How did you come to be a student at BMIHMS and where has it lead you so far?
Prior to commencing study at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS) I was working at Park Hyatt Canberra in Food and Beverage Operations. I had a clear passion for hospitality and my manager, Amrit Gill, an alumnus of BMIHMS suggested I accompany him to an event held in the Leura Campus. When I first walked into the school grounds I knew this was the place for me!!! I applied for the school the next day and commenced studies in the International Hotel and Resort Management degree in September 2012.
When continuing my Hotel Management course at the Sydney Campus, I had the opportunity to rejoin the Park Hyatt brand, now on Circular Quay. After completion of my degree in December 2014, I continued my career in hospitality employment for Park Hyatt Sydney in Front Office Operations.
Harry on Leura Campus when completing his International Hotel and Resort Management degree.
I know you were specifically looking to work in Asia. Can you tell me what attracted you to working in South-East Asia verses anywhere else in the world?
My draw to Asia was the endless amount of possibilities that it has to offer. With China only recently opening to the world it was the perfect place to develop my career and be exposed to a culture that is arguably the ‘completely opposite’ to that of Australia. During my Hotel Management studies at BMIHMS, I knew that I wanted to focus on five-star luxury properties. I was fortunate enough to gain employment with the Fairmont, Raffles & Swissotel Luxury Hotel group.
Fairmont only specialise in the luxury segment, offering unique properties enriched in history and local cultures. E.g The Plaza New York, The Savoy London and The Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai.
What is it like to live in China? Any cultural shocks, anything you love?
China and especially Shanghai is in an era of ‘BOOM’. There are eight, five-star, properties opening in Shanghai in the next six months…. The possibilities to gain superb experiences continue to be endless.
Thankfully, my degree at Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School gave me a great exposure to international cultures. I know what it was like to be surrounded by diversity from being on Leura Campus. There was a slight culture shock and what hit me the most was the communication. English is neither the first language nor the second language for most people. For example, it can be quite difficult to buy groceries, order meals or just ask for directions.
The next biggest thing that was a cultural shock was the limitation on access to the Internet. This can make it very difficult to communicate with people back home and explore the city on my own. Luckily, I had a great hotel team that I was able to rely on getting from A to B.
Dinner at a hot pot restaurant with colleagues from the Fairmont Peace Hotel.
Can you describe the process of being offered a job in Shanghai, some of the difficulties, (advice for others) to assist those who were thinking of working in Asia?
First and foremost, I would say obtaining a job outside of your country can be quite difficult, such as my experience getting my job in Shanghai. VISA requirements are selective which include a very in-depth background check. With the obvious language barrier, I was very fortunate that Fairmont Peach Hotel were very accommodating in assisting me with my transition. My advice when applying for any job/visa in a different country is to be patient, delays may happen and more documents may be required, however hotels are equipped to assist you at every turn.
What are your key responsibilities at the Peace Hotel, Fairmont? If you could give me a bit of information about your role and perhaps how you see it fitting in to your career plan possibly?
As the Manager on Duty – Peace Ambassador, I am entrusted with various duties. My main drive is customer satisfaction and guest relations. Reaching out to our most important guests and hosting them in Shanghai from the time they land to their departure. I have been also fortunate enough to oversee Front Office operations and training of standards, and be the Hotel Ambassador. This role is very unique to the Fairmont brand in China, with a colleague in Fairmont Beijing, a fellow Australian, occupying the same title.
Not only does this role support the foundation of my education from the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School, but also the foundation of my future. My dream, like many hotel management students, is to become a General Manager of a five-star luxury hotel. I believe to be a great GM it is important to understand and experience every role in a hotel. Working in different countries and properties can enhance your exposure to skills that you will be able to bring to any future roles.
A black-tie event for the Drink Magazine 2016 Awards Dinner.
Harry featuring in the 2017 Valentine’s Day promotion for the Fairmont Peace Hotel.
Can you describe the hospitality industry in China, how does it differ from Australia?
The hospitality industry in China is very different, as the industry here is quite new. Finding employees with a trained background in hospitality is quite difficult and often rare. Thankfully, BMIHMS has equipped me in my training and enabled me to bring training back to basics; starting with a smile, etiquette and following brand standards. Contrasted with Australia, we often take for granted these basics as they are engrained in the industry. I rely on my training and experience to enrich the team and evoke passion, the service will simply follow.
Any final remarks?
Step out of your bubble to achieve great things!
Watching the progression of BMIHMS students from arriving on campus through examinations, graduation and launching into great careers is always special. Harrison is one to watch!