, exciting and wholesome experience. The hotel or resort is a place where you get to witness all walks of lives coming together for one common reason, which is seeking for temporary refuge. A place for them to escape, rest and relax! And you have to deliver that, as everyone is looking for the best service that money can buy.
What do you do in your current position?
In my capacity within the MAH Johor Chapter, I support the Chairman and the association to move its agenda to higher levels of representation within the state’s tourism and hospitality environment.
With controls and standards in place for the rating of hotels, we can improve the overall quality in service and hotel products. This in turn shall drive the tourism numbers required to assure long-term employment and more job opportunities for new entrants into the industry.
In a nutshell, I realise I can play an integral role in contributing to the betterment of this industry in a more macro and holistic way.
What do you see as the future for a career in hospitality and in Johor?
Johor is unique as it is located right in the southern gateway to Singapore and at the crossroads within South East Asia to the rest of the world. We are multi-racial and all-embracing culture that is the ‘Bangsa Johor’ and there is potential to showcase that identity to our visitors. With the impending expansion of new tourism products here with greater synergy among all players, all we need are fresher, young and dynamic talents to join us to further develop this industry to be a stronghold of our economy.
What are your personal words of encouragement for new entrants into the industry?
In order to make oneself valuable in the hotel industry, there are no shortcuts. It takes genuine effort to learn and to serve. The service motto should always be “under promise but over deliver.”
As long as one is willing to give his or her best to every request or task, success is certain. There will always be a demand for a person with a selfless, positive attitude and who is a team-player; putting aside status, qualification and experience.
The hotel industry is certainly demanding from both the guest and management’s perspective, but it is also the best place to mould resilience in character to overcome all sorts of obstacles and challenges that are thrown at us. These are valuable lifelong lessons that can only benefit us in life’s journey.