Oliver Horn, the newly appointed General Manager of InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort, discusses sustainability, hashtags and the importance of the right team
You have worked in many different countries (Russia, UK, South Korea, Austria, etc.) before becoming General Manager (GM) at InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort. What are the advantages of working in various countries and cultures?
I think working in different cultures has made me understand the importance of trying to understand the culture of the country that I am in. There is an old saying about the fact that you “don’t go into a monastery with your own rule book” which I love because to me it means that I don’t try to “bend” the people in the countries that I work in towards what I want, but rather I work with their culture and in their culture so that we can together achieve what we want to achieve. This is actually a fun and exciting experience, and I learn something new in every location that I have worked in. This ongoing learning is one of the main motivators for me.
You started at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts with an apprenticeship at InterContinental Cologne in your native country and have worked you way up to a GM position. What have you learned during the different positions you held and what would you describe your management style as a GM?
The biggest learning for me is that you can only achieve something if you have your team with you—if my goals are aligned with the goals of my team, we can (almost) do miracles. And for this to happen, it does not matter which role I am in—if teams are aligned in their goals, every single person is excited to do their best to reach that goal. As a leader, it is my job to make sure that every colleague in the hotel understands what it is we want to achieve—and I am not talking about a poster on the wall with the latest slogan that has been devised by a marketing agency—I am talking about tangible actions for each other and for our guests. In this way, we can do amazing things.
For travelers who love the beach, why should they put Phu Quoc on their list?
Long Beach, where our hotel is located, is a fantastic part of the island. I love Phu Quoc because, unlike many other places, not everyone has been here yet. And in our ‘Instagram-able’ world, going to places that are not overrun by tourists, to places that are still new and unspoiled, is quite unique. Phu Quoc Island is truly a wonderful and serene place.
From your experiences, how do resort guests differ from city hotel guests?
Resort guests tend to stay longer than guests in city hotels, so we can build a better relationship with these guests. Most of our guests come for a relaxing vacation to the resort and are in a more relaxed mood—that makes it easier to approach them. On the other hand, most resort guests pay for their stay with their own money, and are perhaps having their one holiday of the year, so they have higher expectations that we have to meet in order to make sure they are happy.
Phu Quoc has seen a recent boom in five-star resorts, how does InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort position itself differently from others?
We are lucky that we have many unique offerings here at the resort. One thing that I love about the resort is that it is ‘real’—the service and hospitality here is genuine and heartfelt. In terms of hardware, we have some of the best facilities for families, including a 250sqm children’s club, and a dedicated swimming pool for children, complete with waterslides and fun toys. I think our dining is very special, from the fine local and imported seafood and steaks at LAVA restaurant to authentic Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine at Sora & Umi. And the incredible sunset views from the highest rooftop bar on the island at INK 360. For those coming for destination meetings and events, the resort has some of the finest conferencing facilities, including two ballrooms, meetings rooms and the island’s only theatre. Finally, and almost more importantly, it’s the colleagues who work here who make this resort special. I have worked all over the world and I have rarely met a group of such engaged and engaging people who really care and want to provide great hospitality to our guests.
Where does the resort stand on its environmental impact on the island? What eco-friendly initiatives are implemented in the resort?
We are very well aware of our responsibility to protect the environment—after all, the beauty of the island is one of the main features we are trying to sell. So we are working together with WWF to reduce garbage, separate garbage and make sure that it is reused or recycled. We have already fully abolished the use of plastic straws in the resort and will shortly remove the small plastic amenity bottles that we use for shower gel, shampoo, etc. in favor of more environmentally friendly dispensers—using the same quality product as before, just more environmentally friendly. Our biggest change will come within the next few months when we will remove plastic water bottles from the resort completely and bring in glass bottles for water. We are currently working on installing our own bottling plant—given the number of guests at the resort this will have a substantial impact in reducing the number of plastic bottles that would go to a landfill.
What five hashtags would you use for InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort?
#Unexpected #Stylish #Extraordinary
This is your first appointment in Vietnam, first impressions?
My Vietnamese colleagues are incredible, I am so impressed with how happy they are to learn, how much they want to develop and improve and how well they look after our guests. It is amazing to see how quickly they pick up new ways of working, how adaptable they are and how they want to win. And they are great fun to work with!
We will soon enter 2020, what vision do you have for the resort in the new year?
For InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach, 2020 will be the year where the resort will “take off”—we opened in 2018 and spent the last year consolidating our ways of working, both commercially and from a service-delivery point of view. The team has planted the seeds since the opening of the hotel and I am excited to see how we will bring our ways of working to life in 2020!
Christmas, New Year and Tet are around the corner, what can we expect?
We are lining up some very exciting experiences at the resort over the festive season. For Christmas we will be having all the traditional yuletide fare along with some great regional cuisine at our restaurants, and we are hoping that Santa Claus will be visiting us to keep all of the children staying with us entertained. On December 31 we have some fabulous menus available at our restaurants and afterward, for those wishing to ring in the New Year bells in style, we will be throwing one of the biggest parties on the island at INK 360. The Tet holiday is obviously one that is very important for everyone at the resort, and we will be arranging some very special seasonal activities and dining experiences to celebrate the Lunar New Year and to ensure that all our guests have a truly memorable holiday with us.
For more info, visit phuquoc.intercontinental.com
Images Provided by InterContinental Phu Quoc Long Beach Resort