In this issue we feature Sunny Soo, the General Manager (GM) of Pulai Springs Resort. Sunny comes with 24 years of experience and began his journey as a waiter at Merlin Inn Hotel Johor Bahru after graduating from SAL College in Hotel Management at the age of 20. Within months he was promoted to Supervisor and then later as Captain of a restaurant. After 2 years, his GM advised him to venture into Sales. He took up the position despite the lower salary because he visualised a better and long term career development in Sales and it proved to be a right move.
Sunny joined Pulai Springs Resort in 1996 as a Sales Executive. Thereon, it was an upward ride where he became the Manager, Senior Manager and then Director of Sales for the resort’s Johor-based Sales Office. In 2014, the company made him the Director of Operations overseeing the entire resort’s operations, and a year later, as the General Manager.
What inspired you to enter the hotel industry?
I am told that I’m a “people’s person” and apparently had an approachable, cute and lovable baby face with a gift of the gap! Regardless, I grew to love the ebb and flow of new faces and personalities I come across every day on the job. I learnt from them as they did from me. I learnt to become a leader as well as a team player through them. Whether serving and entertaining hotel guests, or making new friends with fellow employees, every day at work was fresh, fun and exciting.
In what sections have you worked in within the hotel?
With F&B and Sales as my core, I ventured into Banqueting as well as overall hotel operations. In our business, you can progress and climb the ladder from being a waiter, or a dishwasher to General Manager – that’s the unique aspect of the hospitality industry. All you need is dedication and a love for what you do.
What are your strengths?
My strength is that I am a people manager. Everything I have achieved in my career has been through people. I love talking to people and working with my team here at Pulai Springs Resort. I’m not doing it because I have to but because I love to.
Relate ONE example of an incident that made you feel that being a hotelier is the right job for you?
A couple walked into the resort one day wanting to meet me, with their children in tow because they remembered how I made their wedding ceremony memorable 10 years ago!
This is not only a personal fulfillment and satisfaction, but much more. It involves a deeper level of emotion and connection with your customers about how a business relationship can turn into friendship.
What do you see as the future for a career in hospitality in Johor?
While the current employment outlook seems slower, there is still growth and a real need for experts in the hotel industry. Travel is becoming a more popular pastime than ever before. Flying is made much more affordable and with Johor Bahru seeing all the current and future developments (inclusive of world-class theme parks, commercialism and related infrastructures, etc.) steadily increasing from 2011 to date, visitors travelling for leisure as well as business will grow in tandem.
One of our major advantages is the currency exchange between us and Singapore. One night’s stay in Singapore is now equivalent to two or three days’ stay in Johor for the same level of service. This will allow people who travel to Singapore to include a hop over to Johor Bahru for affordable accommodation, food, shopping and entertainment.
Therefore, there is a real need for people with good working knowledge of the hospitality industry, with an awareness of all the latest practices. Hospitality and tourism will provide tremendous opportunities for ambitious, young people who enjoy working with people.
What are the opportunities open to them within your own hotel?
At Pulai Springs Resort, we’re committed to give all our colleagues room to grow and develop with us. When you join us, it’s not just for a job, but for a career that could take you as far as you want to go, and more!
We support and provide world-class training, encourage and nurture our associates and help them realise their full potential and become the best that they can be.
What are your personal words of encouragement for new entrants into the industry?
The hospitality and tourism industry offers abundant opportunities for anyone, even fresh graduates without any experience.
However, you must like what you do and have a willingness to learn. Do not feel intimidated working at a hotel, and do not be afraid to try out the different areas of work available. It is a perpetual learning curve as the hotel industry teaches us about improvisation, finding solutions, hard work, and dealing with attention to detail. It also shows how you can make a difference to guests with your good service.
The reality is; do not think you can become a GM based on a university degree and only a few months of practical experience. There are no short cuts. The only kind of “As” we need in this industry is your Attitude, Aptitude and Ability. If you have it, welcome aboard.