Taking The Hospitality Industry to Another Level 升华酒店业新概念

Dato’ Eric Lim

Managing Director and CEO of Cititel Hotel Management


The hospitality industry is a challenging one that can be susceptible to external factors as well as local factors but after 44 years in this industry, Dato’ Eric Lim Hock Kheng has got the ups and downs pat to be able to face any challenges without any qualms.

Dato’ Lim first became involved in the hospitality industry in the tours and travel sector in early 1971. What first piqued his interest for the travel industry was the few times he helped visitors around the island when he was younger. “I used to drive my father to work and after that, I have his car at my disposal so I could drive around and when I saw visitors looking at maps and confused, I stopped to help them, I even gave them lifts,” he said.

The interest to help visitors grew into a lifelong passion that lasted over four decades and there is no sign of him regretting going into this industry. Dato’ Lim joined Shangri-La International in Penang in 1979 and for the next 18 years, was instrumental in the development of the Shangri-La group of hotels in Penang.

“I have been in the hospitality industry right from the start and till today, the passion is still there,” he shared. On top of leading CHM as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Dato’ Lim has also served in various other capacities that included the formation of the Malaysian Association of Hotels, Penang chapter in 2001. He has also served in various trade bodies such as the IMT-GT Tourism Sectorial, Pacific Area Travel Association, Penang Hoteliers Association, Penang Tourist Centre and State Tourism Council and one of the founding members of Upper Penang Road Society.

He was last based in Shangri-La International in Bali, Indonesia before moving back to Penang to spearhead the Cititel brand name in 1996. Since then, Cititel Hotel Management Sdn Bhd has grown in leaps and bounds with over 3,800 rooms under its portfolio of hotel brands that included Cititel, Cititel Express, MiCasa and St Giles.

Taking a leaf from the highly successful St Giles London and Heathrow and The Tuscany and The Court, New York,  Cititel Hotel Management (CHM) imported the group’s UK St Giles Brand to Asia by introducing a 512-room St Giles Makati in Philippines in mid-2010. It also rebranded The Boulevard and The Gardens Hotel & Residences as St Giles Hotel. Just recently, St Giles The Wembley was opened in George Town, adding another 415-room to the island state.

Prior to this, CHM introduced its second brand, Cititel Express, to fit into a different market segment. This is a value-based budget accommodation, complete with functional and basic amenities, with a “Smart, Clean and Simple” concept. There are now Cititel Express in Kota Kinabalu, Ipoh and most recently, Penang.

CHM also expanded its reach into the extended-stay segment with its two serviced residences that included the MiCasa All Suite Hotel in Kuala Lumpur City Centre.

“This means we have more options to offer,” Dato’ Lim says of the additional rooms. The hotelier may have been in the industry for many years but he does not become complacent. He continues to watch the market trends like a hawk and is always a step ahead in anticipation of what’s next.

“We’ve been through several cycles in our industry and it is very vulnerable to all sorts of developments, from politics to economy to diseases,” he said. One has to always be alert to market demands and changes to be able to incorporate marketing intelligence into the hotels’ strategy.

Another important factor to remaining strong in the industry is to always encourage and train up a workforce that is as passionate about the industry as he is. It is no easy task with fewer young employees having a passion for such a demanding industry but Dato’ Lim is not one to give up easily.

“I will continue to encourage and motivate our personnel to keep the passion alive and the professionalism intact because our human resource is an important component of the industry.”

Looking forward, Dato’ Lim said CHM will continue to seek opportunities in key Asian cities to build up its portfolio of hotels especially in the three and four star categories. “We are always looking towards adding more rooms and hotels in and outside of Malaysia,” he said.

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以障碍赛来形容酒店行业可谓非常贴切,充斥未知与布满荆棘,极易受到外界因素侵袭和影响。但对于鏖战酒店领域44年,历经行业高低潮的拿督林福庆来说,应对挑战已是毫无疑虑,驾轻就熟。

1971年初,林福庆开始踏足酒店旅游业。而激发他加入行业是源自槟岛年轻热情时代的经历。“我载送父亲上班后,就开着他的车子到处逛,当目睹困惑的游客们看着地图,我常主动停车协助,甚至让他们搭顺风车。”

这个简单纯粹的兴趣却成了维持40年的激情所在,并且无怨无悔。他在1979年加入香格里拉国际集团,往后18年间落力推动着香格里拉酒店在槟城的业务。

他说,从开始到现在,对行业的热爱丝毫不减。作为带领CHM的董事经理兼首席执行员,林福庆展现多样领导魅力,包括2001年成立马来西亚酒店协会槟城分会。他也参与各种贸易旅游组织如印马泰成長三角旅游部、太平洋区域旅游协会、槟城酒店业者协会,槟城旅游中心和槟州旅游委员会,也是槟榔路上环协会的创始成员之一。

1996年,林福庆回到槟城担任龙城酒店(Cititel Hotel)的品牌推广先锋,在这之前,他驻扎于印尼巴厘岛的香格里拉国际集团。此后,龙城酒店管理有限公司(Cititel Hotel Management Sdn Bhd)飞速增长,逾3800间客房的酒店连锁品牌,其中包括龙城酒店、龙城快捷酒店(Cititel Express)米卡萨酒店(MiCasa)和圣吉尔斯酒店(St Giles)。

而取经于伦敦、希思罗,托斯卡纳与纽约圣吉尔斯酒店的成功模式,龙城酒店管理(CHM)也积极“进口”英国的圣吉尔斯(St Giles)品牌到亚洲,首先在2010年中旬引入一家拥有512间客房的圣吉尔斯酒店在菲律宾的马卡迪(Makati),接着采取品牌更名,将The Boulevard、The Gardens和Residences等酒店转为圣吉尔斯酒店。而拥有415间客房的圣吉尔斯温布利(St Giles The Wembley)最近在槟城乔治市盛大开业。

此前,CHM推出了第二个品牌-龙城快捷酒店,作为抢滩市场的策略。这项廉价预算的住宿,包含完整功能和基设,推广“精明、干净和简单”的概念。目前龙城快捷酒店分布在哥打京那巴鲁,怡保和槟城。

CHM也延伸扩展2项酒店式长居住宅,其中也包括吉隆坡市中心的米卡萨酒店(MiCasa All Suite Hotel)。

“这意味着我们有更多的选择。”虽然这名酒店业宿将身经百战,但他并不自满,犹如鹰隼般观察市场趋势,然后迈步命中目标。

“我们是不断历经各种周期的行业,脆弱而容易受到多方面状况的影响,从发展、政治,经济乃至疾病。他们必须始终警惕市场需求和变化,才能够将营销情报融入酒店策略”

另外,关键因素是这个领域总是鼓励与培训员工,尤其和他一样热爱行业者。这并非易事,具备类似热情的年轻员工占了少数,但林福庆绝非轻言放弃的人。“我将继续激励我们的人员,维持活力激情和完美专业,人力资源是行业最轴心的组成部分。”

至于展望未来,林福庆认为CHM将继续在亚洲主要城市寻找机会,建立符合投资组合的酒店,特别是3-4星级类别。他对EZ表示,他们期待在马来西亚内外增设更多酒店和客房。

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