Managing Life In The Hotel Industry

Having started out as a bellman in the Beijing hotel, 25 years later Keith Zhang now operates as general manager of the HyattRegency Dongguan, arguably the best hotel in Dongguan.

Since joining the Hyatt corporation, Keith Zhang successively worked in Grand Hyatt Beijing, Hyatt Regency Dongguan, Grand Hyatt Shenzhen, Park Hyatt Ningbo, and lastly returned to Hyatt Regency Dongguan. Working at the Hyatt Regency previously in 2010, Keith was then in a rooms division position.

Originally from Beijing, Keith believes that returning to Dongguan was his fate. Wouldn’t you if you left and wound up back there in an even better position that before? He came to Dongguan to challenge himself, just like many of us. He has made many friends here, as well as mentors that have helped him through difficult situations. It must be refreshing to wake up to the sight of pristine Songshan Lake on a daily basis too. On such matters, Keith said, “Indeed, I need to stay in the hotel for operation purposes. A lot of people joke and say that they are jealous of me living and working in such a beautiful environment! Hyatt Regency Dongguan is in a great location with such fresh air and a wonderful environment. My family and I really enjoy living here.” He continued, “Giving customers the feeling of ‘home away from home’ is a phrase that hoteliers use often. The key to achieving this feeling is to enjoy and integrate into local culture, from the inside, from the mind. In the past years, I moved to different cities for work. No matter where I go, I must create a sense of home, and the most important thing is to settle down from my mind.”

To many, it would seem a challenging prospect to live and settle permanently in a hotel with their family. However, remarkably, Keith sees only the positives. I truly admire his tenacity, honesty and optimism. It’s admirable that he has worked in so many cities, and taken the opportunity to experience so much within his career. I particularly liked his reference: “An ancient Chinese archaism states that it is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books.”

Nothing is perfect in life. For us, instability is a problem that most hoteliers face. Since you’ve chosen a lifestyle like this, you can’t see it as a difficulty. Learn to enjoy the unique experience it brings to you.

On the topic of challenging aspects of his role, Keith explained, “Hyatt Regency Dongguan is a very mature hotel under its own operation. As a general manager, the biggest difference in comparison to other positions is not only the management, but also having operational thinking. Therefore, I must keep on focusing, exploring, and aiding new customer needs every day. This and seeking innovation constantly are my biggest challenges at present.”

Of course, each industry presents its own challenges and rewards. The highs and lows. On giving advice to someone starting out in the hotel industry, or feeling a little lost in their work, Keith’s wise words were as follows: “Nothing is perfect in life. For us, instability is a problem that most hoteliers face. Since you’ve chosen a lifestyle like this, you can’t see it as a difficulty. Learn to enjoy the unique experience it brings to you,” he added, “Everyone’s experience is different. Nowadays, society encourages innovation, so it is not necessarily copying others’ experience. You should choose your own path according to your own circumstances, goals and family situations.”

I wondered if Keith always knew he would end up in the hotel industry, or like many of us, was unsure about his future for most of his young adulthood. According to him, it was not so clear-cut that this was the path for him, however as time went on, he began to understand the industry, have more faith in it as a career, and enjoy it along the way.

Five-star hotel Hyatt Regency Dongguan did not make the “Grand Hyatt” brand, which may seem strange to those who have seen or stayed in the spectacular place. However according to Keith, this is all to do with the survival and development of the brand, in terms of being parallel with the local culture and environment. He claimed, “Now Dongguan has been listed as a new first-tier city, and our hotel has unique geographical conditions. I believe that it has the potential and opportunity to upgrade the brand when the time is right in the future.”

The highlight of the stunning hotel other than the breath-taking lake view is of course the food and beverage. With probably the best buffet in town, the Hyatt also boasts the two Chinese restaurants, Japanese restaurant, and the Copper Grill producing high quality food and service. They all have groups of “loyal fans.”

Excitingly, with the new arrival of Huawei in the Songshan area, Hyatt expect more high-tech research and development personnel and their business partners in the park, therefore more business activities to occur. Thus, having a positive outcome on the local hotel industry.

On a warm note, Keith added, “I appreciate the owner and the Hyatt corporation for this chance. My family and I enjoy the work and life in Songshan Lake. My future plan depends on my family arrangements; I will do my best to balance work and family.”