Mr. Sven A. Saebel – General Manager of Sunrise Premium Resort & Spa, Hoi An has shared with Wanderlust Tips about his time in Vietnam, passion for work in the hospitality industry as well as his enthusiasm with Sunrise Premium Resort & Spa, Hoi An.
As we know you’ve lived in Vietnam for a long time, how do you compare your feelings now to the first feelings you had when you arrived in Vietnam? What has changed your mind and heart about the country through the years living here?
When I first arrived in Vietnam, it was literally a shock to me, 13 years ago. I came from very well established countries, and I remember sitting in Ho Chi Minh City at a coffee shop and feeling like I’d travelled back in time. It was comforting and I felt at home instantly, as Vietnamese people are the most lovely and caring people. I learned again to look at the simple things in life, which we from industrialised nations forget and which I learned through my life in Vietnam: family, friends, food, simple gatherings, and enjoying the community.
You have been working in the hospitality industry for a long time. Could you provide some comments on the development of Vietnamese tourism in recent years?
Over the years, Vietnam has seen an influx of tourism and hotel development – which in general is giving the local population a wonderful way of securing their lives and families. For my taste, the development is happening too quickly, and with any developing nation, law enforcement needs to be tightened. In order for Vietnam to stay competitive on the global arena, the general education system needs to be improved. In our hospitality sector alone, we are facing severe shortages of qualified team members. Employees come and go, and are not well prepared from a young age to be competitive. They do not see the advantage of working for big organisations and prefer to open their own small family businesses.
What are the most encouraging, as well as the most challenging factors, you have faced while working in this industry?
Challenges of training, educating, and also maintaining a strong work force. To show the individual their future within the company. Secondly, travel markets and dropping prices demand continual changes in our way of operating, which also includes the fast pace of social media.
What has kept you with Sunrise Premium Resort & Spa, Hoi An for such a long time (over 5 years, if I am not mistaken)?
Sunrise Premium Resort & Spa, Hoi An was taken over in 2011 by me, and in record time, we completed construction and opened our doors in February 2012. I believe what really keeps me here are my team, which are my family, my friends, my inspiration, and also my frustrations at time (grin). Sunrise Premium Resort & Spa, Hoi An has an extremely young, dynamic team and every day, it is a motivation for me to start the day.
What are your main priorities in managing and maintaining the quality and standard of the resort, and to promote its distinctive features?
The main priority is to provide our guests a holiday – and not just a room with breakfast. Activities are widely complimentary and we have moved into the all-inclusive market, which brings new challenges to the resort. The feedback is very positive and our occupancy rates are increasing, whilst we are continually upgrading our team and product. We recently renovated our restaurants and guest rooms, and have welcomed a new Director of Culinary Arts, who worked for famed properties around the globe, as well as a very creative French Korean-born Director of Food and Beverage to support our busy team. Our primary focus is to offer good value for money, and high-quality food and spa.
What would you define as a “classy stay” with Sunrise Premium Resort & Spa, Hoi An, to differentiate it from the abundant choices of resorts along the central coastline of Vietnam?
A classy stay would be to stay in one of our spacious Pool Villas, overlooking Cham Island. Enjoy a private afternoon tea by the pool, and get pampered at the spa, followed by a romantic couple’s dinner by our Front Beach. The following morning, you have the choice of our sumptuous breakfast buffet, or breakfast prepared at your villa, followed by an exploration of the UNESCO Heritage Town, and possibly a sidecar motorbike ride to the vegetable gardens of Hoi An.
What do you most like and dislike about Hoi An – the place where you live and work?
I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the rice fields. Juicy fat greens and an abundance of untouched land areas. Hoi An locals defiantly have their own pace, sitting at a coffee shop and just enjoying a sunny afternoon for me is the greatest gift. I dislike, clearly, the wet weather and destructive storms from November to January, and the flooding, which brings life here to a standstill.
What are you and Sunrise Premium Resort & Spa, Hoi An doing to contribute to the local community as a profitable business?
We are continually supporting charity foundations and just completed another donation in a faraway mountainous region of Hoi An that is difficult to access, with our Front Office Team. We provide money out of the sale of used guest room linens and bought basic food items for children and helped out with school equipment. I hope I can contribute more in the future, as there is a real need.
As a professional in the hospitality field, what would you advise for reacting to negative feedback about service, and how do you regain your energy and passion after each discouraging moment?
There are two types of negative comments. With genuine comments, when the resort or hotel has made a mistake, I am happy to admit that the mistake happened, as this is normal in service and people in business, and we can rectify it. The best way is for customers to directly approach the General Manager so s/he can act upon the feedback. The second type is appalling customer reviews, which I call blackmail. Generally, this demotivates our hard-working team, without being given an opportunity to make a service recovery. I respond clearly to customers who misuse social media to release emotional, untrue statements about the business, and also give them the facts.
Thank you very much for joining the interview with Wanderlust Tips. We wish you great success with Sunrise Premium Resort & Spa, Hoi An.
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