It’s a complex world

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Janet McNab has to fill 4,400 rooms daily and 15,500m2 of meeting space, and manage hundreds of staff to deliver two different brand experiences. Raini Hamdi finds out how the managing director of the largest Sheraton and the largest St Regis in the world – Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel Cotai Central, and The St Regis Macao Cotai Central – does it

How do you do it?
The team does it. You have a structure behind you that facilitates all of that and it’s unlike the traditional structure of a standalone property.

I sit as MD and I’ve got a team of GMs – who may I add are all women – in charge of finance, human resource, and sales & marketing. Then I’ve got a gentleman coming on board as GM of operations. They are the four most important positions and working with them is a “complex” executive committee for revenue management, IT, F&B, rooms and engineering. Together, this core team of leaders, backed by their team, manage the operations for St Regis and Sheraton.

What key requisites are needed for “complexing” to work?
Having the same owner for the properties help, as well as the proximity of the properties. In my previous role, we “complexed” two properties that are side by side in Koh Samui – Vana Belle, a Luxury Collection Resort, and Sheraton Samui Resort (formerly the Imperial Samui Beach Resort). You get economies of scale and are better off putting your dollars and cents where it services the guest than building a hierarchy.

But how do you switch from St Regis to Sheraton, one a class above than the other?
Intrinsically, you just do and yes, you don’t always get it right. Each property also has different needs, whether it’s the performance (yardsticks) or staff motivation, etc. But you just know where to spend your time. Some days, like this morning, I went to the St Regis briefing and we discussed some changes we wanted to make to The Manor (the hotel’s restaurant). Then I walked over to Bene (Sheraton’s Italian restaurant), looked at the breakfast at the club, and by the time I ended up at the office, it was 10.30.

But it works beautifully. The role is dynamic. Once you’ve worked here, it’d be really difficult to go to a smaller standalone.

It also helps that there is no overlap between the two brands. Sheraton is positioned as family-oriented – we’ve got family rooms, (cartoon) characters that walk around and all that. Whereas St Regis is for luxury customers, not just the leisure customers who come to enjoy the spa, shop, and have a lovely weekend away from home, but also the leadership of companies who we can accommodate at St Regis when they meet at Sheraton.

But Sheldon Adelson owns seven interconnected hotels with 13,000 rooms on the strip. That makes Sheraton and St Regis also sisters of the Conrad, Holiday Inn, Four Seasons, Venetian and Parisian. How does that work?
We compete, sure, but it is and complementary sometimes. Together, we can pitch for a 10,000 pax conference. In fact we have just booked a Cotai-wide event comprising 9,000 pax for this December with rooms at Sheraton, Parisian, Venetian and Holiday Inn (a direct-selling company with participants coming from the Asia-Pacific region). The largest Cotai-wide event we’ve done was around 10,000 pax, once again for a direct-selling company, and that was in September last year.

Where else in Asia can you accommodate 10,000 pax in a variety of brands where participants walk in air-con comfort throughout, don’t have to get on a bus – the logistics is just so smooth. Sheraton alone has 14,000m2 of meeting space, including the Kashgar ballroom which is 4,800m2 and can cater for 5,000 guests. The seven hotels combined offer a total of 150,000m2 of meeting and exhibition space.

As we all have the same owner, there is selfless interest. Yes, we’re part of the Marriott (International) family, but we’re also part of the Sands China family.

What are the key challenges of filling up a combined 4,400 rooms and 15,500m2 of meeting space at Sheraton and St Regis?
Visitations have gone up in Macau generally, but there has also an increase in supply. So it’s all about keeping our fair share.

The challenge for me would be more about getting the right customer at the right price and the right hotel. Making sure the relationships we have with our customers are solid enough so that they don’t go anywhere else. And that covers what we do in sales & marketing but also the service delivery.

We exceeded our budgets in Q1. Occupancy was in line with the budget and we had a bit of growth in ARR.

What are your goals this year?
St Regis has opened just for a year, so want to build the brand equity for this property and get it consolidated under our complex environment.

For Sheraton, we want to make sure we keep our market share, consolidate our position into 2018/2019, and keep the product ‘alive’. We have a few initiatives we can’t talk about yet.

Where do you get your enormous amount of energy?
From the staff. Believe me, when I sit in a morning briefing and I hear staff proudly say we picked up 7,000 covers, or 3,000 room nights yesterday, I can’t stop thinking how we do in one weekend here what some hotels do in a month or six months.

Last August, we did at Sheraton the same number of room nights in one month that my previous one property did in one year. You are just so proud of what happens around here.

Most people don’t know that you…
… can power shop (laughs). I’m very good at it, so good that I told my husband recently I won’t be having credit cards on me anymore. I am on the way to an owner’s meeting and if I run out of lipstick, or need to buy a present it’s all right there. And if it’s not a good meet, I’d buy myself a pair of shoes on the way back (jokes)!

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