The person in charge of the front office in the hotel is one of the first people whom tourists meet and exchange information when visiting a destination. They always welcome guests with a bright smile and warm manner. During the guest’s stay, the front officer needs to wholeheartedly support, take care as well as flexibly solve many problems to please the guest in their whole journey staying at the hotel. Yet they often have to suffer “unjust” like the front office job is so easy that they just need to stand with a smile and do check-in and check-out procedures for customers.

Today, let’s listen to the sharing from the two insiders with Destination Review about the “brand ambassador” job that many assume to be easy but it’s not at all.

Graduating with the major of English for tourism, Mr. Huynh Bao Tri, Front Office Manager at Zannier Hotels Bai San Ho and Ms. Ly Ngoc Thao, Assistant Front Office Manager at Grand Silverland Hotel, are both attracted to hospitality and have been with the industry since graduation.

Receptionist is a storyteller who connects with guests and guides them how to explore a destination. Thao said: “A receptionist is also an ‘ambassador’ of a hotel, even a region or a country. Because when guests come to a country for the first time and stay at a hotel without being well welcomed, they may have a negative thought of the tourism services there.”

Being interested in traveling to study and wishing to spread the local culture to tourists, Bao Tri and Ngoc Thao both agree that a receptionist must have diverse knowledge and a spirit of nonstop learning. Foreign language is one of the mandatory requirements as they have to contact and communicate with foreign guests. Like those who regularly meet customers, a receptionist must always smile and keep a polite attitude, ready to assist guests. Besides, they’ve got so many sudden and unlisted tasks which are not available in books, so they need high EQ, care, and the ability to organize and manage multiple tasks at the same time. Another important thing a front officer needs is passion to move far and fast in their career.

“Turning back” to more than 10 years ago, Bao Tri said: “At that time, I was in my final year with no clear direction. Thanks to a field trip my teacher organized at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay in 2010, I was mesmerized by the primitive beauty and decided to take the internship here. From a playful guy who suddenly fell into a ‘fairy land’, I had gradually loved nature, photography and knew what to do in the future.”

Many people think that working in the front office is just hanging around in one place, but Bao Tri and Ngoc Thao do not. In the past decade, Tri has traveled from provinces in Vietnam to abroad (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), thrown himself into many lodging models such as hotels, luxury resorts, complexes or apartments. “For me, the more we go, the more we know. The world is always moving, so we have to move constantly to keep up with the times and avoid getting left behind,” he said.

From a butler, Bao Tri has quickly got promotions to senior butler, supervisor and front office manager as well as contributed to improving customer experience and service at reputable hotel brands. Whenever he felt himself being safe and falling into a loop, he found a new challenge such as applying to work abroad, in charge of a large villa or applying to a complex, receiving hundreds of check-in rooms every day, etc. He even tried out an office job at real estate services group Savills. “Because I missed my guests so much, I soon resigned to return to the hotel industry. But I had learned how to do more paperwork and procedures to support my future work.”

In the third year in university, Ngoc Thao, the young girl with a cheerful smile, took an internship at InterContinental Saigon. Enjoying talking and meeting customers as well as promoting Vietnam image, she decided to accompany the hotel industry for a long time. “I myself always want to make guests feel at home even though they’re traveling by supporting and caring for them with all my heart. I’m lucky to have a smooth path and keep moving forward. From a receptionist, I became Front office shift leader, Duty manager, and then Assistant front office manager within 4 years.”

However, due to the sudden Covid-19 outbreak, the hotel industry was forced to close, so Ngoc Thao also had to temporarily switch to another field to earn her living. Missing her career so much, she has been searching for an opportunity to return to the hotel industry. Also eager to learn while traveling, Thao said: “So far, I’ve only worked for city hotels in Saigon. In the coming times, I want to apply to international resorts in other provinces and cities, even foreign countries. I think we have to move in order to learn and change our mindset.”

Once again, Bao Tri and Ngoc Thao have the same thoughts that they have gained a lot and not lost much while working in the hotel industry. Getting to know a lot of people and having good relationships is one of their biggest gains. Being extremely enthusiastic about front office work, Bao Tri has also achieved very proud successes. He used to be honored as an excellent staff at Six Senses Con Dao, and an excellent leader at Minor Hotels. He was also in charge of measuring customer experience and pushing the hotel he worked for at the top of the group’s system. “Besides, seeing my subordinates succeed, I also feel accomplished,” he said with a smile.

Ngoc Thao is very happy to be remembered by her guests and even become their friend. She excitedly said: “I still sometimes have coffee with long-term guests in Vietnam. Some short-term guests also text me to ask and book rooms at my hotel for their next trips.”

Moreover, thanks to working in city hotels specializing in MICE, Ngoc Thao has improved attentiveness, discipline and the ability to flexibly handle situations. She also always appears with cheerful energy and a fresh face even when temporarily stopping working at a hotel.

The most obvious loss for a front officer is that they have to take the night shift regularly, and hardly have New Year’s holidays or weekends off because of the large number of check-in guests. Staying up a lot at late night also causes many harms to the body such as aging, immunosuppression, affecting the digestive system, cardiovascular system, vision, etc. Especially for a female like Ngoc Thao, she gained weight, her skin deteriorated and her emotions became more erratic. “I also lost some relationships and don’t have much time for family because the timetable is contrary to most people.” Nevertheless, Ngoc Thao affirmed that she has gradually balanced and managed to maintain her relationships.

It is often said that joy is too short, but there are some funny stories we can tell for a lifetime. Ngoc Thao shared with Destination Review the story of an elderly Japanese guest. He doesn’t know English and the Japanese-speaking receptionist was not in charge of the shift that day. That’s why Ngoc Thao had to try to use all body language, gestures, movements, arms and legs to give him necessary information. She laughed recalling: “We were like acting in a pantomime. After that, every time he passed the front desk, he would call my name and greet me happily.”

Bao Tri, in addition to his remarkable achievements at work, finds joy in helping customers and making them happy. One time, a family wanted to cycle to explore the resort but there was a little member who couldn’t ride a bike. These bicycles were for one person only. That little girl was guided by her father and then could ride it herself. Seeing that, Tri made a cycling certificate and had a technician create a bicycle model with steel wire as a gift for her. Of course, his guests greatly appreciated this enthusiastic concern. “Sometimes there are things we can’t do. But all we need is to come up with an idea and ask someone we know they’ll do well,” shared Tri.

As a subtle and dedicated man, Bao Tri always encourages and empowers his subordinates to do whatever they can to please guests, looking for every opportunity to provide a great experience and deep connection to customers. Through suggested images and short meetings, he often shares many ideas to increase the value of customer experience, or views on career, travel trends and customer expectations based on reports’ index. Tri also conducted handwritten surveys for customers right at the hotel in order to keep up with their feelings while staying here. He also received handwritten letters from guests many times, which he has always preserved and cherished after more than 10 years in the career.

Being dedicated like that, but he once received an unpleasant and rude attitude from a guest without knowing the reason. His leader noticed that and reassured him that it was simply because he was not their gout or accidentally resembled someone they didn’t like, not because he did something wrong. The best way is not to try to get close, and only be ready to assist when the guest requires. Ngoc Thao also had to patiently listen to guests scolding many times despite following the hotel’s regulations. Meeting a lot of people with different minds and different personalities, being unfairly scolded is very difficult to avoid. But with their optimism and passion for the career, both Bao Tri and Ngoc Thao are able to put aside their sadness to continue their work. “Instead of sitting sad, why don’t we just dance in the rain? Whenever I’m so upset, I’ll find my colleagues to joke around with and lift each other’s mood up,” archly said Thao.

Considered as the “facade” of the hotel, the front officer does not only stand to beautify, or just to welcome guests with a smile. Their roles are and responsibilities are greater. How to leave a good memory of the hotel as well as the destination in the guests’ hearts, how to manage with tens or even hundreds of people checking-in simultaneously, how to handle difficult situations not mentioned in the books, or how to control emotions when guests vent their anger for no reason,… The same answer from Bao Tri and Ngoc Thao is: “If you aren’t passionate enough, you won’t be able to be in the front office career for long. But once you fall for it, you will find it hard to quit.”

#Not-So-Ordinary Jobs là chuyên mục kể lại những khoảnh khắc ý nghĩa, những được-mất, vui-buồn của nhân sự trong ngành du lịch.

Hotel front office: Behind the smile of “brand ambassadors”

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