Age no barrier for this hotel chief

With 14 years of experience with Marriott International under her belt, the young Ashley Lai is relishing in her new role as general manager of the Courtyard by Marriott Siem Reap Resort – the brand’s Cambodian debut.

What is your background with Marriott?
I’ve been with the company for 14 years now. I started my career at the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, moving to Phuket in Thailand, and now here in Siem Reap. The company takes care of its associates, and I have been blessed to be nurtured and developed. Hence, I continue to grow with Marriott.

You have taken up a senior role at such a young age. What challenges did this involve and how did you overcome them?
I have always been one of the youngest in any of the roles I have undertaken. In the very beginning, I found it challenging to manage those who were older than me, but I quickly learnt that age did not matter. If you lead by example and are always willing to guide and share knowledge, people will look up to you and age does not become a barrier.

Why did you take up the role of general manager at this property?
It was the opportunity to open the first Marriott hotel in the entire country. As well, Cambodia has always fascinated me: its history, growth and potential. There was no question that this role would fully challenge and fulfill me.

How has the journey with Courtyard by Marriott Siem Reap Resort been for you?
It has been the most exciting, fulfilling experience I could have had. Not many general managers get to open a hotel in their career and I am very fortunate to be able to be a part of this. Being involved in the construction phase and lovingly putting every piece of the puzzle together, and seeing how the hotel and the team has come together today has been incredible.

What makes Siem Reap a competitive regional destination for business events?
It offers extreme value, and unique, unspoilt locations for any business event sector. Its accessibility from neighbouring countries and wide range of hotels offering conference facilities and event spaces also make it an attractive destination. Business events in Siem Reap has steadily been growing when it officially emerged as a viable sector of the country’s tourism market. Siem Reap’s commitment to the sector is visible in the continued development of hotels’ conference facilities and event venues, including the opening of this hotel – the first brand from Marriott International.

Which source markets are you keeping your eye on?
China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and South Korea are our key markets as they are big on business events and there are many direct flights to Siem Reap from these countries. As well, we are looking at getting more European, Australian and American visitors in 2019.

With so many business event offerings coming out in Siem Reap, how will Courtyard by Marriott stand out from the crowd?
We are designed from the ground up for the business traveller. One of the reasons Marriott and the Courtyard brand have been so successful is that we have an unrelenting focus on understanding the customer, their needs, and designing product and service solutions that exceed their expectations. We have unique event spaces, like our rooftop bar with views of Angkor Wat on the horizon, as well as a ballroom with natural daylight and all of the latest technologies.

How is it built for the modern traveller?
The new resort is based on several core needs of the traveller: the desire for a quality product that they can count on to deliver consistently stylish and functional room design that helps them make the most of their time on the road, and F&B outlets adapted to local demand.

Our business support systems include modern technology, ample work space in the room, a meeting facility that helps them be productive, and attentive, respectful service that makes them feel welcome and supported. This is all delivered at an exceptional value.

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