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Hotel mission is Ozo simple

Published on Friday, 01 Jun 2012
Kenneth Sorensen, vice-president for operations in North Asia at ONYX, says staff at its Wan Chai hotel will be ‘the DNA’ of the new group.
Photo: Edmond So

Onyx Hospitality Group, a Thai-based hotels and properties developer and operator with over 40 years’ experience, has selected Hong Kong for the launch of its brand, Ozo, an extension of the group’s hotel portfolio which includes the Saffron and Amari chains.

To fulfil the mission to offer guests a seamless, top-quality experience, Kenneth Sorensen – general manager of Ozo Wesley and vice-president of operations for Onyx North Asia – is looking for around 130 talented staff to run the 251-room Ozo Wesley in Wan Chai, which is expected to welcome its first paying guests in early 2013. 

Sorensen discusses how simplicity and being natural are vital in this “people business.”

What’s Ozo about, and why choose Hong Kong as its birthplace?
It’s a select service hotel for people who want a simple life, a place where you enjoy a great sleep, good-quality food, a great shower. There’s nothing complicated: there will be no doorman, room service [food], in-house laundry, big business centre, huge conference room, pool. We offer the basics, smartly and well. 

Hong Kong is a fantastic city and has a world-wide reputation for hospitality. Our company wants to kick off the brand in an important city where there will be an impact. Though there are lots of such cities in Asia, including Singapore and Tokyo, in terms of hospitality Hong Kong is number one, and is unique.

Who will be your guests?
Mainly corporate business travellers and tourists. And I am confident that corporate people will choose to stay with us, because they need a good night’s sleep  and a good shower. We offer that, and our price is very competitive.

What are the key attributes you expect to find in your future staff?
Hospitality is a “people business” and it happens through people. We are not going to “fill” positions – we are going to hire personalities, hire people for who they are. They need to have a passion for the hospitality business, and be capable of executing the work in a natural manner. We are seeking people who take the initiative, and don’t need to be told to do things. 

I’d like to be able to understand the people we hire, and so I ask what their hobbies and interests are. I’d like the sort of atmosphere that when, for instance, a guest seeks suggestions on great restaurants with good wine or a good wine shop, we can see if John – who’s in engineering but passionate about wine – is around to talk to the guest. I’d like team members to know each others’ hobbies, so it’s like a big family where we know each other well.

How many people are you hiring and what will the jobs be about?
For Ozo Wesley Hong Kong, we are looking to hire 130 people. One of our objectives is to make this business model very profitable and interesting for future partners [to know] that we can build hotels, and that we can manage as well. So we are looking at a staff ratio of around 0.5. It’s quite lean but possible because we don’t offer those additional services. 

They will be the members of the frontline, food and beverage, sales and marketing, reservations, and finance teams – it’s like we are building up a new division.

How important will the Hong Kong team be in Ozo’s expansion?
I’m 100 per cent sure that when we open our new Ozo hotels – three in Sri Lanka and one in Thailand – in the next two years, we will either send a task force or transfer staff members there, as the team here, which will give birth to the Ozo brand, is its DNA.

To you, what expectations do today’s customers have in general besides seamless, and swift services?
I think when the guest comes into his room or in the lobby, or hanging around in the hotel, he’d like to see the internet or the Wi-fi is working, and is fast, and so he can access social media sites such as Facebook and twitter to share [things] with friends. He’d want to play the music from his phone or mobile device with a sound system as well. That’s the daily technology people want nowadays. So the technology factor is very important.

Today’s people are realising that the human race is not taking enough care of our planet and becoming “greener”. They are looking at if we would waste a lot of things. And so we need to be environmentally conscious and focused.

How is the working culture different between Hong Kong and China?
I think that in Hong Kong, you are closer to team members.  In the mainland it’s a bit more “official”, more hierarchical. Here, I know I will always get the right answer – staff say “yes” or “no”, and explain.  Whereas in the mainland, China, I need to pay more attention, to make sure that people understand what I – as a foreigner – am saying. 

I have been in the region for 12-13 years, so I have seen how people in China have changed. As for our group, we try to work with the team in a way that’s inspiring for them to open up and know how to get the best out of themselves. I think this can only be done when they are at ease and relaxed, and when they know their job [well]. Our staff have become a little more open, and started to take a little more initiatives now.

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