While other industries may express understandable caution about their prospects for 2012, the outlook for Hong Kong's hospitality and tourism sector is definitely rosy, with inbound tourism strong and business travellers on the move.
As a result, leading operators are looking at plans to expand, taking advantage of the city's continuing role as a gateway to China, an international financial hub, and a holiday destination in its own right.
"We think there will be dynamic growth in 2012," says Brian Williams, managing director of Swire Hotels, which operates The Upper House and East in Hong Kong, as well as properties in Beijing and Britain. "Globally, there is a year-on-year increase in the number of frequent travellers, and Hong Kong is a place people from mainland China want to experience, so we are positive on the outlook for the sector."
Reflecting this, the company took on close to 200 new staff last year, including those stationed overseas, and expects to recruit a further 350 or so in the coming months. There will be openings in all main areas of the business, with a certain emphasis on finding individuals who have the potential to run projects and move into management positions over the next five years. This is part of a policy of promotion from within, which has seen around two-thirds of the senior management team at East in Beijing being recruited internally.
"To sustain our strategy of in-house promotion, we emphasise training and development opportunities," Williams says. "Everyone starts with induction and brand-culture training, which are essential for creating our unique [environment] that allows team members to be spontaneous, creative and fun."
In due course, other programmes cover operations, service standards and leadership skills. There are also mentoring sessions with senior management, and chances to gain wider exposure by working in different departments or even in different cities.
Adding to the prospects for mobility, a second East hotel with 369 guest rooms is set to open in Beijing in the third quarter of this year, and other projects, including new restaurants in Hong Kong, are in the pipeline.
"We are looking for candidates who are passionate, people-oriented, and good team players - and those who dare to make a difference," Williams says. "These elements are far more important than even work experience or technical skills. Our hotels appeal to people who demand originality and authenticity and, above all, seek individuality and luxury. If recruits have the right attitude, everything else can go from there."